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Footwear International is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of footwear with 83 companies in 70 countries with one of these locations is in Bangladesh, where John Carlson is the managing director. Bangladesh has had a turbulent history in the 20th century and over 85% of the population is Moslem (Thomas, 2003). An article in the Meillat, a newspaper with pro Libyan preferences, made reference to the design of the insole of a sandal included the Arabic spelling of the word “Allah” and since this design was on the insole of the sandal and next to the foot it is a sign of great disrespect to Moslems.
The article also stated Footwear International was owned and operated by a Jewish family and was linked in the shootings of people in Palestine by Jews. This incident seemed to be escalating rapidly as youth groups began calling for demonstrations against Footwear, a lawyer had filed charges under the criminal code that forbade deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious believers. To make matters worse the prime minister had voiced his concerns in the matter as well.
Public opinion towards Footwear International has now turned negative due to the erroneous claims published in the Melliat. The newspaper had stated that Footwear was under Jewish ownership which is untrue as the family that owned Footwear International was Christian. The design on the insole of the sandal was based on Chinese temple bells that the designer had purchased and was approved by her supervisor who was Moslem (Thomas, 2003). Numerous other people had seen the new logo during the design process and no one had made objections in regards to this logo either.
How this logo incensed the Moslem community and more importantly how should Footwear International and especially John Carlson handle the allege claims against the company? It appears that Footwear International has two alternatives: one option is not to do anything and hope the problem will go away or the second option is to address the situation and resolve the conflict. The first option of not doing anything is not a very a good decision to make by Footwear International.
The problem will not go away but will continue to grow until Footwear International ceases all operations in Bangladesh and with that the loss of revenue. Timing is the key in the second option and is more complicated as there are several major hurdles that John Carlson must address in a short period of time. It was indicated that two youth groups were planning on demonstrating against Footwear International. The first obstacle Carlson must be concerned with is for the safety of all his employees and their families especially the four other managers that were named in statement.
He may wish to seclude the managers and their families in a safe location to protect them from the demonstrators. Carlson might request extra security personal from the corporate headquarters to ensure their safety. Religion and culture are very sensitive subjects to people of any country and due to the fact the opposition newspaper had printed false information about Footwear International, Carlson must use all types of media to set the record straight.
Carlson will need to explain that Footwear International is owned and operated by individuals who are Christians and not Jewish as the newspaper article had stated. Carlson must capitalize on the company’s presence in the country that began in the 1930’s, the first manufacturing plant constructed in 1962, in 1971 the managing director was a freedom fighter, in 1985 Footwear International went public and two years later spearheaded the largest private sector foreign investment in the country and employees over 1800 Bangladesh people in 81 stores and agencies (Thomas, 2003).
Carlson must be very sincere as he communicates to the different media outlets on how the design used was based on Chinese temple bells and that the designer who created this logo is Muslim as well. I believe Carlson must compare the design logo to the Arabic spelling of Allah and emphasize that the design logo was not intended to offend anyone of the Muslim society. Footwear International must review the procedures they use in the design process and new policies should be implemented going forward so this type of situation will not occur again.
It is important for Carlson to admit this mistake and I think he must make a bold move and announces the recall of these sandals, this may be a costly decision, however it will the show the people he is sincere in trying to remedy the problem. Carlson must also be concerned with the legal actions that a local lawyer has filed against him and if by chance the lawyer does not rescind these charges it may be necessary for him to seek legal help from the corporate headquarters.
Footwear International executives should use any means available to open up dialogue with the prime minister in hopes of him recanting his remarks. If the prime minister addresses the situation and reissues a statement supporting Footwear International attempts to correct the situation this would probably pressure the lawyer in dropping the charges. If I was in Carlson’s place I would meet this situation head on and utilize all resources at my disposable to correct this honest mistake. Mistakes happen and it is how we fix these mistakes that people judge our integrity by.