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A Brand that has to be reckoned at 62 Bookmark and Share  
 
  Author Name : V S Ramana Posted on : August-14-2009 Total Hits: 5315
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There is so much written, often re-re-written on Brands such as ‘Coke’, ‘Pepsi’ and many such FMCG products that have swarmed the world and remained almost to eternal times.  But I do have a strong grudge against many such ‘Brand Guru’s’.  Can’t they look beyond consumables and durables?  Do they think anything beyond fashion statements, daily needs and things that make our ‘fanciful world’ only could come into their realms of a Brand?  And the rest are not worthy of a research, analysis, review or tracking its growth and sustenance path?!  It is a pity that they are so short-sighted and live in too small a world!

It is 62 years of Independent India.  And look around – one would be able to see the vision and lives of many Corporate Brands that sort of meaningfully merged itself with the growth path of India – and the enrichment of its people! In my own mind, they constitute a greater brand that saw and aided India’s emergence to its level today.
 Some of the brands that straightaway come to my small mind are Tata, Bajaj, Infosys, State Bank of India, and HDFC.  In the realms of health care, Ranbaxy and even Apollo Hospitals.

But having been a professional for over 3 decades in corporate India, having seen closer and lived within the realms of many such corporates – there is one Brand that stands out very unique of them all – L&T – Larsen & Toubro.  For a simple reason that it was created by people outside of India, and the organization that is so Indian, has done so much to the Nation – aligning itself so well to the Nation Building task.  And I’d say this at every stage! [When it was Green revolution, it built every other fertilizer plants; core sector focus – the steel / cement / paper / textile / automobiles etc; highway focus, it played a lead role in connecting the roads; and IT revolution, it built the largest IT Parks facilities and knowledge centres for many leading corporates!]

 It would encompass every other Indian Corporate as its lead client!

After its 71 years of existence, it is now a US $ 8.5 Billion company – and is doing its might in letting the nation’s flag high in every sector that one can imagine!
 
The genesis of the company is also very interesting! The two Danes – Mr Henning Holck-Larsen and Mr Soren Kristian Toubro [therefore the L&T], had known each other at school in Copenhagen. Holck-Larsen a Chemical Engineer and Toubro a Civil Engineer, arrived India in mid 1930’s as employees of F.L. Smidth & Co to evaluate the potential of the cement manufacturing companies in India. 

 In 1937 they conceived the idea of forming a business partnership on their own. 

Anticipating the opportunities that India would offer in the near future, the young men established the Larsen & Toubro (L&T) partnership during the Easter vacation of 1937 at a sleepy little hill-station Matheran. 

It initially worked on a clear oral understanding which, two years later, became a written document. On 1st May 1938, a month after Holck-Larsen married Karen Speyer, the two friends set up their office in a small room on Nicol Road in Ballard Estate, Bombay. Only one of them would occupy the office at a time as there was only one writing table and one telephone.  The staff comprised a typist and a peon. While one stayed in the office, the other would make his way into the market place scouting for business.

The products they sold included refrigerating machinery, butter churns, cream separators and pasteurizers. From the beginning the focus was on a customer friendly attitude and the partners are said to have made a modest profit of Rs.1,000/- by the end of 1939.  Soon a small workshop was set up in Calicut Street in Mumbai to undertake engineering assignments.  When the supply of Danish products ceased soon after Germans invaded Denmark, L&T was forced to stand on its own feet. They manufactured machinery and equipment, earning a reputation as a reliable fabricator of high quality engineering goods. Thereafter they expanded their operations to ship repairs and degaussing of ships and rented 2 floors in the JK building opposite what was later to become the present-day L&T House.

1944 was indeed a milestone year in the history of L&T with the founding of the Engineering Construction Corporation (which today is Engineering Construction and Contracts Division of L&T), further expansions at Mallet Bunder in Bombay, and the beginning of a long-standing relationship with the Tata’s.  L&T took on board S. Rudinger and Erik B. Mogensen who contributed Rs.20,000 each to the Company’s fledgling construction venture.  [The construction arm of L&T is now over Rs 18000 Cr business division – perhaps four times larger than the number two player in India]

Following year, Toubro signed a dealership agreement with Caterpillar Tractor Company for which additional infusion of funds came in from Mr. Mangaldas Desai and friends. In 1946 the partnership firm became a Private Limited company – Larsen & Toubro Private Limited. Another development was the formation of Larsen & Toubro (Management) Private Limited which was appointed as L&T Private Limited’s Managing Agency. This was the first step in L&T becoming a professionally managed company. The year also saw the opening of the Company’s Calcutta and Delhi Offices. Thereafter, the partners acquired 55 acres of underdeveloped land in Powai and took up the work of redeveloping the area in 1948.

In December 1950 L&T became a Public Limited Company. At that time, there was shortage of new technological skills, modern organizational methods and innovative technical training. Most manufactured goods were imported – from safety pins to knives, forks and spoons, from sewing thread to even cotton and silk.  There was a need to change this situation and even with its very meager financial resources Larsen & Toubro took it up as a challenge and did well too, focusing on and producing quality products and providing efficient after-sales service.  “In Service lies success” became the motto of the Company and helped bring in a culture that aims at total customer satisfaction. Holck-Larsen and Toubro believed that customer confidence does not happen by accident and that it should be built up systematically and through conscious efforts. 

L&T management believed training was essential to motivate new employees and make them customer oriented as they were also convinced that success in business would come only from winning customer confidence through proven performance.

During the decade of 1946-1956 Toubro and Holck-Larsen were designated as Chairman of L&T’s Board of Directors and held the position by turns in alternate years. In December 1962 Toubro wished to retire and return to Denmark while continuing to serve on the Board.  He passed away in 1982, a year after he retired from the Board. Recalling their early days together HHL paid a glowing tribute to his friend saying, “Over 25 years a unique comradeship developed. Søren was an ideal colleague in the best sense of that word”.

HHL retired as chairman in 1978 after having spent 40 years of his life in nurturing and running the company and he was appointed as Chairman Emeritus in December 1987.
He had a deep passion for contemporary Indian art and took keen interest in theatre, music and world literature, especially Shakespeare. People who knew him say that he had a wonderful sense of humour. Holck-Larsen always made a point to travel and visit L&T’s far-flung construction sites and offices and freely mix with staff, workers, stockists and company associates.

Once, when asked what he would define as the single-most important ingredient of his success as an industrialist in a developing country, HHL replied “If you want to belong to a country, which becomes a nation, you have to keep the economy growing by creating jobs. And you can only do that by investing in tomorrow, and tomorrow is made by people”.

On July 27, 2003, HHL passed away at Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai after prolonged treatment for respiratory problems. In death, as in life, he remained an Indian at heart. He had insisted on cremation in his will, asking his employees to keep his death a low-key affair. He had also instructed that no flowers be laid on his body and the money instead be donated to a cancer organization. The day of his demise remained a normal working day, as the management felt that this was the best way to honour the founder.

Holck-Larsen’s contribution to Indian industry has won him many honours, some of which are:
Ø     Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding (1976). He was the first industrialist in Asia to win what is regarded as the “Asian Nobel Prize”.
Ø     Queen of Denmark honoured him with a knighthood in 1977.
Ø     Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal for Industrial Peace (1980)
Ø     Padma Bhushan (2002) in recognition of his contribution to Indian industry. Accepting the honour, he said, “India has a special place in my heart. With the Padma Bhushan, I am happy to know that I have a place in her heart too. I regard this honour as a tribute to the unique spirit of L&T and the values it has always stood by: its professionalism, its commitment to quality and its concern for the entire community of stakeholders.”

The Brand L&T stands for Trust, the ultimate in Quality, the best in Infrastructure creation and Engineering of the highest order.  The building blocks of India that this Brand has built for India over these decades would only need to be witnessed or felt in its dedicated, permanent Museum in Chennai.  Located in Manapakkam at L&T Construction’s Head Quarter Campus, this Museum [called the Holck-Larsen Centre] has streaming visitors from the time it was opened in October 2004.  Management students, students of architecture, civil / electrical / mechanical engineering, Industrialists, professionals, and even global operators in Infrastructure & Engineering are visiting this Museum to  witness what this Brand L&T has built for India. [while the Brand Guru’s have their ostrich neck buried underneath many fizzy beverages!]

There are many that win the award in one year and fall to disgrace in the next.  But let us look at those brands – that can add value to the Nation, give a sense of purpose and fulfillment at heart.  Not mere fizz!

In the context of the Nation turning 62 and heading to lead the World of Nations, in the next few decades, these are the pillars of economic sustenance and financial prowess. The rest would fizzle out when we need it the most.

 
    Comments  
 
Name : sudeep jain
Email : sudeep.ias@gmail.com
Comments : Truly an unsung story. I never knew anything about the history of this great company and its founders
 
 
Name : Daniel T. Dass
Email : aspdanny@yahoo.com, aspche@yahoo.com
Comments : Dear Ramana, I was impressed to go through 62 years of L&T history and its contribution to the nation building. The value for which L&T stands for and its concern for the community has to be made known to the public. Regards, Daniel
 
 
Name : K.RAVICHANDRAN
Email : krcn@lntecc.com
Comments : good u had expressed the honour .U could have added our contribution to nation in participation of Submarine manufacturing process
 
 
Name : N Sridharan
Email : ns@lntecc.com
Comments : Excellent article.Though heard many times about my company, it is a pleasure to read it at one go. will appreicate if this can be made a hand book and given to me or if it is possible to give it during Long Service awards as a memory.The best article to r
 
 
Name : V.D.S. Prasad
Email : vdsprasad49@gmail.com
Comments : I am proud to have been a part of the L&T organisation which I served for 24 years. Let so much be written/spoken about other brands in the media but nothing can beat the respect one commands when he says he works for L&T. A cog in the wheel of
 
   
 
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