Kamalnayan Bajaj - page 60

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KamalnayanBajaj –Architect of theBajajGroup
DuringWorldWar II, India became theworld’s 10th
most industrialisednation as theBritishRaj converted its
colony into amassive supplier to itswar effort.Many an
ailing businesswas invigoratedbywar profits – except
the steel business.Governments have ahabit
of seizing control over every aspect of steel production
inwar-time.
Muchbeforewarwas declared onSeptember 3,
1939, the threat was in the air.Kamalnayanhad
visitedGermany during the 1936Olympicswhere
Hitler showcasedNazi power.Gandhi kept abreast of
world affairs.
But onMay 22, 1939 the board ofMukand Iron&Steel
Workswas pre-occupiedwith smallermatters. After
much effort, the ailing company hadmade its first profit
in its first year under newmanagement. Rs. 47,348-0-7
is amodest profit but a profit is a profit.
The businesswouldbegin its seconddescent into a
quagmirewhen theBritish issued the Iron andSteel
(Control of Production andDistribution)Order, 1941.
Its thirddescent wouldbe triggeredbyPartition.
As Partitionbecamemore
andmore of a certainty,
Rameshwarprasadwondered
about dismantling theLahore
factory and relocating it near
Delhi.He sought advice from
LalaShri Ram. Shri Ram
apparently didnot share the
sense of urgency andmoreover,
felt that the new Jinnah-led
government of Pakistanwould
bemore favourably inclined
towards business thanNehru-led
India. Itsmarket alsobeckoned.
Nevatia dropped the idea.
ThatKamalnayan, Jeewanlal,Keshavdeo and
Rameshwarprasadwere planning tobe a sort of
multinational, operating both inPakistan and India
seems a far-fetched strategy today. At the time, every
idea seemedpossible. The thought of India being torn
into three pieceswas just toopainful a concept tobe
acceptable. In 1948,Kamalnayan calculated the value
of the lost factory tobeRs. 60 lakh. Rameshwarprasad’s
Uncertain times
LalaShri Ram
Kamalnayanwith Jamnalal, KeshavdeoNevatiaandRamnathPodar,
Lahore, c1940
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