The Kirloskar saga began in 1888 when Laxmanrao Kirloskar set up a small bicycle repair shop (now near the Shreekrishna theatre on Kirloskar road) at Belgaum (now Belagavi)and later Laxmanrao and his brothers set up a model industrial colony called ‘Kirloskravadi’ India’s first industrial township. In January 1910 when the Kirloskar were being ousted from Belgaum to make room for a new suburb, they found themselves in dire need of a place to live and work and hence the birth of Kirloskravadi.
Laxmanrao Kirloskar, founder of the Kirloskar Industries was born on 20th June 1869, in a small village, Gurlahosur in Belgaum District. He started his life as a school teacher and later on, opened a cycle repair shop in Belgaum. But his ambition and mission could not be satisfied with a small workshop at Belgaum.
Kirloskar road was named after him as there was his Cycle repair shop near the present Showoff store (earlier Shree Krishna theatre. Not able to know what was that road named earlier)
When the Municipality of Belgaum ordered Kirloskar to vacate their place, Laxmanrao Kirloskar could not find a suitable place for his workshop. But thanks to the timely help of the Ruler of Aundh who offered him a place arranging a loan of ten thousand rupees, he started his factory in an arid waste land by the side of a renowned railway station, named Kundal Road. The factory later blossomed into famous Kirloskar Industries and the station came to be called Kirloskarvadi.
Laxmanrao Kirloskar set foot on 32 acres of barren land strewn with cacti and infested with cobras. Driven by his faith in human ability, Laxmanrao banded together 25 workers and their families and succeeded in transforming the barren expanse into his dream village. Ramuanna, Laxmanrao’s brother, planned and administered the township, Shamburao Jambhekar doubled as an engineer and all-around healing man, K.K.Kulkarni, an unsuccessful student, became a manager, treasurer, and odd jobs man, Mangeshrao Rege was the clerk and chief accountant, Anantrao Phalnikar, a school drop-out flowered into an imaginative engineer. Such was Laxmanrao’s faith in the human being that, Tukaram Ramoshi and Pirya Mang, both convicted dacoits, became the trusted guards of Kirloskarvadi! Superstitious farmers were extremely hard to convince and Laxmanrao Kirloskar took two years to sell his first iron ploughs.
About Laxmanrao Kashinath Kirloskar:
Laxmanrao Kashinath Kirloskar (1869-1956) was an Indian businessman. He was the founder of the Kirloskar Group.In 1888, he set up his first venture – a small bicycle repair shop at Belgaum. Strongly believing that agricultural implements must fit the milieu they are used in, he manufactured iron ploughs, the first Kirloskar products.
He had read about industrial townships in Europe and America where the owners of industries had built communities for the employees. His dream was to build his own industry and community for his employees; he realized this dream with Kirloskarwadi, a place where he started the Kirloskar Brothers Limited factory in 1910.
A man who believed that an understanding of one’s environment and reality was essential to the manufacture of path-breaking industrial implements. From this steadfast belief was born the iron plough, the first Kirloskar product. Originally intended as an essential aid to agriculture, the plough soon became an icon of reform and revolution. Shri Laxmanrao Kirloskar was not only an industrialist but also a great social reformer. When blind orthodoxy was rampant in rural area, he advocated the removal of untouchability. He banned untouchability in the township that he had established at Kirloskarvadi. He believed in social reform and trusted in the goodness of man. He employed ex-convicts as night watchman.
Shantanurao Kirloskar, the eldest son of the founder travelled to Pune to initiate a new aspect of the group’s activities – diesel engines. His experience of trying to secure the land for his factory in Pune was quite different from his father’s in Kirloskarvadi. There was no benevolent ruler here to bestow acres gratis. Shantanurao had to face the tangle of red tape and public resistance to acquisition of land for industrial purposes.
Finally, after arguing that factories have a longer life than human beings Shantanurao Kirloskar won a place for Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd. (KOEL), twelve months after signing an agreement of collaboration with Associated British Oil Engines Export Ltd. of UK.
This collaboration, incidentally, was the first of its kind between an Indian and a foreign company and signified a bridging of the technological gap between east and west. The KOEL factory was incorporated in 1946, and soon after that gave India her first vertical high-speed engine.
Today Kirloskar brothers are a 1.20 billion US Dollars engineering conglomerate driving critical industries. They are century old pioneers in areas of specialization like power, construction and mining, agriculture, industry and transport, oil and gas and environment protection with a range of world-class industrial products and turnkey services.
They are made up of 8 major group companies, each led by the best engineering and managerial talent in India. In addition to engineering, they have interests in civic utility systems and in Information Technology and communication.
The Kirloskar Saga began from Belgaum and if in 1910 Laxmanrao had not been ousted from Belgaum may be Belgaum would have been a different place.