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Residential bungalows provided by Godrej & Boyce to its top managers.
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The late S. P. Godrej’s bungalow at Pirojshanagar.
He enjoyed spending some nights in these serene surroundings, free from pollution and noise.
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Good housekeeping

Maintenance too is a constant problem. This is handled by a staff of 115 workers, 22 staff members and 39 managers, along with 135 contractors and more than 2,000 contract labourers. There are also two horticulturists and 41 permanent workmen who take care of the Garden Department. Their job is to ensure proper landscaping and maintenance within the township and at traffic islands maintained by Godrej at Godrej Chowk, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli and in other parts of the city. The total garden area built up and maintained over the years is around 200 acres and the annual cost of gardening alone is Rs. 45 lakhs.

Housekeeping inside the industrial complex is entrusted to three contractors who have a workforce of over 300, while six other contractors deploying another hundred labourers attend to the regular housekeeping and maintenance in the industrial plants and the housing colony. This work is done during the first and second shifts and on holidays. The expenses work out to approximately Rs. 10 lakhs per month. To date the projects completed are:

  • 19 Factory Plants covering an area of 2,86,300 sq. metres.

  • Offices, Canteen, Dispensary and Ancillary Structures covering an area of 79,100 sq. metres.

  • Three Udayachal Schools covering an area of 22,700 sq. metres.

  • Three residential colonies housing 4,200 tenements, with their number being increased from day to day.

In recognition of the efforts put in by the Construction Department, it was awarded the ISO-9001 Certificate on 19 April, 1997. Godrej were the first organisation in India to receive an ISO-9001 Certificate for in-house construction. Theirs is a unique case of implementing quality systems based on models ISO-9004-6 and ISO-9004-2 in a single organisation. Until now, construction companies involved in real estate or in project execution have obtained this Certificate only for the project management activities. The point to note is that the entire implementation of the quality systems based on two models was completed by the Construction Department in the record time of 15 months.

Obstacles, obstacles …

It wasn’t easy going. There were numerous obstacles to be surmounted along the way. The earliest of these was the provision of water for the township. In 1949 water was supplied from the Tansa duct. In 1965 this was discontinued, and was transferred to a 12-inch diameter water main along LBS Marg. Godrej had to have their own water supply from a reservoir near Plant-3 feeding the plants and the residential colony. The water consumption is about 55 lakh litres per day, for which Godrej have a parallel system of well water collected in the reservoir, as well as treated sewage water.

There were bureaucratic obstacles too. While work was going on in right earnest, on 14 January, 1952 the Salsette Estates (Land Revenue Exemption Abolition Act 1951) Bombay Act XVII was passed. Godrej were left with no alternative but to file a suit on 17 April, 1953 (Suit No. 412 of 1953) against the State of Bombay in the Bombay High Court for a declaration that they were the owners of the village of Vikhroli and that the said Act had no application to them and/or to the said village and the State of Bombay was not entitled to apply the provisions of the said Act to the villages of Vikhroli.

Earlier, in March 1952, Godrej & Boyce had advised the Collector, Bombay Suburban District, that all lands in the village of Vikhroli had been appropriated for non-agricultural purposes, and specified the uses to which the land had been put. There was considerable exchange of correspondence until, 10 years later, on 11 January, 1962, the Commissioner, Mumbai Division, informed all concerned that under Section 4(b) of the Salsette Act the land which was already sold and had an area of 3,654 acres comprised in Survey No. 12 of Vikhroli was not the property of the State.

Later on, the desire of the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation to construct houses on 300 acres of land was thwarted because of a court case (Suit No. 679 of 1973) between the Maharashtra State Government and Godrej & Boyce. The sufferers were thousands of workers who were deprived of a roof over their heads for more than 20 years.

Housing for workers

Great things are done," wrote William Blake, "when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street." In the Godrej Story, instead of "mountains", there were acres upon acres of marshy land extending as far as the eye could see. And the "jostling" was not in the street, but in newspapers and on public platforms, by well-intentioned busybodies in the Parsi community.

But Pirojsha had the example of another pioneer before him, none other than Jamsetji Tata. When in 1898 Jamsetji set aside 14 of his buildings and four landed properties in Bombay, amounting in value then to Rs. 30 lakhs, for a university of science, he was criticised by fellow-Parsis for diverting the community’s wealth instead of utilising it to provide shelter, food and clothing to Parsis in need. How wrong Jamsetji’s and Pirojsha’s critics were is proved by the fact that Jamsetji’s dream university was one day (years after his death) to grow into the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and in Pirojsha’s case, into the industrial garden township Pirojshanagar, which became "an Eden of productivity and economic contentment".

Pirojshanagar is an industrial garden township in which as much attention is paid to the design of the residential quarters as to the spacious, airy manufacturing plants. Large open spaces have been left, thousands of trees planted and flower beds laid, to make the environment healthy and happy for the multitude of workers. Not only the workers: the future of their children is provided for by educating them, in the fullest sense of character-building and all-round development, at the Udayachal Schools, which are looked upon as model schools in scholastic circles, with the weaker students getting special coaching. Sports and cultural activities are also encouraged.

Quarters for staff in lush green surroundings.
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Pirojsha might not have heard of Thomas J. Watson Sr. who founded the world computer giant, IBM, in 1914. Instinctively, exemplifying the new spirit in modern industrial outlook, he sensed and put into practice the three value commitments Watson had laid down — that the individual worker must be respected, that the customer must be given the best possible product and service, and that excellent and superior performance must consistently be pursued. These enduring, time-honoured principles, still upheld by IBM, were kept alive by Pirojsha in his own characteristic way, not so much by conscious organisational intervention as by a clear and positive vision of development of the organisation, percolating down from the top to the lowest worker.

Pirojsha was a man of strong instincts, and his instincts were more often than not the right ones. Sensing the changing mores of the working classes in the new India that was being built, he provided his workers with benefits such as holidays with pay, provident fund, gratuity — benefits which, it is a matter of record, anticipated labour legislation. He knew, as most of us do, that a happy contented worker is a productive worker. Yet it would be the gravest injustice to a man of extraordinary vision and great humanity to attribute all that he did for his workers to mercenary motives, to a so-called "profit strategy" which in any case would have been self-defeating.

Because he cared for his workers, knew most of them by name and was aware of their contribution and sympathetic to their needs, it wouldn’t even have occurred to him to manipulate and manoeuvre them merely for material ends. He had strong genuine convictions, instilled into him by Ardeshir, about the nobility of the Swadeshi concept and the sort of institution they were trying to build. Industrialisation was an article of faith with him, meant to promote jobs, to provide decent living standards for employees and a fair deal to consumers. Hence, housing, education, health care, family planning and environmental considerations were integrated into his industrial activities through profits consistently ploughed back into the business.

Just as Pirojsha did his best for his workers, he expected them to give of their best. When on occasion they did not, he would fly off the handle. In many ways he was larger than life. So were his outbursts of rage, which fortunately were rare. He could be terrifyingly blunt when the occasion demanded. "First deserve, then desire!" he would roar at a disgruntled worker who came asking for a raise. Great men are known not to suffer fools gladly. Sometimes Pirojsha took time off to point out to a fool the extent of his foolishness. He despised laziness, and the indiscriminate charity that leads to sloth. Each man, he believed, had the birthright to be given an opportunity to prove his worth.

Product chemical analysis carried out by scientists
at the Godrej Sara Lee Research & Development Centre.
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The shift to Vikhroli was important for another reason. It enabled Pirojsha to give further shape to his ideas of worker safety and welfare. With a view to preventing accidents and making the workers safety-conscious, a Safety Committee was formed for each plant with a Central Safety Committee to review their working. These committees functioned as channels of communication between management and workers. Films on safety were shown from time to time.