The history of India’s industrial revolution is testimony to the efforts and achievements of India’s industrialists. When a complete history of this is written, it will definitely highlight their great achievements and qualities, such as great intellect, expertise, spirit of adventure, extraordinary courage, tremendous foresight, profound understanding, remarkable attitude, inexhaustible passion, and practical approach, which were necessary to solve any kind of problem. In addition they had great self confidence and once they decided to do something, would see it through to the end. History will definitely highlight the industrial revolution and its role in economic development. There are innumerable materials required in day to day life, such as iron, steel, cement, paints and chemicals, medicines, tea, sugar, cloth, electricity, coal, copper, bronze, brass, copper, aluminium, amongst countless other necessities. Indian industrialists were active in all these fields. Working hard and facing all situations courageously, with intelligence, ability, self confidence and strength they progressed by leaps and bounds. Despite the fact that they had to face many natural calamities and harassment from their fellow men, as well as problems of falling prices, Indian industrialists emerged successfully, and continued their progress unhampered. Their fame spread across India and the world; they were highly respected and as their achievements spread to diverse fields, it increased India’s prosperity. These industrialists were from all castes and creeds – Hindus, Muslims, Vohras, Khojas, Memons, Parsees, Jains – all had bent their backs in their endeavours and reached the peak of success. Gujaratis from Gujarat and Jains from Saurashtra and Kutch played no small part in India’s industrial and commercial activities and showed no less strength. Their names are renowned in India and abroad – The Birla brothers, Nanji Kalidas, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, Ambalal Sarabhai, Mafatlal Gagal, Khatau, T. Maneklal, Bhogilal Laherchand, Singhanias, Kamani – all great industrialists. They proved their mettle, and with extraordinary efforts and God’s grace, distinguished their own names and brought credit to the country. In doing so they made Gujarat proud and increased her fame. To these illustrious names we would like to add the name of another great man, who although a successful Gujarati, Jain industrialist, lived a simple, honest life - Shri Ramjibhai Hansraj Kamani.
It is a Monday, the 28th of October; the year 1940, on the auspicious day of Dhanteras, during the festival of Diwali.
In the crisp, morning air, about thirty five people, are gathered in a small compound, in far off Calcutta, as it was then known. (Although with today’s technology it is by no means far off or difficult to access). Among them, six persons are dressed in traditional Gujarati attire. One Brahmin is carrying out the necessary preparations for an auspicious ceremony to lay a foundation stone. The things needed for a religious ceremony are nearby. A shining pot, filled with Ganges water, is sparkling in the early morning rays of the sun. All these things are arranged in a small mandap, decorated with garlands of aso palav leaves, which flutter gently in the breeze. A Ford car is parked just outside the compound.
Mantras are being chanted in this charming and peaceful atmosphere. Twenty minutes or so pass this way, and the ceremony is over. Prasad in the form of gur dhana and pedhas is distributed. The foreheads of all those present are decorated with ‘kanku-chokha.’ Happiness is evident on everyone’s face and their eyes are shining with self-assurance. The elders are giving their blessings, and friends and loved ones their good wishes. This was the auspicious dawn of the unimaginable success in the field of the raw metal industry, that was to take place in the next two decades.
Initially the metal industry started with only twenty workers and two clerks. A small furnace was set up in which scrap metals, mainly copper and brass were refined. This refined metal was poured into moulds to make different articles.
At that time Ramjibhai addressed his small staff saying “Today we have only twenty workers and two clerks, but I am certain that the day will come when our work with iron and other metals, will grow to such an extent that even two thousand workers and two hundred clerks may not be enough. If work painstakingly and sincerely, success is sure to follow and the world will marvel at our performance and efforts.”
This was Ramjibhai’s inner conviction. It also foretold the future.
That prediction has ultimately come true. Today about five thousand workers, and four to five hundred clerical staff work with the Kamani Group, expanding its horizons and spreading its fame.
From that day onwards, Dhanteras has been considered as a most auspicious day by the Kamani family and the Kamani Group of industries. Since 1943, when the foundation stone was laid in Kurla for their factory ‘Kamani Metals and Alloys’ the day has taken on great significance and is celebrated as foundation day every year.
A full two decades later, in 1960, on the 18th October, on the same auspicious day of Dhanteras, Ramjibhai addressed the staff of all three factories (at that time there were three, today there are four). He spoke the following words, “Today is our in second foundation day. The first foundation day was on the 28th October in Calcutta, when the production of iron and and other metals was forecast. That day can be considered as the beginning of factories at both places.
With God’s grace and your efforts the future that was then predicted has come to pass, this is truly satisfying to us.”
From the small seed of an experimental furnace – refinery – the industry has spread like a huge Banyan tree. With eight huge factories, thousands of workers, clerical staff and officers, the name ‘Kamani’ is famous not only in India, but is known throughout Asia, Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
When a demand has arisen for any new product Kamanis have risen to the challenge. If a product was not manufactured in India, they have spent lacs of Rupees on research and experimentation and produced it in their factories.
During the Second World War the railways required arsenical copper, i.e., copper mixed with arsenic. This kind of copper was necessary for the boilers in train engines. No other metal would do, even steel. Due to the war, import of copper was totally at a standstill. The Kamani Group took up the challenge to manufacture this particular type of copper alloy, in its Jaipur factory and were determined not give up until they succeeded. Twenty-one members of the Western Railway’s committee, tested the copper rods, produced from this metal, from all angles. They were totally bowled over when they realized that the railways’ needs could be met by this metal. The head of the committee, Shri T.B. Makintosh said, “I came here, with the preconceived idea that arsenical copper could not be manufactured here. But after seeing these rods, my misgivings have totally vanished. I congratulate all of you.”
During this time, the Kamani Group also produced another item. During the war with Burma, the government got hold of a dinner plate, meant for soldiers, from a Japanese prisoner. It was made from a metal alloy called ‘Tinmas’. This was extremely light in weight and very convenient. However, it was not easy to manufacture this metal, as its composition and manufacturing process were complicated. In addition the government need a huge amount in an extremely short time. The government had asked manufactures “whether it was possible for any of them to make this Tinmas.” Another difficulty that arose was the cost factor. The price set by the government was just too low and manufacturers could not afford to manufacture the metal at this price. Many large companies engaged in manufacturing vessels and utensils had expressed their inability to manufacture Tinmas in their factories. Although the government was aware that the Kamani Group was not involved in the production of utensils it was well aware of the group’s drive and determination, so it asked Kamani, “Will you be able to make Tinmas?”
There was so much work going on in their factories that it was impossible for them to take on any extra load. But this was a challenge to Kamanis’ strength and faith in their capabilities, and they had never been defeated in any venture, so they took it up immediately and manufactured the required number of Tinmas vessels.
The following incident occurred in 1950. Steel pylons were required for transmission of electricity in the Bhakra – Nangal dam project. At that time no company in India was making these pylons and neither was anybody willing to take the responsibility of producing them in huge quantities of almost 200 tons, because nobody had the capacity to do so. The government department in charge of hydroelectricity approached Kamanis and asked, “Are you capable of making such pylons?” When they were asked this question Kamanis had absolutely no idea of the instruments, machinery, technology and kind of experienced workers necessary to make such pylons. Despite this they took up the challenge and within the short space of three months, they started manufacturing the pylons in their factory in Kurla. This factory of Kamanis, with such a huge capacity, is the only one of its kind in India.
Over and above, Kamanis are also famous all over India for manufacturing articles useful for the posts and telegraph department, such as cadmium and copper conductors; household electric meters; zinc oxide, copper and brass belts and thin sheets of metal and recycled rubber needed in factories.
The main concept of freedom lies in only one thing, and that is one should not be influenced by the pressures from natural sources or other people, but remain true to one’s own thoughts and ideas. A free person does not allow the desires of any man or God, whether individual or collective to weigh upon him.