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Fourth generation takes Pune’s Kirloskar legacy into its 150th year

In 1910, Laxmanrao wanted to set up a manufacturing unit, but could not find a suitable place. Help came from the then king of Aundh who offered him land and Rs 17,000 as loan to start his unit

pune Updated: Jun 25, 2018 17:21 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,generation,Sanjay Kirloskar
Sanjay Kirloskar, great grandson of Laxmanrao.(HT PHOTO)

The Kirloskar conglomerate that stands tall in the country’s industrial milieu began with Laxmanrao Kirloskar who was born on June 20, 1869. As the group celebrates the beginning of his 150th birth anniversary, Sanjay Kirloskar, great grandson of Laxmanrao, shares his perspective on what being a Kirloskar means.

Talking about his great grandfather and founder of the business empire, Kirloskar said, “As we enter the 150th birth anniversary of my great grandfather, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to this name. He started the engineering revolution in India. At a time when the British controlled everything, my great grandfather started by making the first iron plough in the country. At that time, farmers used wooden ploughs and were not open to using metal ploughs.” It took him a lot of time and effort to convince them that metal ploughs were good for the fields, he added.

“Laxmanrao was very fond of drawing and in mechanical things. He was a teacher of mechanical drawing before he became an entrepreneur. In those days, he would subscribe to the scientific American and foundry magazines. His innovative mind developed many tools which marked the growth of Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL). He went on to build the first hand pump, cane crusher and many more equipment,” said Kirloskar.

In 1910, Laxmanrao wanted to set up a manufacturing unit, but could not find a suitable place. Help came from the then Raja of Aundh who offered him land and Rs 17,000 as loan to start his unit. Kirloskar said, “This Raja of Aundh was a very forward thinking man. He knew that employment was very important to his people. So he invited my great grandfather to set up his manufacturing plant on his land that was barren, and luckily, near a railway station.”

Laxmanrao was in business. He set up his factory there and around it the ecosystem that led to the establishment of the country’s first ‘township’: the Kirloskarwadi. “My great-grandfather was a great reformer. He went to the Raja and asked him if he could employ the most dreaded inmate from his prison. The Raja obliged and so the factory came to be protected by a murder convict, Piryamaang,” Kirloskar said.

Recounting the whole incident, he said, “One night, Piryamaang got drunk. In his drunken stupor, he came to my great grandfather’s house and slapped him. My great grandfather was a small man, about 5’4’’ or 5’5’’, held his own. To think that a huge 6 foot tall man, a known murderer, comes to your house at night and slaps you can be very intimidating. However, he stood there and quietly asked him to leave. Piryamaang was very apologetic and gave up drinking the very next day.”

More than a century later, Piryamaang was honoured by KBL as Kirloskar named a classroom at the Police School after him. He said, “I feel the students should get inspired by Piryamaang. If he could reform, anyone can.”

Quality has been the hallmark of the company since 1920, when a partnership firm was established as a company. While Laxmanrao’s love for machines helped create the plough, crushers and more, it is the same hunger to make better and better products that is driving the company 130 years down the line.

”It gives me great pride to say that, today, an Indian company like Kirloskar Brothers Ltd is the number one in the business of pumps. Worldwide, we are among the top 15 companies, but when we win an order against the top three in the world, I feel truly proud. We are competing with the world’s best,” said Kirloskar.

The innovative spirit of Laxmanrao lives on at KBL. “As a leading player it is not possible for KBL to buy technology, which is why we are focused on our own research and development. As of date, we have filed 30 international patents and continue to pursue greater efficiencies in our products. According to the American Hydraulic Institute, a pump loses about 1 to 1.5% efficacy every year. However, through our innovations, we have brought that down to 1/10th. We continually work towards better efficiency, better materials, sealants, all in an effort to bring about greater sustainability of our products. That is the need of the hour. ”

Going forward, Kirloskar hopes his son and maybe grandsons carry the mantle well. “I don’t know what my son may want to do with the company, but I know that as long as fluids need to be moved, we will remain in business.” Laxmanrao Kirloskar must be smiling down at this.

First Published: Jun 23, 2018 17:04 IST