The path which Kamani Industries, was to take in its aim to reach the highest peak for which it was destined, had been marked out long back. Following this path, this industry, with its many diverse accomplishments and noteworthy milestones, progressed far ahead. A number of times, Ramjibhai had attempted to retire from the industry and immerse himself in the service of the nation. However, his wheel of fortune, again and again came to a halt before large industrial projects and these circumstances strengthened his efforts and brought him into the domain of large industries and gave his extraordinary character a special purpose, which led to greater accomplishments in the field of industry. As luck was in his favour, Ramjibhai, believed it was his duty to make proper use of the strengths God had gifted him and take advantage of the present opportunities. His industrial progress was due to these two factors, his good fortune and his determined efforts.
Ramjibhai’s eldest son, Poonamchandbhai, had gone to Japan. His reason for going there was actually to learn about agriculture. But in addition to successfully doing this, he also observed the small industries and was greatly impressed by them. He was inspired by what he learnt of the agricultural process, which had been the main reason for his going to Japan, and on the way back he visited Calcutta and Jamshedpur before going to Dhari.
In the meantime, in Janaki Kutir at Juhu in Mumbai, discussions were going on between Jamnalal Bajaj and Jivanlalbhai regarding Mukund Iron and Steel. Ramjibhai was also invited for this meeting. Shri Jamnalal had also called Shri Poonamchand from Dhari. Enquiring about his future plans, Shri Jamnalalji came to know that Shri Poonamchand wanted to devote his life to agriculture. Jamnalalji suggested that he (Poonamchand) visit his farms in Nagpur, Chembur and Nasik. In Nasik there was a large vineyard owned by Godrej, which was up for sale for a lakh of rupees, but since the farm was owned by a Trust, the High Court was not giving permission for it to be sold. Jivanlalbhai owned 75 acres of land in Nasik, where he wanted to grow grapes. However, Ramjibhai was also not interested in it, since it was not possible to buy the Godrej farm.
Mukundlal, of Mukund Iron and Steel had established the main factory in Lahore. At that time the name of the firm was ‘Mukund Rolling Mills.’ Mukundlal also had a factory in Mumbai, which was called ‘Hindustan Iron and Steel Products.’ Amalgamating these two factories, the company was named ‘Mukund Iron and Steel Works.’ In 1937 it was converted into a limited company. At that time there were three partners in the company, Mukundlal, Jamnalal Bajaj and Jivanlal. After becoming a limited company, the company’s managing agency was named Jivan Ltd., of which Ramjibhai was made the Managing Director.
At the time that negotiations were going on in Janaki Kutir the office of Mukund Iron and Steel was on Kalbadevi Road, which was later shifted Flora Fountain (now known as Hutatma Chowk). In that office Shri Abidali was the secretary of Jamnalal Bajaj. Jamnalal had amassed some capital but the work was not going on satisfactorily, so he invited Jivanlalbhai to join him.
Shri Poonamchand’s ideas now started to shift from agriculture and veer towards industry, and his inclinations towards the field of industry became stronger, so Ramjibhai entrusted him to Jivanlalbhai, and Jivanlalbhai appointed Poonamchand as the manager in the factory of Mukund on Reay Road in Mumbai.
Ramjibhai had joined Mukund Iron as its managing director, but on the condition that once the company was established in two or three year’s time, he would leave.
So Ramjibhai once again got involved in industry; he came to Mumbai and took up residence in Gilbert Building at Chowpatty.
In 1939, some rather remarkable circumstances arose. The situation was such – in Nagapattam there was a small rolling mill, Re Rolling Mill, which bought the material it material from Tata Company, but Tata Company did not give Re Rolling Mill much material on credit. So the mill’s managers at that time complained to Shri Rajaji, who was a member of the cabinet in Madras, about this. At that time, Sir Ramaswamy Mudalier was also a member of the Viceroy’s Council and he felt that the attitude of Tata Company to the matter on hand was not appropriate. The Tata factory, from which Re Rolling Mills purchased its material, was managed by Shri Ardeshir Dalal. To find a way out of the situation, Tata made Shri Bose, who was the manager of Tata at that time, the president of Re Rolling Mills Association and the rate of the (iron) ingots along with the price of the scrap material would be decided by him, thereby solving the problem.
In the meantime, in a meeting of the officers of Re Rolling Mills in Simla, a government official gave the following suggestion to Ramjibhai, “A lot of brass and copper scrap is available and melting it down and purifying it can be a large industry in itself.” Ramjibhai realised the significance of this suggestion and he turned his attention to metals other than iron, and thus laid the foundation for a great revolution in the industry, for metals other than iron.
In Calcutta there was a Christian householder, named Colaso. He had a furnace capable of melting 4 hundredweights of metal. Ramjibhai took the first step in the revolution that he was destined to bring about, by purchasing that furnace for Rs. 9,000/-. Ramjibhai also employed Colaso. At that time one of the oldest workers of Kamani Industries, Shri Azizbhai, was working with Colaso and Ramjibhai employed him too. In addition, Ramjibhai also purchased a 200 horse power engine and started production. It took six months to streamline the work.
During this entire time both Ramjibhai and Poonamchand were still with Mukund Iron and Steel. Ramjibhai’s second son, Rasiklal was employed as a trainee in Mukund. He worked under an engineer, Shri Varma, in the furnace department of the factory. He worked for six months in the furnace department and for another six months in the factory in Lahore.
Here there is another matter which is also worth noting. Let us look into it. In Lahore, in 1942 a company by the name of W. Leslie had come into existence. This company used to manufacture agricultural implements and other tools. Ramjibhai bought this company along with the goodwill. After taking over the company, for a long time he was not able to oversee its working and so could not benefit from its strengths.
Prior to this (purchase of W. Leslie) work had already started in the furnace purchased from Colaso. This work had begun at the end of 1939. In the beginning the workers included Colaso, Aziz and T. A. Nambiar. Subsequently Lala Chhabildas Jamb, P.C.N. Mazumdar, Prataprai Mehta, Zaverchand Mehta and Ramjibhai’s brother-in-law, Bhaichandbhai joined them. Later Shri Mohanlal Purohit and some others also started to work there.
When W. Leslie was established in Lahore, Shri Ratilal Zatakia was working in Mukund there. Later on he joined W. Leslie.
At the end of 1939, the work of purifying metals (other than iron) was started in the furnace purchased from Colaso; Ramjibhai left Mukund Iron and Steel Works in 1940 and shifted his residence from Mumbai to Calcutta. He took his second son, Rasiklal to Calcutta with him.
Only gun metal was produced in the factory in Calcutta. Agricultural implements were produced in W. Leslie’s factories in Calcutta and Lahore. Calcutta’s defence department’s main need was of brass and copper sheets and iron rails. There were enough factories producing gun metal to supply the government. It occurred to Ramjibhai to produce material that was not available from any other factory and which the government really needed. At that time there was an excellent craftsman in Calcutta, named Asmatulla. He worked really hard to set up a rolling mill and put it into production; he mixed the required proportion of zinc with scrap metal and produced brass which he rolled into sheets. He had it tested in Madras and the material was found to be of good quality. At that time the brothers, Chhabildas Jamb and Madanlal Jamb were the sole suppliers of goods to Milligan Stores in Calcutta. Shri Javerchand Mehta from Amreli had settled down in Calcutta and was in the business of importing and exporting sugar and some minerals. The Jamb brothers and Shri Javerchand Mehta all joined Ramjibhai in the new industry he had started.
Colaso only worked with Ramjibhai for a year after which he left. Later, H.T. Bhandari of Standard Metal Company joined him in this industry. Ramjibhai’s industrial venture was growing but Ramjibhai could not procure the necessary workers and financial input required to establish it more firmly. As a result Ramjibhai’s worries increased.
Then a new problem arose. The conflagration of war in Japan spread to Indian shores. The government sent a message to Ramjibhai, “You are manufacturing defence goods, so shift your factory to the interiors of the country.” In January, 1942 Calcutta reeled under a barrage of Japanese bombs. Ramjibhai realised that if was caught in the Japanese bombing attacks, everything would be turned to dust and they would be ruined. So, with the consent of Sir V. T. Krishnamachari, who was the Divan of Vadhodhara at that time, he shifted the factory from Calcutta to the province of Mehsana in Vadodhara state, in March of 1942. As soon as the factory was shifted to Mehsana, Poonamchand joined it.
The factory was shifted to Mehsana, but then a new difficulty arose. There was not sufficient land available. There was not even enough land for the factory premises, so how would it be possible to find place for the factory workers? However, despite these problems, gradually everybody was somehow adjusted.
True, Ramjibhai was an industrialist, but he had none of the qualities, which usually come along with the blessings of Laxmi (wealth), like pride, anger and indifference towards others. That this did not happen in the case of Ramjibhai was due to the fact that he himself had lived under circumstances that very poor people have to suffer. So Ramjibhai believed that one should respect everybody, whether the person was an unimportant person or a very eminent one. Love is such a powerful emotion that relationships bound by its chains, will at the right time become firmly established and extend into a family, like a large Banyan tree. Ramjibhai knew this for a fact, and so since the time he had set up the factory in Calcutta, he maintained a personal relationship with each and every member of his staff. Over time these relationships became stronger. The staff members also ardently reciprocated Ramjibhai’s affectionate feelings. Everybody employed in Kamani Industries, from the humblest worker to the highest officers, work together harmony, like a large family – the credit for this goes solely to Ramjibhai.
The factory that was set up in Mehsana was known by the name of ‘P. R. Kamani & Brothers,’ and ‘Kamani Metal Refinery & Metal Industries.’ At that time, in Lahore, the name ‘W. Leslie’ and in Mumbai the names ‘W. Leslie’ and ‘Kamani Metal Refinery & Industries,’ were prevalent. Orders for all metals, except iron, were registered in the name of ‘Kamani Metal Refinery’ and orders for iron under the name of ‘W. Leslie.’
Barely had the Japanese bomb attacks on Calcutta subsided, and the atmosphere calmed down, when the call for revolution in 1942, for the nation’s freedom suddenly blazed across the country. In August 1942, Gandhiji clearly told the British to ‘Quit India.’ A huge rally was organised at Gowalia Tank, where Gandhiji together with all the leaders of the country took a vow of ‘do or die.’ Ordering the British ‘to quit India,’ gave the people free reign to fight for independence. Individual freedom fights had been going on – when Gandhiji gave this powerful call for freedom. The call was such that those who experienced the scene and the heated atmosphere there could clearly remember it almost 30 years later and they said that during the whole of India’s fight for freedom they had not witnessed such a gathering or seen such an aggressive side of their leaders. The British government was also disturbed on hearing Gandhiji’s command, ‘Leave from here.’ They resolved to quash the revolution with all their might. But this was a great awakening. The strength of unity was present in full force. The hot blood of revolution was coursing through the veins of every Indian. The whole nation was up in arms. Overnight the leaders had been taken to undisclosed places and jailed, and the fight for freedom fell into the hands of the people, who were without leaders and they did what they wanted.
This fight for freedom also affected the business and industry of the country.
People were extremely keen to know what was being manufactured in Kamani’s factory in Mehsana. Actually different alloys such as phosphor-bronze, gun metal, etc., were being produced in this factory. The people in the village and surrounding areas thought that gun metal was the metal used in the production of guns and cannons. Kamani’s supplied this metal to the defence department of the government and that too, to the defence department of a government which the whole nation was up against.
That was all it needed, overnight the populace went totally against a factory of Kamani Industries, and its staff. So all-encompassing was the social boycott by the people that it became impossible for the staff to even get enough milk for their tea. But this was not the only difficulty in Mehsana. At the time of establishing the factory it was expected that all the necessary facilities required would be supplied by the state of Vadhodhara, however these expectations were not met. There was also a third difficulty. Since there was no rod rolling mill in Mehsana, the brass and copper rods had to be sent to Lahore for rolling. Due to all these problems, the factory had to be shifted once again and it was moved from Mehsana to Jaipur.
When the factory was first shifted to Mehsana, Jaipur had also been considered (as a possible destination). R. Y. Durlabhji and Punamchand’s uncle-in-law, Vanechand Durlabhji wrote in an invitation to Ramjibhai, ‘If you come to Jaipur you will be able to get a lot of facilities from the government.’ Ramjibhai sent Shri Poonamchand to Jaipur. In Jaipur, Shri Punamchand met the Divan, Sir Mirza Ismail and explained to him how a factory for metals (other than iron) would benefit the state’s government. Due to his and Poonamchand’s efforts, Kamani Industries was given a lot of facilities in Jaipur. There was no income-tax in the state. Electricity and water were also provided at a subsidised rate. At that time no large industries had been set up in Jaipur, so Kamani Industries got a warm welcome in the state.
A gin press used to stand where the factory in Jaipur is situated today. The head of Jaipur’s construction department, Sir Tejsingh Mallick, arranged for Shri Poonamchand to buy the land on which this gin press stood, and this place turned out to be very lucky.
The factory in Jaipur was established in September 1942 and it was known by the name of ‘Jaipur Metal Industries’.
At the same time, Harishchandra Pandya had purchased a factory that manufactured aluminium and brass utensils that was situated in the compound of Tulsiram Gupta Mills in Mumbai.
Around this time, the former principle of M.T.B College in Surat, and the director of industry of the state, Dr. Champaklal Mehta, joined Kamanis. Dr. Champaklal Mehta had excellent experience in the industrial field. Dr. Champaklal had wanted to settle down in Jaipur as the Director of Industries, but Ramjibhai realised his true capacity and appointed him in his own office in Mumbai at a good salary. At that time his office was in Devkaran Nanji building near Horniman Circle.
In 1943, Jaipur Metal Industries was converted into a public limited company. Dr. Mehta suggested that the capital amount be Rs. 10 lakhs, but Ramjibhai firmly believed in the future of the company and made the capital amount Rs. 20 lakhs. Ramjibhai had the factory inaugurated by the king of Jaipur. On this occasion Ramjibhai had spoken confidently about the company, “Just as the goods manufactured by Tata go to each and every household in the country, so will the goods of this factory reach every house in India.” The king of Jaipur also inaugurated the factory with much enthusiasm and promised to extend whatever help and facilities the company needed.
The managing agency company was also set up on 21-8-43. It was known as Punamchand & Brothers Ltd.
The very first directors of Jaipur Metal Industries Ltd., were Shri Ramjibhai, Narbherambhai, Punamchand, Vanechand Javari, Girdharlal Zaveri, Himchand Shah, Chhabildas Jamb, Pathubhai and Tanubhai Desai.
The first directors of Punamchand & Brothers were, Shri Poonamchand, Rasiklal, Bhaichandbhai and Pathubhai.
An advantage that the factory in Jaipur had was that there were furnaces and rod rolling mills in the city. All this machinery was made in India. In the rolling mills there, copper and brass rods with a diameter of one and three quarter inches were manufactured. Rods with a larger diameter were manufactured in Lahore. There, in W. Leslie, iron rods and other iron parts were also manufactured.
In Jaipur, gun metal and phosphor bronze ingots; cast, solid and cord rods; copper and brass rods etc., were manufactured. During the war an alloy of arsenic and copper, ‘arsenical copper,’ could not be imported and nobody in India was manufacturing it. So the manufacture of this material was taken up in the Jaipur factory. Ramjibhai spent quite a lot of money on research and experimentation. Finally his experiments were successful.
The person responsible for the success in manufacturing arsenical copper was Shri H.T. Bhandari. So pleased was Ramjibhai with this success that he gave a reward of Rs. 25,000 to Shri Bhandari. With the production of arsenical copper a new road to prosperity opened for Kamani Industries. The reason for this was that these arsenical copper rods were used to fix the boilers of railway engines and it was now possible to fulfil the needs of Indian Railways and the Railways of Ceylon. The Kamani factory in Jaipur was the first to successfully supply all the needs of arsenical rods required by the railways.
At the end of 1944, the rationalization committee, of the western zone meter gauge railway, which consisted of 21 members including superintendents, expert mechanics and representatives of the railway, specially visited the factory in Jaipur to inspect the material produced there. On this occasion, the director of munitions production (Lahore and Mumbai divisions) of the government of India was also present. He closely inspected all the work going on in the factory. He also carried out tests to see how much the rods would bend (bend test). After all these tests the whole committee was convinced of the high quality of the material. The head of the committee, Shri T.B. Macintosh, during a celebratory dinner openly praised the work, saying, “I came here, with preconceived ideas regarding the production of arsenical copper. But we must really thank the factory for the way it has carried out all possible scientific tests.”
The deputy director at that time, Shri C. A.P. (N.F.), Shri A.D. Wilkes had written about the Jaipur factory in his government report, “Amongst all the factories producing metals (other than iron) in India, this factory is probably the largest.” The former deputy director general of munitions production of the government of India and the head of the panel of non-ferrous industries, the late Dr. Anant Pandya, had also said, “I am of the firm opinion that your Jaipur factory clearly proves that one can achieve excellent results using simple, improvised machines. That you have achieved this success during the difficult times of war, is truly remarkable.”
Besides arsenical copper rods there were a number of items that were very difficult to manufacture. Amongst them were tin solder, naval brass, leaded brass, phosphor bronze, silver solder and white metal. The Jaipur factory was able to meet all the demands for even these materials, which were so difficult to manufacture and its fame spread everywhere. Kamani’s tin solder was also highly esteemed by the government. The credit for manufacturing this successfully goes to Shri Pareshchandra Nandi Mazumdar.
After establishing Jaipur Metal Industries as a limited company, Kamani Metal Industries & Metal Refinery and Metal Industries, which were on a partnership basis also became limited companies.
In July 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, totally destroying them, which brought about an unexpected change in the Second World War. Experiencing the total destructive power of atomic weapons, an event it would never forget, brought about Japan’s surrender. Germany also fell and the Second World War ended five years after it had began.
During these years, Kamani’s business activities spread far and wide and this expansion continued. The Jaipur factory was set up during the war years. An idea of the kind of work that should be executed in the years after the war, which would lead to the industry’s expansion occurred to Rasiklal and he prepared a plan accordingly. He realised that Jaipur was situated in the interior of the country, so a new factory should be set up where it would be easy to export the goods and therefore the factory should be situated near a port. So Rasiklal thought of setting up a factory in Mumbai. Rasiklal showed the plan to Ramjibhai, who liked the idea and agreed to it immediately.
In Mumbai, Chatrabhuj Sunderji Doshi had purchased a large tract of land in Kurla at the rate of 6 Annas per yard, for an Art Silk Mill. Out of this, 10,000 yards were purchased at the rate of 10 Annas per yard in the name of Kamani Metal Refinery. After this, the surrounding land was purchased over a period of time at different rates. At that time the whole area was desolate and so they were able to obtain the land at such a cheap rate.
Rasiklal got the plans for the Kurla factory drawn up and accordingly the factory was set up and started production. Besides this, Kamani Industries also expanded its operations in other ways, a brief idea of which is given below.
In 1944, Kamani Wire Products was started. Small scale, wire drawing factories, were set up in Benares (Varanasi) and Surat. To fulfil the needs of the people, a company by the name of India Metal Sales was set up in 1944, whose factories produced thin metal sheets, wire, etc. Items which were not required by the defence department and the railways were sold through this company.
In July, 1942, a company, under the name of Kamani Enamel Industries Ltd., was set up in Kalyan to manufacture enamel utensils.
Thus, from the large factory set up in Jaipur, the industry’s branches, both large and small spread to places all over India and many factories were established.
The dinner at the Rajmahal after the inauguration of Jaipur Metal Industries in Jaipur. Sir Mirza Ismail, the Chief Minister of Jaipur is seated to the right of Shri Ramjibhai.
This picture, taken in 1945 will always be treasured. Along with Ramjibhai are his long-standing friends, amongst them are Anant Pandya and Prataprai Mehta.
A memorable picture of two close friends – Shri Balwantbhai and Shri Ramjibhai