Godrej Archives, Restore, Reflect, Reimagine...

  Gathering at a plant, Diwali 1964   Late Mr. Naval Godrej Late Mrs. Jai Godrej Late Mr. Burjorji Godrej and Late Mrs. Soonuben at a plant, Diwali 7.11.1969

Celebrating Diwali
and Spirit of Godrej




































































Diwali!! Celebration of lights! Celebration of victory of Good over Evil! Diwali is one of the biggest festivals, celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country. Exchanging of gifts, new clothes, meeting new and old friends and offering sweets to each other …the festivities bring joy to our hearts. In a country like India, which is known for its celebratory fervour, celebrations mean a lot more than just having fun! These small moments rejuvenate us, encourage us to make new plans, bring people together and strengthen the bonds!

Celebrating small victories, small achievements enable people to remember that their work is meaningful and timely appreciation adds to their productivity. Also celebrations are deeply embedded in our culture. So when we choose not to celebrate, we are doing something contrary to our culture and letting go an opportunity to appreciate and inspire people.

At Pirojshanagar, Diwali has always been an occasion for celebration. In this issue of Change, we bring you the memories of Diwali celebrations in 1960s through photographs. At the premises, plants used to be decorated with 'diyas' and flowers. The late Shri Pirojsha Godrej and later the late Shri Naval Godrej used to address the gathering of workers and staff members, talking to them about the issues plaguing the country, the society and the company. The tradition continues…

  Late Mr. Naval Godrej at Diwali function 7.11.1969 Also seen in the photograph are the late Mr. Burjorji Godrej the late Mrs. Soonuben and Mr. Adi Godrej

We are reproducing the speech of the late Shri Naval Godrej at Diwali function of 1969. The year 1969 was of profound significance for Godrej as it saw the culmination of birth centenary year of the founder, the late Shri Ardeshir Godrej and the beginning of the Gandhi Birth Centenary Year. This was a moment of great joy as Gandhiji's teachings of self-reliance and economic prosperity for the people of our country were always the source of inspiration for both Shri Ardeshir Godrej and Shri Pirojsha Godrej. Shri N P Godrej remarked that manufacturing our own locks was in a way a first step towards economic independence.

The year 2006 being the centenary year of Gandhiji's Satyagraha movement, it will also be appropriate to recall the relationship that Ardeshir and Gandhiji shared. Gandhiji, time and again, recognized Ardeshir's contribution to India's freedom struggle through his writings and speeches. He acknowledged the efforts of Ardeshir Godrej in following words "Our Parsi brothers and sisters are taking active part in the national movement. Shri Godrej, it appears, has decided to run his whole business of making safes in the interest of the country." (My notes, 'The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi', Vol. 20, p. 451)

A fascimile of Gandhiji s letter expressing his regard to Mr. Ardeshir Godrej

Once when Gandhiji was approached by another soap-maker for his blessings, he replied:

"I hold my brother Godrej in such a high regard if your enterprise is likely to harm him in any way, I regret very much I cannot give you my blessings."

In 1920, when at the 35th session of Indian National Congress at Nagpur it was decided to start the Tilak Swaraj Fund, Ardeshir immediately announced a donation of Rupees 3 lakhs to this Fund, as he himself was a great admirer and also a friend of Lokmanya Tilak. He earmarked his donations for liquor prohibition and the uplift of the suppressed classes. In the process, he incurred the wrath of the British Rulers who even issued secret circular prohibiting Government departments from purchasing Godrej products. But his gesture received a warm applause from Gandhiji who wrote:

"Mr. Godrej of the safe fame has eclipsed all donations to the Tilak Swaraj Fund with his announcement of three lakhs of rupees. His donations to public purposes have been hitherto quite unknown. But he was induced to appreciate the necessity this time of a public announcement. I tender my congratulations to Mr. Godrej and the whole Parsi community."

(Notes, 'The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi', Vol. 20, p. 286)

Gandhiji always remained a source of inspiration not only for the founder - the late Shri Ardeshir Godrej but also for the late Shri Pirojsha Godrej who continued the legacy. The late Shri. Naval Godrej, in his Diwali speech of 1969, recalled:

"…his (Gandhiji's) aim was not just to fight the British and throw them out. He wanted to stop the exploitation by foreigners and to remove starvation and poverty from our country.

"During his patience struggle against the British when he was feeling frustrated, he had told my late uncle (Ardeshir Godrej), "My eyes opened very late." We should make every thing in our own country. If there is money anybody can buy imported goods, but real pride comes in when we can make them as good as advanced countries and at reasonable prices.

"We have tried to translate these ideals at Vikhroli. Gandhiji gave his life for the unity of our country because without unity there can be no strength. People of different religions also must consider themselves as brothers. He was against violence of any sort and his concept of unity and non-violence applied to people in industry so that all concerned should work in harmony with good opportunities for everybody. India is not considered important by people outside India. It is naturally not forgotten because it is a big country with too many people but even small countries with a small population less than that of Bombay command more self-respect from others whereas we give impression as dependants on others. Therefore Mr. A.B. Godrej who would have been a successful lawyer got himself into this… in the days when Indians were discouraged from making anything. So he started with lock-making. This was his first contribution to economic independence.

“Very soon he made safes in those days international standards and then soaps. No foreign help or no government protection. When we talk about unity - between caste people and casteless people, he gave large sums of money for Harijan uplifts, as Harijans should get the same rights as in any other country. In these and other matters he shared the same ideals with his friend Tilak, Tagore or Nehru besides Gandhiji. Although we have several factories and make a variety of products he had plans for many new industries which Godrej never entered into. Although our Vikhroli developments look very extensive we have to look ahead for other products because the needs of our country are very many. My father Pirojsha Godrej then consolidated and expanded our business through single mindedness of purpose and continuous hard work, not only for manufacturing goods but to provide housing and other amenities to the workers about which he used to speak and plan many years before he could carry out these wishes. All this has happened through ploughing back all the profits into the business so the advantage can be shared by many thousands of our workers their families and with all the people with whom we deal."

The Godrej spirit of self reliance continues to thrive…Let us celebrate this spirit.

Gandhiji always remained a source of inspiration not only for the founder – the late Shri Ardeshir Godrej but also for the late Shri Pirojsha Godrej who continued the legacy.

SOAP WARS: 1915- 1950

A lecture by Prof Douglas Haynes

Mr. Adi Godrej asking a question


To encourage interest in business history and help appreciate the role of archives in understanding how business influences the life patterns of any country and its people, Godrej Archives jointly with Tata Central Archives and the Museum Society of Bombay organized a lecture, on 20th September 2006, by Prof. Douglas Haynes, an Associate Professor at Dartmouth College, USA. The topic was “Soap Wars: Indian Capitalism and advertisements in a highly competitive Business Environment (1915-1950)” and the venue was the Children’s Creative Centre at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales museum).

Prof. Haynes who holds a PhD in “Conflict and Cultural change in Urban India: The politics of Surat City, 1850-1924” from the University of Pennsylvania, is presently working on “Consumption and Capitalism in Western India: The Purchase and Use of Everyday things in the Bombay Presidency, 1880-1940.” Interestingly, for this project he is using advertisements as a major source of information as they truly reflect the consumer patterns of the period to which they belong. In this lecture, Prof Haynes examined the evolution of soap advertising from 1915 to 1950.

Mrs. Pheroza Godrej welcomed the gathering which was an ensemble of businessmen, academicians, historians and students. Mrs. Godrej gave a brief introduction about Tata Central Archives (the first business archives in India) & the Godrej Archives. Mr. Rajendra Prasad Narla of Tata Central Archives gave a floral welcome to Prof. Haynes and Ms. Vrunda Pathare of Godrej Archives presented a set of Godrej books to the guest speaker.
Prof. Douglas Haynes began his lecture by expressing his gratitude to the Tata Central Archives and the Godrej Archives for allowing access to records relating to the history of these companies.

While tracing the history of soap advertising, he mentioned how during the period between 1918 and 1950, a large number of soap products, both foreign and Indian, flooded the market in South Asia. The manufacturers of these products not only competed fiercely among themselves, but they also sought to wean consumers, especially the Indian middle class from purchasing products with similar uses that were made in the homes or by local artisans. By the 1940s, they also began to reach out to the countryside in order to develop markets among Indian farmers and rural labourers. Advertising, a means by which producers and merchants projected the brand name and qualities of their products, became essential to this process.

Mrs. Pheroza Godrej welcomes the gathering

Prof Douglas Haynes - The speaker

Dr. K.R. Hathi, Dr. K.A. Palia, Mr. Gandhi and others in the audience

Mr. J.N. Godrej and invitees

Ms. Frenny Shroff & Mr. Narla from TCA
According to Prof. Haynes, soap advertisements were “a larger process in the growth of a commodity culture in India or the growth of cultures in which products known by their brand names and sold in markets throughout the nation replaced goods that were made in people’s homes or local markets.”

He illustrated how manufacturers in this highly competitive environment became increasingly sophisticated in their methods in attracting customers- for instance, by using trained specialists in drawing and gradually even photography. Advertising then increasingly became “Indianised”, that is, it began to stress values and themes carrying strong meanings for Indian consumers (in contrast to early ads, where the themes sometimes were heavily western or culturally neutral in nature).

With the help of slides of many interesting advertisements from the period before 1950, he illustrated that how historians can use archival evidence such as advertisements for reconstructing the business history of India of that period. Some of the ‘then popular but now forgotten’ ads during this period like those of Godrej Soaps, Hamam (Tomco), Lux Soaps featuring Hollywood actresses and Palmolive soaps featuring Indian actresses like Sulochana, Devika Rani, Shobhana Samarth and others were interesting.

Among the audience were Mr. Jamshyd Godrej, Mr. Navroze Godrej, Raika Godrej, Mr. Adi Godrej , Mr. Nadir Godrej and Mrs. Rati Godrej, Dr. Palia, Mr. Purvez Gandhi, and former employees like Dr. Hathi. Ms. Freni Shroff and Mr. Rajendra Prasad Narla representing the Tata Central Archives were also present.

In concluding his talk, Prof. Haynes brought out the limitations of existing archival materials and the need for further archival development by pointing out important gaps in our historical knowledge about this time and how business archives like Tata Central Archives and Godrej Archives can be useful for researchers interested in business history.

Smt. Aarti Mehta, Chairman, Museum Society of Bombay proposed a vote of thanks.

Vrunda Pathare