A notable point in the expansion of Kamani Industries, is that with that industry’s expansion all other industries in the country immediately started developing; this meant that the expansion of Kamani Industries was not the growth of an individual industrialist, but was an important part of the industrial development of the whole country. In this national industrial development Ramjibhai was only an instrument. Of course he did not leave everything to fate. Ramjibhai was a man with great insight. He was daring and had a lot of foresight. These strengths were also inherited by his children. Ramjibhai had thought well in advance about the steps to be taken so that the industries established during wartime should not be affected during the times of scarcity after the war. So even before the war came to a sudden end in 1945, Ramjibhai had already thought of establishing other industries in 1944. From the many ideas for new industries that he considered, the main ones included the production of brass, copper and aluminium sheets, rods, utensils and malleable castings; heavy chemicals such as beryllium, copper and lignite and pharmaceuticals. Over and above these, he also thought of manufacturing copper and zinc because the country was dependent on imports for these two metals.
It was in Ramjibhai’s nature, never to begin any new activity or venture without proper planning. So before embarking on any new venture after the war, he first set up an office in ‘Shri Bungalow,’ in Jaipur in September, 1944, known as ‘Kamani Development Board.’ He also took Pathubhai in this office. Pathubhai started the developmental activities of Kamani Industries with an auspicious ceremony - a puja to Shri Ganesh.
Ramjibhai envisioned a very bright future for malleable castings so he entrusted the work of collecting the relevant literature on the said industry to Dr. Champaklal Mehta, Ratilal Zatakia and Chhabildas Jamb. For two years, negotiations and meetings were held regarding this matter, but due to the adverse circumstances after the war the efforts were not fruitful and the idea of the venture had to be shelved before it even started.
Then he thought of heavy chemicals. The possibilities for this industry were very good. The reason being that Sambhar lake, for which Jaipur and Jodhpur states had joint ownership rights, had abundant quantities of the chemicals necessary for soda ash. After removing the mud and salts, it was found that the remaining water had a good proportion of soda ash. To test this water and look into the project from the point of view of setting up an industry, Ramjibhai appointed an expert by the name of S. Gopalrao. To help him he gave him other assistance. Ramjibhai bought a small bungalow in Andheri, which had been owned by the late Sir Lallubhai Shamaldas Mehta and set up a good experimental laboratory in it. He also arranged for Gopalrao and his assistants to live there.
In the meantime Pathubhai started negotiations with the governments of Jaipur and Jodhpur. Any negotiations with native states had to be carried out with the Divan of that state, and the Divans of these native states were shrewd individuals with characteristic traits. If any negations were carried out in a straightforward manner and culminated successfully, it was considered a wonder at that time. Pathubhai started discussions with Sir Mirza Ismail, the Divan of Jaipur. These discussions went on for a long time, during which the talks oscillated between hope and despair. Mirza Ismail kept the state’s interests at heart and Pathubhai was not at all willing to compromise Kamani Industry’s business interests by paying more for the labour than the actual value of the goods. The negotiations were almost complete except for some minor details, when a problem arose. A notable government official like Sir Mirza Ismail, who had at one time had great difficulty in maintaining a balance during the discussions, but had accepted many of the terms proposed by Pathubhai, could not agree on the terms of the royalties proposed by him and there was a deadlock in the talks. Then, Sir Mirza Ismail retired and V.T. Krishnamachari was appointed in his place. As soon as he took up the post he dropped a bombshell by saying, “This whole project will be taken up by the state, and there are no prospects for private industry.” This brought the whole matter to a close.
Industries related to beryllium, copper, lignite were also delayed in this way. There was no doubt that the post wartime conditions played a part in all this.
At this time, Shri Vijay Raghavachari was the Divan of Udaipur state. In Zavar, in the state of Udaipur there were zinc and lead mines. The state government had already spent Rs 12 lakhs on research and investigations in these mines, but the mines were still not being worked. Pathubhai drew Ramjibhai’s attention to this state of affairs and suggested that copper mines might also exist. Ramjibhai appointed a geologist to investigate these mines.
In 1943, Dr. Jivraj Mehta joined Kamani Industries. Ramjibhai appointed him as executive director of the Kamani Group of Industries. Dr. Mehta knew Vijay Raghavachari very well, so there was new hope for the confidential talks regarding the mines in Zavar. In the meantime, in the D.G.M.P. office in Calcutta there was an officer by the name of J.G. Beri, who later moved to an ordinance factory. Chhabildas Jamb had very good relations with Mr. Beri. He initiated some discussions with Beri regarding the mines in Zavar, but for some reason or the other Beri advised them that it was not worth taking any risks in these mines. So the matter was shelved. Talks had also been going on regarding the mines Alver and Khedi in Rajasthan, but after considering the scheme for 2 or 3 years it was also put aside.
At the same time talks had also been going on regarding pig-iron. There was a possibility of iron being found in the Chanda district of Madhya Pradesh; some initial investigations had also been carried out in this regard. However, due to the post war circumstances, the matter did not go any further. The thread of the discussions was again taken up in the beginning of 1960, and the talks made progress. We will see what the results of these talks were later, but first we will look into what happened to the ideas regarding aluminium. There was a possibility of bauxite being found around Palanpur in the state of Gujarat, but nobody had pursued this. The idea of producing aluminium in Gujarat was again considered in 1964, but nothing has happened till date*.
In the meantime discussions were started with the Parekh Brothers, from Vartaj regarding pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and soda ash from the waters of Sambhar lake. It was decided to float a public limited company by the name of Kamani Pharmaceuticals & Co. Ltd. It was also decided to establish Kamani and Parekh Ltd. as its managing agency, but due to the fact that the conditions of the Parekh Brothers were unacceptable, this company went into arbitration.
Around this time work was started to establish a factory for aluminium, brass and copper in Alve district in Kerala, at that time it was likely that Travancore state would offer good facilities. As advised by Sardar Patel, Dr. Jivraj even initiated discussions with the Divan of the state, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer. However the factory was not set up, but without a doubt there was one favourable outcome of the discussions, which was that a loan of Rs. 5 lakhs was sanctioned to Kamani Industries and so Kamani Aluminium Industries Ltd. was established. Today a huge factory is operating under this name, producing A.C.S.R and all types of aluminium conductors. The credit for setting up this factory goes to Ramjibhai because of the financial aid he extended in its initial stages.
Taking into consideration the circumstances after the war, Ramjibhai established the Indian Non-ferrous Metal Manufacturing Association in 1945. As its president, Ramjibhai rendered note-worthy services to the non-ferrous metal industry. In those years, he also had a high post on the panel of Non-ferrous Metal Industries.
Since the non-ferrous metal industry had done extraordinary service to the country by producing indigenous instruments and machines, Ramjibhai felt that the industry should get exemption from customs duty. As soon as this thought occurred to him he started discussions with the government in 1944-45. The government accepted all of Ramjibhai’s demands and suggested that Ramjibhai inquire (with the Tariff Board) how to go about obtaining exemption from customs duty to the non-ferrous metal industry. At that time the chairperson of the Tariff Board was Sir Shanmukh Chetty and C.C. Desai was a member of the Board. The board recommended that exemption from customs duty be granted to this industry, including the two large factories of Kamani in Kurla and Jaipur; on accepting these recommendations the government allowed the import of raw metals without levying any duty. This exemption was continued for fifteen years. Later, as the industry became self reliant, only a few items were extended this benefit.
Ramjibhai always saw that benefit to the nation, as advocated by Gandhiji, was the basis of any industrial growth, and with this in mind he organised all the industries and set up the Non-ferrous Association in Calcutta. In 1946 he established the Western Indian Sheet Rollers Association comprising the manufacturers of sheets of copper, brass and other metals. In Jaipur he founded the Jaipur Chamber of Commerce.
In all the industrial development that Ramjibhai carried out, the focus was the on nation’s industrial progress. He never thought of any industrial development for personal gain. Because of this attitude of benefit to the nation, the branches of Kamani Industries spread freely all throughout the country. So, if Kamani Industries benefitted, the nation would also benefit – or rather it would be more accurate to say that the nation definitely did benefit.
* of writing this book