Ramjibhai reached Calcutta, but the question arose as to what he was to do. He spoke to Jivanlal about this. In his own characteristic way Jivanlal asked him, “Do you want to make quick money or are you interested in hawking aluminium utensils?” Quick witted Ramjibhai understood the intent of the question, that to earn real wealth one has to have a spirit of adventure and be willing to take a risk. Understanding that his future would be based on his answer, he at once replied, “Hawking.” This was the answer that Jivanlal wanted to hear and their friendship became even stronger. From the very next day they started hawking aluminium vessels in Calcutta. Ranchodbhai did not like this.
They bought utensils from wholesalers, and loaded them onto handcarts. Shouting, “Silver vessels for sale,’ they both roamed the streets of Calcutta. Initially, they found the work hard, but slowly they got used to it and as their earnings increased, they also started liking the work. On Sunday the shops were shut, so they would arrange their wares on the small veranda outside a shop and sell the goods from there.
They used to stock and sell aluminium utensils manufactured by the companies of Voolvar Hampton, Lallubhai Amichand and Anant Desai.
As their income increased, Ramjibhai thought of establishing a shop. He suggested this to Jivanlal, who was happy to agree immediately. They set up a small shop in Vipluvi Ras Bihari Basu Road, which was then known as Canning Street. They still continued hawking the utensils in other areas of Calcutta, but now they worked in turns. When Ramjibhai and Jivanlal went on their rounds, the shop was managed by Jivanlal’s brother, Harakhchand and in the afternoon, Ramjibhai managed the shop while Harakhchand and Jivanlal hawked their goods.
Ramjibhai and Jivanlal stopped taking their meals in the hotel and started cooking for themselves. Even though their income increased, they maintained their same simple, self-sufficient lifestyle. And gradually their self reliance grew.
After about a year and a half, in 1913, when Jadavben joined him, he took a small 8 foot by 8 foot room in ‘Churchwalli Kothi’ (a residence or building near a church) in Pollack Street. Jivanlal also took a similar room and started his life as a householder. After two years they both shifted to larger rooms in Hindustan Mills Kothi.
In 1912, the Prince of Wales came to India from England. On this occasion the demand for aluminium utensils was so great that they earned a large amount of cash daily.
As business increased they arranged to purchase goods from Mumbai. Although they only got 2 percent commission on their merchandise, they could afford to do business at this rate because goods and cash changed hands rapidly. They came to know that the utensils manufactured by the Indian Aluminium Company in Madras, now known as Chennai, were of good quality and very popular and so took an agency for this company for three months on a trial basis. Because of this Harakhchandbhai shifted to Madras. This agency benefitted both Ramjibhai and Jivanlal. The reason being that due to the war, goods could not be transported from Mumbai to Calcutta. So whatever goods came from Madras, were in great demand, not only in Calcutta, but also in Mumbai.
In the meantime, factories that manufactured weapons required aluminium ingots. They sent a message to Ramjibhai and Jivananlal asking them about the quantity of ingots available with them. Jivanlal replied saying, “We have as many as you need.” Jivanlal could say this confidently because he knew that large quantities of aluminium were being imported at Rajmahendri. His idea was to acquire the aluminium from there, but the problem was arranging for the money to do so. However, Jivanlal was able to solve this difficulty. He had good relations with Gazdar Company in Calcutta, and offering to share 50 percent of the profits with them, he sent Ramjibhai to Calcutta to collect the goods. On receiving the order from the government, he was able to immediately dispatch the required goods.
Shri Purshottam Jhinabahi Pathak, from Chorwad, was also invited to join them in their business. He was studying commerce, and had been sponsored by Shri Amrutlal Padhiyar, on Ramjibhai’s recommendation. It was necessary to obtain a certificate, testifying to the quality and utility of the goods supplied to the government. Such a certificate was available with a Jewish company. However, this company was located in Shimla, so Ramjibhai had to go there. Whenever he went to Shimla, he would procure orders for other items.
At one time the government required the metals, zinc and antimony. Ramjibhai collected samples of the required metals from Calcutta and sent them to the Japanese company, Masuda, through an Indian broker, Namidas. He ordered five ingots of each metal from there. Having had them tested by experts, he sent them to the weapons factory which gave him good orders.
During this time Ramjibhai also came to know from the newspapers, that America and Japan were trading aluminium through a barter system. Acting on this information, Ramjibhai sent Damodar Parmanandas Desai to Japan to study the possibilities of importing the goods from there. He obtained permission to import aluminium goods into India from Japan. America was not supplying aluminium to India, so Ramjibhai obtained the required amount of goods from Japan, stocked them at Rajmahendri, and started supplying them to the government. Shri Desai stayed in Japan for about a year and a half, and returned with large quantities of aluminium ingots and aluminium powder, and established a thriving business.
During the war years, Ramjibhai and Jivanlal, supplied large quantities of aluminium utensils and other goods to the government and did good business. Unfortunately however, circumstances forced them to shut down this flourishing business. Some unscrupulous Marwadi firms were very corrupt in their dealings with the government, which was totally unacceptable to Ramjibhai and Jivanlal. Rather than surrender to such methods of doing business, they decided to totally change their outlook and do something entirely different that would bring about prosperity in their enterprise. They got the idea of starting a factory to manufacture aluminium articles, and seizing the moment they invested the money they had saved and went from commerce to industry. Calcutta’s Gazdar Company, had great respect for both the friends, because of their honesty. The company realized that they had both expertise and insight, and had full faith in their capabilities. So when Ramjibhai and Jivanlal put forward the idea of starting their own industry and putting up a factory to this end, the company accepted it immediately and with the company’s help, they put up a factory at a cost of one and a half lac rupees in Calcutta They bought the required machines from a Jain merchant in Calcutta, known as “Ustad,” and employed an engineer who had been with the Indian Aluminium Company. They were also able to contact the National poet, Zaverchand Meghani and appointed him as the head of the factory. Jivanlal and Ramjibhai started the factory in partnership, and Jivanlal’s brother, Harakhchand also joined them.
Jivanlal and Meghanibhai both went to England and acquired an agency from the British Aluminium Company, for the whole of India. The agency was for aluminium moulds from which utensils could be directly cast. They employed about two to three hundred workers and started their factory. This was the beginning of a glittering career in industry, the start of their future as industrialists. The factory ran in full swing for about two years. Since they made a good profit, Ramjibhai thought of retiring and actually did so in December, 1919. But Jivanlal’s affection for Ramjibhai was very strong and he could not bear the fact of Ramjibhai leaving the factory and being totally separated from him. So with loving persistence he insisted that Ramjibhai continue and even increased his share in the factory.
During this time, on the 6th April, 1918, Jadavben gave birth to Ramjibhai’s first son, Poonamchandbhai, in Amreli. When Poonamchand was two years old, both Ramjibhai and Jadavben had a strong desire to travel around India, so along with the child and accompanied by Harakhchand they started off on their journey. First they went to Jaganathpuri. From there they went on to Bogh Gaya, via Samet Shikhar. Then after visiting Kashi, also known as Varanasi, they went on to Delhi, Ambala, Agra, Fatepur Sikhri, Mathura, Vrindavan and other places, they also went to Lahore and Karachi. They had taken a cook along with them, so they had good hygienic food and they also travelled in comfort. Although quite well to do, Ramjihai did not display his wealth during his travels. He and his family, travelled simply with pure intentions. From Karachi, Ramjibhai and his family went by steamer to Porbunder, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, and from there by train to Chorwad.
Hansrajbhai bought a new house in Amreli and started renovating it. Ramjibhai decided to stay in Chorwad until the renovation was completed, so he bought a house there for Rs.17,000. Poonamchand had now started to go to school. Along with the house, Ramjibhai had also bought the small piece of land on which it stood. Later, when Ramjibhai moved to Amreli, this house and land were bought by Jivanlal. However, before that, Ramjibhai’s second son, Raskibhai was born in Chorwad on 3rd May, 1920.
The seed of nationalism that grew in Ramjibhai’s mind was planted in Amreli.