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Boxwallah firm to relive Raj days

Calcutta, May 7: Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co Ltd ' one of the oldest boxwallah companies ' is getting ready to reinvent itself.

The company, which was set up in 1819 as a partnership firm by F.M. Gillanders and G.C. Arbuthnot, is now on a comeback trail.

Gillanders was a leading managing agency in Calcutta closely associated with the clangour of commerce during the days of the British Raj. Along with peers like Andrew Yule, Balmer Lawrie, Mackinnon Mackenzie, James Finlay and Bird and Co, F.W. Heilgers & Co, Gillanders had a major role in shaping the history of Calcutta and its commerce in the 19th century and well into the 20th before sliding into oblivion after the departure of the Brits.

However, the present Indian owner of the company plans to rewrite history again and win back some of the glory nearly 40 years after he took it over from the British management.

Girdhar Das Kothari, a nephew of G.D. Birla, is now at the helm of affairs as the chairman of the company while his son Arun Kumar Kothari, a non-executive director on the board, is busy scripting the expansion plan.

In its hoary past, Gillanders had operated in banking, financing, property managing and trading. It is now looking to develop an equally diversified portfolio. Today, it is involved in textiles, tea and engineering and still earns revenues from trading and managing its properties, including the imposing Gillanders House on NS Road that houses a warren of offices and is now a heritage property.

“We will pump Rs 100 crore into the company over the next two years,” Arun K. Kothari told The Telegraph.

As a first step to make its presence felt among public and investing community, GACL has now got itself listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

Even though it was listed on the Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE), there was hardly any trading in the stock.

“The idea is to make ourselves known to a wide range of investors so that we can go back to them and raise money, if necessary,” he added.

Kothari, however, hastened to add that the decision on a follow-on public issue has not yet been taken.

He said the bulk of the fresh investment would go to the textile business where the present spinning capacity of 27,000 spindles at Ludhiana is about to be doubled. It will make an investment of Rs 60 to 65 crore there.

Another investment of Rs 24 crore will be made to set up a 6.5-mega-watt captive biomass power plant.

With the change in the fortunes of the tea industry, Kothari is upbeat about its tea business.

GACL produces about 10 million kg of tea at its gardens in Assam and Dooars in Bengal. It also plans to foray into packet tea.

In 2005, the company posted a turnover of Rs 225 crore, backed by a good collection from rental property income and the textile division.

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