Sunday, 7 July 2013

CHAPTER 15 : KAMANI ENGINEERING CORPORATION LTD.


Since the production of vessels had been discontinued a new problem arose – how could the specialists who made the vessels and the machinery that had been used to produce the vessels be made the most of. After due consideration it was decided to set up a company – ‘Ceylon Metal Industries Ltd.’ - with the help of Shri Chhotubhai Bhatt, who was involved in the business of utensils and other items, in Colombo.  Accordingly a company was set up on 10th October, 1955. Its first directors were – Shri Chhotubhai (Chairperson), Shri Poonamchand Kamani, Shrimati Kumudben Bhatt, Ratilal Zatakia, Narhari Chunilal Bhatt, Aliadura Jeremias D’Souza and Morarji Udeshi. Under Ceylonese law, managing agents were termed, ‘agents and secretaries.’ The ‘agents and secretaries’ of this company were Bhatt and Kamani Ltd. The vessel manufacturing equipment and an expert were sent to Colombo in May 1955. The latter stayed there for three months and trained the staff before returning home.
Here it may be remembered that in 1947-48, Rasiklal Kamani had gone abroad. He gave an advertisement in the papers for a skilled person who could source agencies in Europe on behalf of Kamani and oversee their operations. John Porter, the representative of Kamani’s Vienna office responded to this advertisement. John Porter was a second class officer in Germany, which had become a friendly nation after World War II. He wanted to get into business. At that time, as we have seen previously, Ramjibhai had also gone on a tour of Europe and America. Ramjibhai and Rasiklal went to Switzerland and called Porter to meet them in Interlaken. Porter’s wife, Olga also came with him. During his conversation with Porter, Ramjibhai realised that he would be very useful to him. So he took his own decision to employ him. Porter initially had his office in Paris, but then he moved it to Vienna. When he was in France, he had negotiated with Furce Company, with whom they had collaborated to fulfil the first order of the towers for the Bhakra Nangal project.
In the mean time, a large order was expected from the railways, so Rasiklal went to England and acquired an agency for Fergusson tractors. In addition he also finalised an agency for Fiat tractors, Olivetti typewriters and tele-printers from Italy.
Amongst all these major agencies, the agency for the world famous ‘Dimag’ company of West Germany was the first to be acquired and Kamani supplied the steel rolling mills manufactured by this company to the Rourkela steel plant. They also supplied excavators, cranes and other machine parts manufactured by this company to various public organisations. In addition they also supplied electric hoist blocks to a number of companies.
Kamani also supplied ‘flood gates,’ to close the canals (from dams), manufactured by Dortyunder Union (or Hindstyle Union as it is known today). They first supplied and even fitted the gates for the Tilpara dam in West Bengal under the Mayurakshi plan. Despite the fact that this was the first job of its kind the work was completed two months before schedule. Whether these gates were functioning properly would only be known when the canals were flooded and since there were still two months remaining before this, an artificial flood was created and the gates were checked and found to be perfect. Dr. Bidhanchandra Roy, who was the chief minister of West Bengal at that time, was extremely pleased about this and warmly congratulated Ramjibhai for the skilled work.
Over and above this, Kamani Industries took the agencies for many well known European engineering companies including Miag, Castorling, Columeto, Winnerloko, Motiv, Wagner Biro, Ensaldo, Galileo, Pohling Bohp and Ruther.
In addition they also acquired agencies, for electrical instruments and other goods, of Fuji, Furukawa, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Nippon Geyshi Kisha and other world famous Japanese companies.
Gradually the number of agencies increased, so in 1948 the agency division expanded into electrical and mechanical departments. A department for agricultural machinery was also added, so now there were three departments.
The work of Fergusson tractors settled down very well. Kamani acquired agencies (for the tractors) in Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, along with the states of Madras and Mysore (as they were then known). To expand the operations related to the agencies and to see that the work went smoothly, to increase business skills and to be able to take up the increasing responsibilities without difficulty, Hasmukh Kamani and an engineer from the agricultural machinery department went to Coventry in England for training in 1949. It is but natural that an engineer would understand machines, but the fact that Hasmukh Kamani, who had no knowledge of machines could pay as much attention as any expert, was a sign of his extraordinary faculties. Not only did he take part in tractors trials in competitions, but he came first every time.
Over and above these three departments another one was opened. Rasiklal had finalised the agency of ‘Olivetti’ from Italy. They had to take agencies for both the tele-printers and typewriters manufactured by this company. For the typewriters a new department, a ‘department of office equipment’ was opened. However this was only in operation for a couple of years, after which it was closed down. The activities related to tractors went on until the end of 1953. After this work stopped, all these departments were amalgamated into one, which was known by the new name of the ‘Engineering Sales Division.’
The electrical and mechanical divisions supplied huge machines worth lakhs of Rupees to leading electrical, hydraulic and industrial plants. The main ones are given below.
1,000 miles of telephone cable; boilers for the Chola thermal power station and Madura thermal power station; wagons, engines, wheel sets and axle boxes for the railways; transformers for Muchkund, Tunghabhadra and Corba; switch gear for Corba and Bhakra Nangal; flood gates for Mayurakshi and Sangulam;  head regulators and large pipelines; rope ways and belt conveyors for Vaitarna, Tansa and Indian Iron; turbo alternators sets for the Burani thermal power station in Bihar; thermal sets for the Trishuli plant in Nepal; cement plant for Porbundar; rolling mills and coke oven plants for the Hindustan Steel plant in Rourkela. In addition they supplied different types of cranes, escalators and electrical hoist blocks, water meters and meters for other types of flow-meters and also lakhs of high tension insulators to various electrical plants and control centres.     

Thus, by selling goods worth crores of Rupees, this division was a major contributor to the company’s development. Along with this it is easy to deduce from the above list that Kamani was not interested only in increasing its own income. Kamani Industries has never been self satisfied or self centred. They have visibly contributed to the nation’s industrial and financial development. It is not wrong to say that Kamani Industries was able to play a part in the all round development of the nation due to the previous generation’s blessings. One cannot be an instrument in doing even the smallest good deed without luck and without an accumulation of good deeds good fortune is not destined. It is true that in helping the nation Kamani Industries took full payment (from its customers) but this is not important. Even if the founder of this industry, Shri Ramjibhai had not been so farsighted and enterprising, had not taken up the most difficult challenges, and had not shown the ability to deliver the goods as promised, Ramjibhai would still have been a crorepati by engaging in limited industrial activities and the Kamani family would have taken its place in society as a wealthy family. But no; Ramjibhai was not self centred. He did not only look to developing his own individuality and strengths. He was very farsighted and his intention was to serve the nation as much as he could, the seed of this intention had so many potential noble qualities that after it was planted it grew like ‘Kabirvad*’ into a huge industrial forest. He was able to help in the nation’s development schemes by supplying the required machinery. He was also able to prevent a lot of unemployment, by the industrial development. By also ensuring that industrial technical knowledge from abroad flowed into the country, he was instrumental in increasing the country’s fame and pride and was blessed. Like the potential strength which is hidden within an atom, he showed his inspired brilliance by the all round development of himself, his family and his industry. There is no doubt that Ramjibhai was a great industrialist, but more that that he was a great patriot. His patriotism was the water that nurtured, maintained and caused his great industrial growth to fructify into a ‘Kabirvad’.


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*Kabirvad : This place which is related to Sant Kabir holds a special importance for devotees. As per one belief, it is believed that Sant Kabir while wondering came to Mangaleshwar area. He stayed over here. As per folk tale two brothers named Tatva Jiva washed the feet of Sant Kabir. Then when this was poured on a dry tree, the tree bloomed with greenery. From this the huge (Banyan) tree was created, whose origin cannot be traced.

Wherever this great founder of Kamani Industries had seen an opportunity for growth, he had had grabbed it with both hands. To manufacture electrical insulators, the government of Mysore State for many years had been collaborating with the Japanese firm of Nippon Geishi Kishini, who manufactured world famous electrical insulators and had set up a factory in Bangalore under the name of Government Porcelain Factory. Kamani Engineering Corporation also collaborated with the Andhra Pradesh State Corporation to manufacture high tension insulators and bushings and set up a factory named ‘Electric Porcelain Ltd.’
These insulators are manufactured from a specially developed material, called mixed-porcelain. Such insulators are necessary to prevent any contact between high tension wires, which would lead to a short circuit. Such porcelain is also necessary for the main transformers at electricity board headquarters. For low currents smaller insulators are required and for high currents larger insulators are required. So the future of this industry seemed very bright.
As the foreign exchange situation worsened, the production of these insulators decreased. In addition many more items were being manufactured in the country so discussions were held to see how the output of the factory could be increased and how to increase the variety of the products being manufactured.
Due to the constant growth of engineering industries, the amount of pig-iron produced in the country was insufficient. In 1961-62 the government issued a number of licences. For many years Ramjibhai had wanted to increase the growth of basic industries; to fulfil this desire Kamani Industries took up the challenge and worked out a plan to produce one lakh tons of pig iron per year. This scheme got both the approval of the government and a governmental licence. This plan topped the list of all Kamani plans, because it was the most ambitious and most important scheme. It required an investment of Rs. 10 crores. Experts from Yugoslavia (as it was known then) were involved in it. Raw iron was found in good quantities near Udaipur in Rajasthan. To put this plan into practice, Kamani decided to install a factory there, where it was planned to produce one lakh tons of pig iron, and in addition set up a steel plant and rolling mill. Over and above, at different stages of this special steel, high tensile angles for the towers would be manufactured. Moreover, steel wires would be produced for the factory in Jaipur that manufactured air conditioners and char*. Stainless steel for the thin steel sheets produced in the factory in Kurla would also be manufactured here.
Unfortunately, when his dream was about to become a reality, Ramjibhai was not there to experience the joy of its fulfilment.                 
*Char is the solid material that remains after light gases (e.g. coal gas) and tar have been driven out or released from a carbonaceous material during the initial stage of combustion, which is known as carbonization, charring, devolatilization or pyrolysis.


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