On 13 May 2019, KPR Mill Ltd, an integrated textile manufacturing company based in Coimbatore, India, officially inaugurated its first overseas garment unit in Mekelle Industrial Park, Ethiopia. A success story for SITA’s efforts in building trade and investment linkages between India and East Africa, KPR Export created over 700 jobs within the first ten months of operations.
KPR Export was officially inaugurated by Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director, ITC in the presence of several dignitaries including H.E. Teka Gebreyesus, State Minister, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ethiopia; H.E. Debretsion Gebremichael, Vice President, Tigrai National Regional State; Mr. Anteneh Alemu, Deptuy Commissioner, Ethiopia Investment Commission; Mr. Mayur Kothari, Convenor, India Business Forum; and Mr. K.P. Ramasamy, Founder and Chairman, KPR Mill Limited.
In her keynote address at the inauguration, Ms. González recognized the efforts of institutions and individuals in Ethiopia who worked alongside SITA to ensure that KPR’s investment plans would come to fruition. She said, “The inclusive, evidence-based, design is what ensures that projects such as SITA succeed in their objectives through working closely with partners across countries and sectors.” She stressed the importance of using such signature investments to re-double efforts to address important business environment issues such as the costs of doing business; ensuring a level playing field; retaining investors; and upskilling.
KPR Mill’s investment journey began in July 2017 when they first met SITA during an investment promotion mission in India, which SITA had organized for high-level Ethiopian government officials and institutions to attract Indian investment into Ethiopia’s textile sector. While their interest was piqued, it was not until after two further meetings with SITA – at Techspin 2017 and the Asian Textile Conference 2018 – where SITA that KPR Mill decided to explore opportunities in East Africa on a visit facilitated by SITA in April 2018.
Within 36 hours of his visit to Ethiopia, Mr. K. P Ramasamy decided to set up a garment manufacturing unit in Mekelle Industrial Park. The plug and play infrastructure at the industrial park, good availability of labour, and access to markets in the US and Europe through trade schemes such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and Everything but Arms initiative were factors that motivated KPR’s quick investment decision. By July 2018, KPR Export Plc was registered as a subsidiary in Ethiopia; and at the beginning of 2019, the first containers were ready for international export from Ethiopia. Extensive training of employees was undertaken both in Ethiopia and in their Indian headquarters. Speaking at the inauguration, Mr Mayur Kothari said that he was particularly impressed with the speed at which KPR was able to set up their factory, paying tribute to Ethiopia’s strategy of providing plug and play infrastructure for the ease of investment.
At full capacity, KPR Export will employ 1,500 machine workers who will produce 50,000 garment pieces per day for the world market.
At the inauguration, H.E. Mr. Debretsion Gebremichael said, “Industrialization and manufacturing are key drivers of economic growth and job creation. We hope that KPR Export will contribute to the creation of jobs in the Tigrai region in a healthy and sustainable manner. ” Indeed, his remarks echoed Mr. K. P Ramasamy’s own wish, “We want our factory to be known as a place where people work hard; and their achievements contribute to the economic transformation of Ethiopia.”
Through SITA’s continued collaborative efforts with government and institutions, it is hoped that more companies from India and around the globe will follow KPR’s lead in investing in East Africa to create jobs; support capacity development; and empower local communities.