The stock of Kitex Garments, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of kids’ garments, based in Kerala, saw a secular uptrend recently, after the company’s announcement that it will relocate to Telangana following a squabble with the Kerala government. The group withdrew a 3,500-crore investment project from Kerala and is planning to move to Telangana with a 1000 crore worth investment project.
Sabu M Jacob, the chairperson and managing director of the Kitex Group, stated his morality forbids him from ever investing a single rupee in Kerala, his native state. The comment brings the confrontation between the Kerala government and the homegrown firm to a close.
What is at the root of the clash?
Kitex has been subjected to repeated inspections by various Kerala government authorities in recent weeks, with group chairperson Sabu Jacob publicly accusing Pinarayi Vijayan’s Left administration of hounding the firm.
The inspections, Jacob said, were intended to “harass” businesses like him and “push him into a corner.” The authorities who came down to examine the firm, he claimed, seemed as though they were on the lookout for thieves and criminals.
P Rajeev, the state’s Industries Minister, emphasized that the government had not conducted any Suo Motu inspections of the firm. While the industries department did not conduct any searches, he said the health and labour agencies did so in response to orders from the Kerala High Court and the National Human Rights Commission based on individual complaints. The accusations are allegedly related to the company’s treatment of employees and the contamination of a nearby river due to wastewater discharge.
A Congress MP and a Congress MLA, and a female employee filed charges against the organization. The charges ranged from polluting a local waterway to harassing employees and violating minimum wage laws.
The Kerala government has denied targeting Kitex on purpose. The inspections were carried out in response to complaints and directives from courts and the state’s human rights commission; according to state industries minister P. Rajeev, he said his government stands for “responsible investment”, and the state would be a hub for such investments in a few years. He added, “The LDF Govt. ensures that sustainable and innovative industries thrive here,”
Thank you @hvgoenka for allaying the apprehensions over Kerala's EoDB. Your honesty is much appreciated. Kerala has been one of the most investor friendly States in India and will continue to be so. The LDF Govt. ensures that sustainable and innovative industries thrive here. https://t.co/6zQO0AUFIG
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) July 4, 2021
What was the aftermath of the inspections?
Even though the final findings of the official inspections are still pending, Jacob escalated his feud with the government by announcing that he was cancelling investments worth Rs 3,500 crores that were announced during the ASCEND conference in January 2020. By 2025, the investments were intended at establishing an apparel park and industrial parks along the proposed economic corridor in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Palakkad, resulting in the creation of thousands of employment opportunities.
Without identifying anyone in the state administration, Jacob said that the state lacked a business-friendly environment. While he did not want to relinquish the intended investments in Kerala, he said he was compelled to do so due to political and bureaucratic persecution. He said that although other states in the country were gradually improving their economic environment, Kerala was still 50 years behind.
Jacob and a few Kitex officials went to Hyderabad last week on a private plane supplied by the Telangana government, where they met with a team led by the state’s Industries Minister, KT Rama Rao. The business revealed intentions to spend Rs 1,000 crore in an apparel park at the Kakatiya Mega Textile Park in Warangal after two days of negotiations.
The political consequences of the experiment
Jacob, the founder of the Kitex Group, is an industrialist who has also dabbled in politics. Jacob launched Twenty 20, a one-of-a-kind political experiment that won seats in panchayat elections in 2015 and then built on that success in the 2020 elections by winning seats in new panchayats.
This corporate-driven panchayat model has resulted in a lot of growth in tiny villages, putting both the Congress and the Communist Party of India in danger (Marxist).
Kerala’s rating in terms of ease of doing business
Kerala ranks worse than many other states and union territories when it comes to the ease of doing business. Based on improvements that states were asked to adopt in 2019, it was placed 28th out of 36 states and UTs in the ease of doing business rankings.
Kerala was judged to have failed to implement some labour reforms, such as single-window clearance and measures to ensure simple information flow and transparency.
Following the Kitex withdrawal, however, several groups that had thrived in the state for years came out openly in favour of the state administration.
RPG Enterprise’s chairperson Harsh Goenka publicly tweeted in support of the administration. He stated, “We are the largest employers in Kerala. We find the local government very supportive,”
We are the largest employers in Kerala. We find the local government very supportive.
— Harsh Goenka (@hvgoenka) July 1, 2021
Where does the company stand in the share market?
With the decision to invest in Telangana, Kitex’s shares were once again trapped in the upper circuit. On Wednesday, the stock soared almost 10%, reaching a record high of Rs 204.05.
Within a week, the stock price of the children’s clothing company rose by almost 85 percent. The stock price increased from Rs 110.05 to Rs 204.05, reaching its highest level in three years. The company’s market capitalization increased to Rs 1,357 crore from Rs 732 crore as a result of this.
Because it controls 55 percent of the firm, the promoter entity, which includes Kitex Managing Director Sabu Jacob, profited Rs 347 crore. Sabu Jacob’s entire share value increased to Rs 754 crore.
Meanwhile, the BSE pressed Kitex for an explanation for the sharp increase in share prices, which the firm attributed to a Rs 1,000 crore investment plan in Telangana.