H&M’s Expansion Into India in Light of Bangladesh Factory Collapse

Recently, the South Asia region has shown up on our fashion radar for both good news and bad news. H&M announced that it will be expanding its brand into India in the midst of unrelated news that a multi-story, Bangladesh garment factory housing over 3,000 employees collapsed. The newest reports confirm that over 300 employees are dead.

Taking in these two headlines along with the known fact that H&M contracts manufacturing of its lines in both India and Bangladesh begs the question of whether H&M’s expansion into a new global market comes at a bad time.

Just last year, H&M came under fire for low wages in Cambodia and a garment factory fire in Bangladesh. It would seem to many that the South Asian market is already heavily saturated with fashion. Maybe not in the traditional sense where there exists oversupply, but the region definitely boasts origin of most clothes that then end up on shelves half a continent away. So, while H&M is prepared to commit $130 million to break into the Indian market, the market may not be very happy to welcome the fashion giant in light of some of their alleged labor indiscretions and the recent Bangladesh building collapse. Already, the building collapse has triggered angry protests and international attention centered around the issue of fashion companies taking advantage of weak labor laws in South Asia.

And although many have lauded H&M’s strategic expansion into India, one really still has to talk about the elephant in the room: Why would the prospective Indian, H&M shopper, one who most likely is identified as being in the lower to middle class, purchase clothes from H&M when they likely know someone who works in a garment factory that produces H&M clothing who can either produce an at-home duplicate or bring her extras that do not pass quality inspection?


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bangladesh, global markets, h&m, india, sweatshops

13 Responses to H&M’s Expansion Into India in Light of Bangladesh Factory Collapse

  1. Kate May 2, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    I don’t know that the last question is as pertinent as the rest of your piece here, but I do agree with your points. I think the globalization in the fashion industry is a real problem because we both exploit and sell to other countries in unjust ways. I wonder how many people in America are willing to change their shopping habits? Of the street-interviews I’ve seen in regard to people’s response of the horrifying tragedy in Bangladesh, the overall resounding answer was “I don’t think this will affect my shopping habits.” I have little control (honestly, no control) over the choices that H&M or other companies make and I can’t speak for consumers in other countries, but I can make educated choices in my own life over my spending habits. I already have a fairly long list of “black-listed” companies I will never shop from (American Apparel for feminist reasons, WalMart for obvious reasons, etc.) but it gets tricky with companies like H&M who, for the most part, may try to implement fair labor practices, especially in comparison to companies like Nike or GAP. I find myself gravitating more and more toward shopping secondhand and vintage. This way I’m helping the environment and minimizing the angst over making ethical shopping choices.

    • Linna May 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Hey Kate,

      I totally agree. It’s getting more and more hard to be a socially conscientious consumer. Even those companies who claim that they’re making strides in their labor practices are only marginally better than those black-listed companies you identified. My tactic is just to stay away from those companies who are known, repeat offenders like Wal-Mart and Nike. Jury is still out on H&M though.

      Thanks for your comment!

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