India’s Gokaldas Exports Buys Atraco Group

Gokaldas Exports of India announced the acquisition last week of Dubai-based Atraco Group for $55 million. Atraco, founded in 1986, is a producer of men’s, women’s and children’s private label apparel. In addition to the company headquarters in Dubai, they have production facilities in Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya.

Gokaldas’ vice chairman and managing director, Sivaramakrishnan Ganapathi, noted that the company is estimated to grow by 25 to 30 percent over the next three years, based on Atraco alone. Gokaldas claims sales volume of $250 million and exports to 50 countries.

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Atraco Group has 10,000 employees, according to its LinkedIn page. Gokaldas has 32,000 workers and sews for the Swedish fashion firm H&M, in addition to Primark, Nike and Gap, among others.

It made headlines in mid-2020 when, at the height of the Covid pandemic, it fired 1,257 mostly female unionized workers in the wake of rumors that H&M, its biggest client, had canceled all its orders. H&M denied the claims and said at the time that it had paid for all the merchandise.

Some eight months later, in February of 2021, the federation of the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GTWU), an affiliate of the IndustriALL Global Union and its federation, Unions United, accused Gokaldas of engaging in aggressive union busting and acts of intimidation to push the fired workers back on demands for unpaid wages. After a 50-day factory shutdown, Gokaldas was forced by GATWU to pay the wages. The company also reemployed the fired workers at two existing factories.

With the purchase of Atraco, Gokaldas has access to the duty-free status of Kenya, provided by the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Ethiopia also had duty-free status but was suspended from the program earlier this year. While AGOA covers many industries, a report this year by Reuters news service called the apparel sector “the biggest success story” of the program. It is set to expire in 2025.

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