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Gloster Jute to modernise; rules out retrenchment

Kohinoor Mandal

KOLKATA, May 8

GLOSTER Jute Mills Ltd is contemplating modernising its century-old unit to increase efficiency, but the management has ruled out any retrenchment of the existing workforce.

Unlike other jute mill owners, Mr Hemant Bangur, Director of Gloster Jute Mills, said that jute was still an economically-viable venture. He, however, added that modern technology should be introduced and the labour force must realise the pressures of running a jute unit.

Gloster Jute Mill is a 110-year-old unit. It is located at Bowreah in the Howrah district. Earlier, there used to be two jute units, namely the North and South. In 1980, the North unit was sold off to Hooghly Jute Mills Co Ltd, which is owned by the jute magnate, Mr Arun Bajoria.

There was a electrical cable manufacturing unit in the company. In 1982, during a business division within the Kolkata-based Bangur family, this company was divided into two. The cable unit was separated to form a new firm called Fort Gloster Cables Ltd. It is now owned by Mr S.K.Bangur, whose flagship company is West Coast Paper Mills Ltd.

Over the years, Gloster Jute Mills has formulated itself into a forward- looking unit, and it is most striking, because, the total jute industry has been tagged off a dying one.

The company has developed diversified products and reduced its total dependence on jute bags.

According to Mr Bangur, apart from traditional jute bags, the unit is also producing geo-textiles, jute carpets, jute yarn, non-woven jute felts, hydro-carbon free jute bags and other value-added products.

"We have been certified as one of the best producers of the hydro-carbon- free jute bags, which has a tremendous potential in the overseas market,'' he told Business Line.

For the year ended March 31, 2001, the company registered a turnover of Rs 90 crore and net profit of around Rs 3.50 crore.

Industry sources said that in 2001-02, the net profit is likely to be around Rs 4.5 crore on a turnover of Rs 100 crore. Mr Bangur did not comment on the results as the final accounts are currently being prepared.

Regarding the modernisation programme, the company is preparing a detailed plan, and subsequently, it will be forwarded to the banks, financial institutions for necessary approvals.

Currently, the unit's capacity is 130 tonnes per day and employs more than 4,500 workers.

However, Mr Bangur clarified that there will be no retrenchment of workforce.

"We will assure our workforce that their job is not at stake. Increase in efficiency will not be achieved by reducing workforce, but they must co-operate with us in the modernisation programme,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the company is not afraid of losing Government order for packing bags. Mr Bangur is aware that some years from now, there will be no mandatory Government orders. "We are prepared for such a market and we are comfortable with non-Government clients,'' he said.

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