Laxmanrao Kirloskar and the 130+ years of Glorious Legacy of Kirloskar Group

The Kirloskar Group is one of India's largest engineering companies today but had its humble beginnings in Belgaum, Karnataka with a small bicycle repair shop. On the occasion of his birthday, here's the success story of its founder, Laxmanrao Kirloskar.

Srushti Pathak
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Laxmanrao Kirloskar

Laxmanrao Kirloskar

Ask anyone in the engineering field or an EPC Contractor firm employee and they will tell you why the name Kirloskar is enough to guarantee great work. The company that now produces pumps, compressors, lathes and chillers first started as a small bicycle repair shop in Belgaum, Karnataka. It is said that India’s first iron plough from the Kirloskar Group not only became an instrument of wealth for the entire society but also kick-started an industrial revolution in India. So, on the occasion of his birthday, let’s know a little about the history of Kirloskar Group and the man behind it, Laxmanrao Kirloskar.

It all Started in Belgaum

Laxmanrao Kashinath Kirloskar 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.

The Kirloskar saga began in 1888 when Laxmanrao Kirloskar set up a small bicycle repair shop at Belgaum on a road which is now known as Kirloskar Road, named after him. Strongly believing that agricultural implements must fit the milieu they are used in, he manufactured India’s first iron plough, which was also the first Kirloskar product and chaff-cutters. 

He had read about industrial townships in Europe and America where the owners of industries had built communities for the employees. His goal was to build his own industry and community for his employees. And he made it come true with Kirloskarwadi, a place where he started the Kirloskar Brothers Limited factory in 1910.

Kirloskar Group
Kirloskar Iron Plough and First Advertisement

And Kirloskarvadi was Born

In January 1910, the Municipality of Belgaum ordered Laxmanrao to vacate Belgaum to make room for a new suburb. He struggled to find a suitable place, until the Raja of Aundh offered help, not just as a friend, but also as a Ruler concerned for his state’s industrialisation and the benefits to be derived from it. He offered Laxmanrao a loan of ten thousand rupees, without interest, and 32 acres of arid wasteland near a renowned railway station, named Kundal Road. This became Kirloskarwadi and the factory for Kirloskar Brothers Limited, fulfilling one of Laxmanrao’s dreams – to build his own industry and community for his employees.

The Human Touch

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. Laxmanrao’s faith in the human being was unmatched. So much so that Tukaram Ramoshi and Pirya Mang, both convicted dacoits, became the trusted guards of Kirloskarvadi! 

Kirloskar Group, Mysore
Kirloskar Group, Mysore

Superstitions and Sales

In the early days, Laxmanrao met with opposition from farmers who believed that iron ploughs would poison the land and make it infertile. These superstitious farmers were extremely hard to convince and Laxmanrao took two years to sell his first iron ploughs. Originally intended as an essential aid to agriculture, the plough soon became an icon of reform and revolution.

The Umbrella of the Kirloskar Group

This conglomerate has 16 companies under its umbrella. Kirloskar Brothers Limited and Kirloskar Industries Limited are two of the most commonly known ones. After Laxmanrao Kirloskar, the ship was helmed by his son, Shantanurao Laxmanrao Kirloskar and grandson, Chandrakant Kirloskar. Currently, Sanjay C. Kirloskar is the Chairman and Managing Director.

Today Kirloskar brothers are a 1.20 billion dollar engineering conglomerate driving critical industries. They are century old pioneers in areas of specialisation 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.

Laxmanrao Kirloskar Stamp
Laxmanrao Kirloskar Postal Stamp

Beyond Machinery

Laxmanrao Kirloskar was a man who believed that an understanding of one’s environment and reality was essential to the manufacture of path-breaking industrial implements. He was not only an industrialist but also a great social reformer. When blind orthodoxy was rampant in rural areas, he advocated the removal of untouchability. He also trusted in the goodness of man.

The Department of Posts, Union Government of India, issued a postal stamp for Laxmanrao Kirloskar on 20th June 1969, marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. He passed away on September 26, 1956, at the age of 87 in Pune, Maharashtra.

Kirloskar Brothers Limited Kirloskarvadi Belgaum Kirloskar Group Laxmanrao Kirloskar