Born On: December 19, 1894
Born In: Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Died On: January 20, 1980
Very few people are able to achieve a meticulous working system and win the appreciation of a very large number of people. Kasturbhai Lalbhai was one such prominent industrialist who was successful in attaining the honor of a nationalist businessman and a renowned magnate, a tribute that is often related with another business tycoon G.D. Birla. Right from stabilizing his father's yet-to-be established business to instituting a vast business empire, Kasturbhai worked throughout his life with immense hard work, dedication, honesty, and determination, thereby keeping his family business ongoing, ever since his ancestor Shantidas Zaveri began in the Mughal Era. Apart from setting up numerous companies in various industries, he was also associated with establishing new institutions to promote education in the country.
Kasturbhai Lalbhai was born in a Visa Oswal Jain family, belonging to a temple town named Osian in Rajasthan, in Ahmedabad. He was the second of the three sons and belonged to a reputed family running their own textile mills in Ahmedabad. He completed his schooling in 1911 in Ahmedabad. However in 1912, his father Lalbhai suffered a serious heart attack and died, leaving 17-year old Kasturbhai in charge of his father's share of the business. Just a few days before his death, his father had divided the property amongst his brothers. As such, Kasturbhai received Raipur Mills in his share but since the business was not fully established at the time of his father's death, Kasturbhai had to abandon his studies to look after the operations of the mills.
Struggle as a Businessman
To start off with, Kasturbhai began working as a timekeeper in the mill but was unhappy with the job profile. Thus, he started working with the suppliers and traveled far and wide to understand the supplier market. After the end of World War I, he managed to stabilize the operations of the firm due to the increasing demands. His far-sighted vision, sincerity, and devotion helped him reach the highest position in the industry and community. He was elected as a Representative of Mill Owners Association to the Central Legislative Council of 144 members constituted under Montague-Chelmsford Reforms Act 1919 at a young age of 29 years.
Kasturbhai served in the council for a three-year term. Further in 1924, he was appointed as a member of the Standing Committee of Department of Industries and Labor of Government of India. With the right kind of experience and knowledge of operations, he was able to gain recognition in the management of the mill and became famous for his abilities of handling dealings. He became the chairman of the mill in January 1928 and established a new company named Saraspur Mill Ltd. to run the old mill. Henceforth, there was no looking back for this determined and powerful man as he turned into a successful industrialist establishing a large empire in the coming years.
The first large scale textile mill was established as Asoka Mills in 1920 with a capital of Rs. 20 lakh, at a time when the largest mills were built with a capital not more than Rs. 5 lakh. With the Swadeshi Movement in its peak time during 1930-31, Kasturbhai saw this period as the most effective time for prosperity and growth. Hence, he set up Arvind Limited in 1931 with a capital of Rs. 25 lakh. He later founded three mills for the families of his three sisters, Aruna Mills in 1928, Nutan Mills in 1931, and Ahmedabad New Cotton Mills in 1938. With gradual expansion, Kasturbhai was able to rule over the textile industry, thereby becoming a great business magnate in the country.
After tasting success in the textile industry, he diversified his business into other fields as well after independence, such as dyes, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and so on. His first diversification was Anil Starch Limited in 1939, followed by Atul Products Limited in 1952 for producing textile-related chemicals and dyestuff. With a wide business spread over the country, Kasturbhai formed joint ventures with foreign companies through Atul. He formed Ciba-Geigy called Cibatul, with American Cyanamid called Cyanamid of India, and with ICI of UK called Atic Industries.
Kasturbhai was elected as the President of Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries in 1934 and the President of Ahmedabad Mill Owners Association in 1935. From 1937 to 1949, he served as the Director of Reserve Bank of India and took steps to groom the Indian employees to run operations in independent India. Apart from handling responsibilities for expanding his business across India, he was also involved in promoting institutions that served both the country and the industry. He established the Ahmedabad Education Society in 1936, along with Sheth Shri Amrutlal Hargovindas and Shri Ganesh Mavlankar. This society was later transformed into Gujarat University. It was this society that donated land for establishing the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) in 1961. He, along with Vikram Sarabhai, was the main face behind instituting IIM-A. Though he was amongst the board of members, he refused to become the chairman. Today, IIM-A has a Kasturbhai Lalbhai Management Development Center and a Kasturbhai Lalbhai Chair in Entrepreneurship.
Later, Kasturbhai worked as the Chairman of Industrial Committee of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Fund. In 1948, he founded the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai College of Engineering to promote technology and engineering, adjacent to Gujarat University. In 1949, he founded the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industries, thereby becoming its Founder-President. From 1955 to 1965, he served as the chairman of Indian Institute of Technology. In 1957, he was elected as the Governing Trustee of Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust. He was appointed as the Trustee of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Member of Indian Investment Centre, and Member of Board and Governing Body of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He founded the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology in 1962, which is an encyclopedia of manuscripts, rare books, and microfilms on various subjects. In 1972, Sankat Nivaran Society was jointly set up by Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industries and Ahmedabad Mills Owners' Association. With this, Kasturbhai became the President of the society.
Honors & Awards
In 1952, when Kasturbhai founded Cyanamid of India with American Cyanamid, to become India's first modern dyestuff manufacturer, the company was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan Award by the Government of India in 1968.
Due to his declining health, he retired from his services in 1977 and handed over the responsibilities to his relations. He died on January 20, 1980 in Ahmedabad, aged 85.
1894: Born on December 19 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat
1911: Completed matriculation
1912: Father died and took over the Raipur Mills
1920: Established Asoka Mills
1923: Elected as Representative of Mill Owners Association to the Central Legislative Council
1924: Appointed member of Standing Committee of Department of Industries and Labor of Government of India
1928: Formed Saraspur Mill Ltd.
1931: Founded Arvind Limited
1934: Elected President of Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries
1935: Appointed President of Ahmedabad Mill Owners Association
1936: Founded the Ahmedabad Education Society, known as Gujarat University today
1937-49: Served as Director of Reserve Bank of India
1939: First diversification company Anil Starch Limited formed
1948: Set up the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai College of Engineering
1949: Founded Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industries; became Founder-President
1952: Established Atul Products Limited
1961: Co-founded the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), with Vikram Sarabhai
1962: Established the Lalbhai Institute of Indology
1968: Honored with Padma Bhushan Award
1972: Sankat Nivaran Society was launched
1977: Retired from business responsibilities
1980: Died in Ahmedabad on January 20, aged 85