Kolkata: By 2022, India boasts of over 72,000 startups and the world’s third largest startup ecosystem to support their growth. More than a century ago, India was used as a market for English goods and the country’s production was disappointing. Interestingly, some of India’s biggest industrialists started at that time.
The Godrej conglomerate which has a presence across sectors such as home appliances, luxury furniture, commodities, agriculture, and aerospace also started in those days and is still evolving.
After a two-part history written in 1997, the Godrej family also tells the story of the beginning and evolution of one of India’s business empires from a different perspective.
To celebrate its 125th foundation day on May 7, 2022, Godrej & Boyce, the flagship company of the Godrej Group, released a comic book on its founders Ardeshir and Pirojsha.
Written by Malini Sharma and published by Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), the book is titled “Ardeshir and Pirojsha Godrej: Pioneers of Progress” in its simple narrative style and narrated by Dilip Kadam of dramatic scenes from the lives of Ardeshir and Pirojsha . aims to interest and inspire children of all ages.
ACK is India’s largest comic and cartoon magazine publisher, which has inspired millions of children to learn about Indian mythology and history, great people, and the country’s heritage through cartoons. funny, well presented.
Ardeshir and Pirojsha Godrej’s story is not the first time they are reporting on corporate executives. They have done it before by publishing comic books on the lives of other legends of Indian industry like Jamsetji Tata, JRD Tata and Ghanshyam Das Birla.
A press conference was organized by Kolkata-based Starmark and ACK magazine stores and the Godrej team last week to celebrate the recent publication of the book.
This book tells how a young Parsi gentleman named Ardeshir Godrej, inspired by the idea of ’swadeshi’ nationalism, decided to offer cheap and good products made in India as another British import. He started with surgical instruments but stopped the project when he was asked to include a ‘Made in England’ label to qualify for sale.
However, he soon realized that there was a latent demand for safe and robust locks after reading an article in the Bombay Gazette about a gang of thieves breaking locks in the city. It led Ardershir to produce a unique “Made in India” cover adding the name “Boyce” to Godrej.
The book vividly recounts the trials and tribulations Ardeshir faced in turning his novel idea into a product people actually wanted. With financial help of Rs 80,000 from Merwanji Cama, Ardeshir rented a house in Mumbai’s Lalbaug, hired a dozen workers from Gujarat and Malabar and bought a small steam engine, and started manufacturing locks in 1897. Soon , his younger brother Pirojsha joined him. and obtained a patent for making a waterproof lock.
This is how Godrej locks, trusted by many Indian households and businesses even today, are.
In 1904, Ardeshir’s fireproof-safe successfully passed the fire test. Its unique features are covered by three patents and Godrej Locks and Safes won a gold medal at the Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition in Madras.
The next big step was to create a soap that believed in the ability of the Indians as soap at that time had a long, derived from animal fat, as an active ingredient. After a lot of trial and error, finally, in 1918, Ardeshir released the Chavi vegetable soap brand, which became a hit, beating imported heroes such as Lux, White Rose Cuticura and Windsor.
By the early 1930s, Godrej soaps had introduced Turkish Bath and Vatni, herbal neem soap, and also shaving soap for men.
After Ardeshir’s death in 1936, Pirojsha managed the Godrej business and built Vikhroli, a suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai.
As Godrej & Boyce completes 125 years, Chairman and MD Jamshyd N Godrej said the company’s success is closely linked to India’s journey towards self-reliance.
He added, “We have made a first-of-its-kind system in India from locks, safes, refrigerators, almirahs, typewriters to essential items for India’s missions to the moon and Mars, and its commitment to clean technology.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the press conference, Mehnosh Pithawala, Head of Brand & Strategy for Godrej & Boyce said that Ardeshir’s strong belief in “swadeshi” and “self-reliance” is known as “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. and the present condition of India, is. which helped establish the empire.
“By the way, he was a pioneer of the beginning as you will read in the book… he created new products and invented everything in India. He was a nationalist, a citizen, a swadeshi believer. .. he felt strongly. for the community.”
Asked to comment on the contribution of the Parsi community to the development of India, Pithawala said, “Parsies have proudly contributed to the country and it is very important that it continues in the future as well. We feel it is our duty… we are these people. A small country, our numbers are also decreasing, but we are very proud to be Indians.”
Confirming the work of India’s oldest business house, Pithawala said, “Be it Tatas, Birlas or Godrej, they have a belief in India that we can also produce products in the country and it is better than the foreign ones. . This belief also inspired many people. Indian businessmen will come in the future. I think they are rooted in their response to the swadeshi movement or Atmanirbhar Bharat now called from a sense of self-sufficiency.”
“After decades of British rule, the belief and confidence in innovation, design and manufacturing in India has waned and these are the people who are responsible for restoring that faith in the future generations of the country,” he said. .
As the culture of startups and the slogan of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (India based on it) is gaining momentum in the country, the Godrej Group is partnering with many startups and India’s primary schools like IITs and IIMs.
“The development of startups is a good thing. We encourage them, we work with them and not only with them but also with educational and research institutions like IIT and IIM .. we work a lot with those is growing, for example in fields such as 3-D printing, semiconductors required for applications, zinc magnesium batteries, storage solutions and many others, “Pithawala added.
(Inside image source: Godrej Archives Facebook page)