President Maithripala Sirisena who graced the occasion is seen talking to the workers at the Hirdaramani factory in Puthukudiyiruppu, Mullaitivu
Pix by Kushan Pathiraja
One of the country’s leading apparel manufacturers, the Hirdaramani group, ceremoniously opened its latest Rs.450 million factory in Mullaitivu yesterday.
“As the leaders of the industry, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to change the lives of the local community. With this in mind, we have pushed to build factories outside the Western Province.
We now have factories in the South and Central Provinces. It is with this same commitment that we came to the North,” Hirdaramani Group Director Janak Hirdaramani said.
He stressed that the biggest challenge for the locals in the area, who witnessed the worst fighting during the war, was lack of employment.
“The biggest challenge being the lack of jobs, with the support of the army, we were able to set up a training facility in Mullaitivu. We expected 30 people to sign up for training but 600 showed up,” Hirdaramani said.
The factory has employed 1,000 locals from the area, including 100 females, who are single mothers or from a female-headed family, and 26 individuals disabled during the war.
“We hope to impact at least 2,000 people through indirect employment, as businesses slowly but surely return to the area - as shops, services and transport are set up,” he said.
“The factory currently has 500 sewing machines with a monthly capacity of 40,000 pieces,” Hirdaramani added.
He said that the expansion to the North started with the setting up of a factory in Dambulla but the first footprint in the Northern Province was in Vavuniya, where the Hirdaramani group started the construction of a 1,000 machine capacity Rs.900 million factory in 2012.
“The factory in Vavuniya employs 1,500, which is set to increase to 2,000 in 2016. Seeing this impact, we looked for more opportunities in the North,” he said.
While economists have been floating around the idea that setting up of factories in rural areas would be a short-term solution for the high labour costs in apparel, Hirdaramani said that the wages in the Northern Province are the same as they are in the Western Province, as they are determined by the Wages Board.
While the industry norm is to provide meals at a subsidized rate to its factory employees, those at the Mullaitivu factory enjoy free meals.
Further, the Hirdaramani group has also invested in the development of the nearby school.
The Hirdaramani group is active in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Vietnam. It opened a factory in Ethiopia last year as a pilot project and Hirdaramani said that a sizable expansion into Africa might come if the project proves successful.
The group also has interests in the leisure sector, owning three hotels.
It recently bought 10 percent of the shares in Ceylon Hotels Corporation PLC. Hirdaramani said that the group is eying for further expansion in the hospitality industry. (CW)
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