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1897 was a significant year for our city and the country in several ways.
The year saw the establishment of the City of Bombay Improvement Trust, a civic government agency introduced following the ravages in 1896 of the dreaded bubonic plague, which broke out in Rajkot and spread to Bombay.
The first automobile reached Indian roads in that year, replacing the two-horse carriages which in turn had replaced the palanquins and the palki as a mode of transport. It was also in the previous year, 1896, that eager onlookers reached Watson’s Hotel, Kala Ghoda, on 7 July at 7.00 p.m. to witness “the marvel of the century, the wonder of the world”. Regular commercial cinema showings began in 1897, fulfilling the needs of mass entertainment in a growing city.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in England in 1897. Several Maharajas travelling from India to England, courtesy Thomas Cook and Son, “booking clerk to the empire”, established a benchmark in exotic and extravagant display, never reached by Cook’s travellers before or since.
On a sadder note, 1897 marked Lokmanya Tilak’s first arrest for sedition in the High Court of Bombay. The harsh sentence by Justice Strachey of 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment in Dongri Jail, led to a public outcry. The outbreak of plague in the city combined with Tilak’s failing health in jail led to his sentence being commuted.
It was also in 1897, on May 7 to be exact, that Tilak’s admirer and friend, Ardeshir Burjorji Godrej, started manufacturing locks in a tiny shed, rented at Rs. 20 a month, near the Bombay Gas Works at Lalbaug. It was a small beginning that led to great ends, which have been recorded in fair detail under the title “Know Your Founders” in successive issues of this magazine, each Founder an agent for change.
This issue marks the 107th anniversary of the Godrej enterprise. In a wide-ranging interview, Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman and Managing Director, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., belonging to the third generation, talks of mass customisation, closer involvement of each and every person in the organisation, the philosophies of TQM and HRD, the importance of changing mindsets as necessitated by a rapidly changing environment, empowering employees to shoulder greater responsibility — in a word, doing everything to become a world-class organisation: “Despite all handicaps (corruption, lack of infrastructure, etc.) we have the ability to be world class. If we are customer-driven, there should not be any reason why we should not be world class. We should have the will, the mindset, the ambition and the drive to make ourselves world class.”
So many agents of change, in as many years, in a single enterprise, with Jamshyd Godrej not the first nor likely to be the last! How fitting that the Godrej house magazine is named CHANGE!