How This Entrepreneur Revived a Company, Dead for 2 Decades, and Made it a Global Platform
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No chimera is this. No Bollywood balderdash either! This is the story of a common man aiming high and achieving it with fortitude and focused intent.
Coming from a middle class background, JP Chowdhary dreamt of participating in industrial revolution of West Bengal in 1970s, at a time when the state witnessed Naxalite movement.
Starting his career as an accountant with Bharti Electric Steel Company in 1960, Chowdhary was soon promoted as Senior Executive Director. Around 1978-79, he attended a social function in Titagarh, a municipality in north Kolkata, to know about Britannia Engineering Company, whose steel foundry division was lying closed for more than 17 years.
Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI), the main creditor of Britannia Engineering, had decided to scrap it up. “I got curious and wanted to see the place. Once there, I had a strong feeling that with proper roadmap, it could be renewed and put to operations and I wanted to give it a try,” recalled Chowdhary. Following this, IFCI wanted a project report with budget for revival. Chowdhary estimated it to be around INR 3.5 crore and DN Davar, the then Chairman of IFCI, sent a two-member team to interview Chowdhary about the viability of the project. Though he was successful to convince the team, the gaping issue was arranging the money. “Davar extended tremendous support and introduced me to multiple investors,” he shared. WBIDC agreed to partner with the project and contributed INR 15 lakhs. Rest of the 15 per cent was contributed by Naren Chitlangia, Chowdhary’s neighbour who also joined as a partner. Chowdhary got INR 10 lakh loan against his equity and sold some property he had in Mumbai. That was not the end of complications though.
Reviving a Dead Company
The financial institutions were sceptic to invest in a company lying closed for nearly two decades. “They formed a committee with renowned resources from the engineering field. They grilled me for trying to gauge the efficacy of the project. My approach towards reviving the company satisfied them and I quit my job to float the company in 1982,” said the industry boss.
Once the company was formed, the political apparatchiks started agitation demanding jobs for the members of their camps. “It cost us prolonged meetings that ate into productivity,” he added. Chowdhary embarked upon the journey with a team of 100 men. “The year was spent in repairing the machines and investing in the most judicious way. Around INR 25 lakh allotted for furniture was spent in repair work as well. The end result was delectable, and we made a profit in the very first year,” enthused the industrialist.
Today, Chowdhary, aged 76 years, is the Executive Chairman of Titagarh Group. With a total head count of 1,400, the group currently has a turnover of INR 1,800 crores, having its presence in countries like Italy, France, Singapore and Dubai. He shared his 52 years of experience in the most sagacious terms. “My journey through entrepreneurship has made me visualize things in their wider perspective and not get bogged down by petty issues and shirk from challenges,” he concluded.
(This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)