- A Brief Story
The last quarter of the 19th Century ushered in an Industrial Renaissance in India. Prominent among the men who took the initiative to build a modern India was Walchand Hirachand. Walchand is hailed as the pioneering architect of modern industrial India.
Walchand was born on 23rd November 1882 in Solapur, Maharashtra. His patriotic fervour broke through the shackles of the conventional modes of business. It became a matter of challenge to him to prove India's competence to the world at large. In spite of negligible moral and financial support from his family, Walchand's first step towards his stupendously then successful entrepreneurial career was a small railway contract. He then joined hands with Tata Sons in the starting of the Tata Construction Company, which executed major projects for Bombay Municipal Corporation and Bombay Port Trust. Subsequently, Walchand completed the construction of the Bhor Ghat tunnels ahead of schedule, a Project considered to be beyond the capabilities of any Indian company.
He formed The Premier Construction Company and its fully owned subsidiary Hindustan Construction Company was incorporated to build dams, power houses, jetties, bridges, docks, etc. One of the most challenging and prestigious project executed by this company was the construction of the Power House of the Koyna Project Stage 1 to Stage 4, deep in the heart of a solid granite mountain. Walchand with his foresight and a multi-dimensional talent forged success after success.
Success in the competitive fields of construction and contracting spurred Walchand to venture into another highly competitive field, Shipping. Walchand's infectious enthusiasm was sufficient persuasion for his friends, who joined him to form the Scindia Steam Navigation Company. Thirty years later when Walchand retired as its Chairman, the company had a fleet of 54 steamers. Not content with sailing the high seas, Walchand took the lead in ship building as well and a ship
building yard was set up at Vishakhapatnam in the true Walchand style the first 8.000 tons steamship, 'JAL USHA' was launched in March 1948. (Being an industry of importance to national defence this was nationalised and is now known as Hindustan Shipyard.)
For a man always on the move, Walchand's accidental meeting with Mr. Pawley, the President of an American Aircraft Company took him to establish an aero-plane manufacturing company in India called Hindustan Aircraft Limited and the plant was erected at Bangalore in a record time of 6 months. The first Harlow Trainer plane built by this company had its test flight in July 1941. On Nationalisation this company is today known as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
With the encouragement and support of another architect of modern India, Sir. M. Vishweswarayya, Walchand established The Premier Automobiles Limited and in October 1947, the first Indian made trucks and cars rolled out onto the streets of a free India.
The Phoenix-like rise of the IHP Co. Ltd. from the ashes of its predecessor - The Hume Pipe and Concrete Construction Company (India) Ltd., which was a tribute to the man's dogged perseverance in industry. Walchand decided to revive the industry and in 1926 the present The Indian Hume Pipe Co. Ltd. was formed and the company has never had to look back.
Realising the interdependence of industry and agriculture, Walchand established the Ravalgaon Sugar Farm Limited to manufacture sugar of International quality. Walchand's success in agriculture prompted him to start another sugar factory and workshop at a small place called Kalamb which is today known as Walchandnagar. The small workshop grew into a heavy engineering company called Walchandnagar Industries Limited, which today manufactures machinery for complete sugar and cement plants, industrial boilers precision gears and hardware for India's nuclear reactors and space vehicles.
During this era, there was no national association or body, where businessmen and industrialists could get together for the pursuit of common interests and objectives. Once again Walchand took the lead in establishing bodies like the Indian Merchant's Chamber, Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries.
A man of rare talent, Walchand believed with total conviction that his life's mission was to free India from her economic bondage. To comprehend the magnitude of his achievement, the circumstances prevailing must be highlighted. The facility of a developed capital market was non-existent. The attitude of the British Government towards Indian entrepreneurs was almost hostile. Imported products and foreign companies in India had the upper hand. To compete with such established giants in terms of experience, expertise and finance appeared futile, Walchand however was not daunted by all this. He had the vision and the courage to go ahead and eventually prove that Indian enterprise, entrepreneurship, skill and dedication cannot be under- estimated and is second to none.