The evolution of L&T into the country's largest engineering and construction organization is among the most remarkable success stories in Indian industry.
L&T was founded in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1938 by two Danish engineers, Henning Holck-Larsen and Soren Kristian Toubro. Both of them were strongly committed to developing India's engineering capabilities to meet the demands of industry.
(4.7.1907 - 27.7.2003)
Soren Kristian Toubro
(27.02.1906 - 4.3.1982)
Beginning with the import of machinery from Europe, L&T rapidly took on engineering and construction assignments of increasing sophistication. Today, the company sets global engineering benchmarks in terms of scale and complexity.
Henning Holck-Larsen and Soren Kristian Toubro, school-mates in Denmark, would not have dreamt, as they were learning about India in history classes that they would, one day, create history in that land.
In 1938, the two friends decided to forgo the comforts of working in Europe, and started their own operation in India. All they had was a dream. And the courage to dare.
Their first office in Mumbai (Bombay) was so small that only one of the partners could use the office at a time!
In the early years, they represented Danish manufacturers of dairy equipment for a modest retainer. But with the start of the Second World War in 1939, imports were restricted, compelling them to start a small work-shop to undertake jobs and provide service facilities.
Germany's invasion of Denmark in 1940 stopped supplies of Danish products. This crisis forced the partners to stand on their own feet and innovate. They started manufacturing dairy equipment indigenously. These products proved to be a success, and L&T came to be recognised as a reliable fabricator with high standards.
The war-time need to repair and refit ships offered L&T an opportunity, and led to the formation of a new company, Hilda Ltd., to handle these operations. L&T also started two repair and fabrication shops - the Company had begun to expand.
Again, the sudden internment of German engineers (because of the War) who were to put up a soda ash plant for the Tatas, gave L&T a chance to enter the field of installation - an area where their capability became well respected.
In 1944, ECC was incorporated. Around then, L&T decided to build a portfolio of foreign collaborations. By 1945, the Company represented British manufacturers of equipment used to manufacture products such as hydrogenated oils, biscuits, soaps and glass.
In 1945, L&T signed an agreement with Caterpillar Tractor Company, USA, for marketing earthmoving equipment. At the end of the war, large numbers of war-surplus Caterpillar equipment were available at attractive prices, but the finances required were beyond the capacity of the partners. This prompted them to raise additional equity capital, and on 7th February 1946, Larsen & Toubro Private Limited was born.
Independence and the subsequent demand for technology and expertise offered L&T the opportunity to consolidate and expand. Offices were set up in Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai (Madras) and New Delhi. In 1948, fifty-five acres of undeveloped marsh and jungle was acquired in Powai. Today, Powai stands as a tribute to the vision of the men who transformed this uninhabitable swamp into a manufacturing landmark.
In December 1950, L&T became a Public Company with a paid-up capital of Rs.2 million. The sales turnover in that year was Rs.10.9 million.
Prestigious orders executed by the Company during this period included the Amul Dairy at Anand and Blast Furnaces at Rourkela Steel Plant. With the successful completion of these jobs, L&T emerged as the largest erection contractor in the country.
In 1956, a major part of the company's Bombay office moved to ICI House in Ballard Estate. A decade later this imposing grey-stone building was purchased by L&T, and renamed as L&T House - its Corporate Office.
The sixties saw a significant change at L&T - S. K. Toubro retired from active management in 1962.
The sixties were also a decade of rapid growth for the company, and witnessed the formation of many new ventures: UTMAL (set up in 1960), Audco India Limited (1961), Eutectic Welding Alloys (1962) and TENGL (1963).
By 1964, L&T had widened its capabilities to include some of the best technologies in the world. In the decade that followed, the company grew rapidly, and by 1973 had become one of the Top-25 Indian companies.
In 1976, Holck-Larsen was awarded the Magsaysay Award for International Understanding in recognition of his contribution to India's industrial development. He retired as Chairman in 1978.
In the decades that followed, the company grew into an engineering major under the guidance of leaders like N. M. Desai, S.R. Subramaniam, U. V. Rao, S. D. Kulkarni and A. M. Naik.
Today, L&T is one of India's biggest and best known industrial organisations with a reputation for technological excellence, high quality of products and services, and strong customer orientation. It is also taking steps to grow its international presence.
For an institution that has grown to legendary proportions, there cannot and must not be an 'end'. Unlike other stories, the L&T saga continues.....