Aug 10
NATION FIRST
NATION FIRST
ON July 15, SpaceX CEO Mr Elon Musk tweeted congratulations to India after ISRO successfully tested an engine which is part of Gaganyaan – the country’s first-ever manned spacecraft mission being pushed by Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi.
 
As SpaceX is a key player in the global commercial satellite launch market, its Texas-based CEO knows  well how crucial ISRO’s progress is in the manned spacecraft industry.
 
Several thousand nautical miles away in Mumbai, the CEO & MD of Larsen & Toubro Mr S N Subrahmanyan was all smiles. He beamed because L&T is playing a significant role in the Gaganyaan mission by manufacturing several key components for the spacecraft. In November 2020, the Company delivered to ISRO the first motor case hardware for Gaganyaan.
 
This, however, is not the first occasion when L&T is manufacturing components for India’s space mission. Over the past five decades starting in 1975, L&T has been a key contributor to the country’s space programmes – be it the SLV, PSLV, GSLV or SSLV.
 
In fact, think of any sector that India has made progress in the past 74 years since Independence, L&T has played a significant role. There are several watershed moments in India’s nation-building history in which L&T’s role is vital. Some even date back before Independence.
 
“Our goal has always been to do the things that will make India a very strong country – whether in infrastructure, defence, energy, power, nuclear or aerospace. There is not a single company in the world which can today say categorically that it does all of these and more,” Group Chairman Mr A M Naik emphasises.
 
THE 1940s: GENESIS OF MAKE IN INDIA
 
L&T started off in 1938 as a Mumbai-based company that imported various equipment from Europe for sale in India. But as a fallout of World War-II, Germany blocked the import channel, delivering a body blow both to L&T and Indian industry. Instead of throwing up their hands, L&T’s Danish founders Henning Holck-Larsen and Soren Kristian Toubro came up with solution that can well be termed the genesis of ‘Make in India’. L&T began manufacturing equipment in India itself. True, this happened when India was under  British rule but the move not only benefitted Indian consumers, it also laid the foundation for indigenous manufacturing that the country needed the most post-Independence.
 
As it gradually became clear that India’s freedom was only a matter of time, L&T realised that the nation-in-the-offing would require a lot of infrastructure to be built. It decided to diversify, and in 1944, founded Engineering Construction & Contracts (ECC), a subsidiary company headquartered in Chennai. The new company (later rechristened  L&T Construction), constructed buildings, roads and related infrastructure across India.
 
Some of India’s marvels that it has built include the Bombay Stock Exchange (1980), Maharashtra’s Vidhan Bhavan (1981), the Lotus Temple in Delhi (1986), the Vidyasagar Setu or the Second Hooghly Bridge in Kolkata (1992), the world’s tallest statue at Narmada Valley (2018), the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad (2020) and the Durgam Cheruvu Bridge in Hyderabad (2020). Other, iconic projects like the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link and India’s longest Dhubri-Phulbari Bridge in Assam are currently under construction.
 
THE 1950s: ON A REVOLUTIONARY COURSE
 
In 1947, when India became Independent, non-native owners of Indian companies started selling off the entities to Indian businessmen and returned to their home countries, pocketing a hefty fortune. But Holck-Larsen and Toubro not only stayed put but went on diversifying L&T in alignment with independent India’s needs and aspirations.
 
L&T became a public limited company in 1950 and that very year it collaborated with Paris-headquartered CITRA, part of the Schneider Group, to construct a cruiser graving dry dock and wharves in Mumbai for the Indian Navy. Later, L&T also built the Alexandria Dock for the Bombay Port Trust.
 
To emerge from  the shadows, the nascent nation needed a ‘revolution’ in almost every sector – infrastructure, agriculture, industry, power, science – and L&T went on catering to every need.
 
In 1955, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the AMUL plant in Gujarat, thus marking the beginning of the country’s ‘White Revolution’. It was L&T which manufactured the plant’s key equipment, and in recognition, Nehru had himself invited L&T co-founder Toubro for a special audience.
 
After this, L&T went on assisting India realise one ‘revolution’ after another on the way to becoming a strong, self-reliant nation – an endeavour that continues till date. 
 
Rourkela Steel Plant in Odisha is India’s first integrated steel plant founded in 1955. As the plant was shaping up, L&T was assigned the task of erecting its first three blast furnaces, a pig iron casting machine and  a rolling-mill building in 1957. That very year, L&T sold its first blast furnace to another public sector steel plant at Burnpur in West Bengal. This marked the beginning of L&T eventually growing into a major supplier of plant and equipment for ferrous and non-ferrous plants. 
 
THE 1960s: GROWING THE GREEN REVOLUTION
 
It is not that L&T remained confined only to delivering projects and supplying equipment. It also went on setting up its own manufacturing facilities in different parts of the country and, in turn, gave a thrust to India’s industrialisation.
 
In 1960, L&T formed its first associate company Utkal Machinery Limited to manufacture equipment for the iron & steel and paper & pulp industries and set up manufacturing facilities for the same at Kansbahal near Rourkela in Odisha. This became L&T’s first manufacturing complex in eastern India. The Company subsequently set up facilities in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and West Bengal that, to date,  cater to a variety of industries.
 
The sixties was also the decade of 'Green Revolution' in India. Even before Lal Bahadur Shastri assumed office as the Prime Minister and gave a big push to 'Green Revolution', L&T was at work. Starting in 1963, L&T built several major fertiliser plants in a number of states including Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and thus helping the country boost its food production. 
 
In 1965, at the request of Dr Homi Bhabha, the father of India’s nuclear programme, L&T set out to prepare the ground for yet another ‘revolution’ which homed-in results for the nation almost a decade later. It started making nuclear power equipment for the country. While taking up the job, co-founder Holck-Larsen had famously told his close colleagues that the country needs nuclear power and ‘if not L&T, who else’ could help realise the dream.  
 
THE 1970s: MOVING MAMMOTHS 
 
By the late sixties, the state-owned Air India was spreading its wings in the sky. When it acquired a fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft in 1969, it was L&T which built a huge hangar for the jumbos. That marked L&T’s entry into the aviation-infrastructure sector and over the years it has built several airports, prominent among them being the T3 in Delhi, T2 in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kozhikode and Chandigarh.
 
L&T got into road construction and mining equipment business from as early as in 1945 – back then it primarily used to import equipment from abroad and market them in India with post-sales service. Taking a big leap in this sector, in collaboration with a French partner, L&T set up a manufacturing hub for earthmovers in Bengaluru in 1973.
 
The L&T Construction & Mining Machinery vertical has grown manifold over the years and now L&T made or marketed construction equipment aid numerous road building projects including in strategically important but difficult terrain, such as Ladakh. The vertical turned 75 last year and kick-started a year-long diamond jubilee celebration.
 
NATION’S PRIDE: NUCLEAR POWER
 
In the aftermath of India’s first  nuclear test explosion in 1974, Canada unilaterally severed the nuclear energy cooperation with India. Since Canada provided crucial manufacturing assistance for two of India’s under-construction reactors, the world at large assumed that India’s dream to generate nuclear power had ended in a reverie. ‘Dream on, world,’ whispered India, as PM Indira Gandhi and her government turned to L&T. 
 
With preparations afoot since 1965, L&T rose to the occasion by not only completing the unfinished reactors but also providing assistance to other allied jobs. Since then, L&T has been a trusted partner in India’s civil nuclear programme, including the Pokhran-II test conducted in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.   
 
THE 1980s: CEMENTING MANUFACTURING
 
With construction works both for industrial and housing purposes gaining pace in the country, India began witnessing a cement ‘famine’ starting the late 1970s. Millennials will find it difficult to believe that to buy cement during those times people were required to apply to the government well in advance!
 
To mitigate the ‘famine’, the Indian government again turned to L&T. Thus, in 1983, the Company commissioned its first cement plant at Awarpur near Nagpur and started rolling out high quality cement. L&T divested its cement business in 2003 but not before building a strong name for its L&T Cement.
 
As India grew from strength to strength in terms of infrastructure and manufacturing, so did the need for facilities that can cater to these sectors. In 1987, L&T commissioned a massive 755-acre multifaceted manufacturing complex at Hazira in Gujarat.
 
It was from Hazira that L&T rolled out India's first indigenous hydrocracker reactors for the Indian Oil Corporation in 1989, and then in 1994 four wellhead platforms for ONGC’s Bombay High offshore oilfield. The world's largest and heaviest Fluidised Catalytic Cracking regenerator and the world's biggest Continuous Catalyst Regeneration unit were also subsequently manufactured here.
 
Almost three decades later, on 19 January 2019, it was at the Hazira complex that PM Mr Modi rode the K9 Vajra-T howitzer that L&T started manufacturing for the Indian Army. "I congratulate the entire team of Larsen & Toubro for building the state-of-the-art K-9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer. This is a significant contribution towards India's defence sector and protecting the country," he commented on the occasion.
 
L&T’s contribution to India’s defence sector is far more diversified. The Company has made  vital contribution to the Pinaka Multi-Rocket Launcher (1986), the BRAHMOS (2006) and Aakash (2009) missile systems, India's first nuclear-powered submarine launched by PM Dr Manmohan Singh on 26 July 2009 and a number of offshore patrol vessels and interceptors for the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. 
 
L&T, however,  does not manufacture any explosives or ammunition of any kind, nor cluster munitions or anti-personnel landmines or nuclear weapons and  also does not customise any delivery systems for such munitions.
 
THE 1990s: FROM SAILS TO RAILS
 
L&T’s maritime affair dates back to 1943 when it went into the ship-repair business. Later in the 80s, it briefly owned a fleet of five ships and was into the shipping business for a while. But it was in 1991 that, taking India’s maritime infrastructure to the next level, L&T built the country’s first open sea jetty near Ratnagiri in Maharashtra for a private firm.
 
Another big leap in the maritime sector came in 2012 when L&T built its own shipyard at Kattupalli near Chennai. It became L&T’s second shipyard, with the first one being at Hazira. Kattupalli Shipyard is a manufacturing facility dedicated to defence equipment and systems.
 
As the maritime affair continued, L&T also increased its involvement in building railway infrastructure. In 1994, it constructed what was then Asia's highest viaduct, for the Konkan Railway. As India’s railway network spread, so did L&T’s role in this sector: apart from several critical open rail projects such as the Jammu-Udhampur rail link and the dedicated freight corridor, the Company has built – either in part or in full – the Metro railways in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Kolkata and Kochi.
 
In fact, to L&T’s kitty belongs the world's largest public-private partnership Metro project – the Hyderabad Metro. Mr Modi  inaugurated its first phase in 2017.
 
Last year, the Modi government took up India’s largest ever infrastructure project – the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor, aka the Bullet Train project. And whom could it trust but L&T to build this ambitious and critical project.  
 
THE 1990s: ON HITECH HIGHWAY 
 
The last decade of the 20th century witnessed a boom in India’s IT sector, while the 21st happens to be the age of digital technologies. L&T made its maiden entry into this ever-growing sector by founding a new venture in 1996, now known as L&T Infotech (LTI). 
 
It didn’t stop at that. Assessing the corresponding demand for tailor-made cluster buildings and allied infrastructure for the IT sector, L&T, in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh government, built and commissioned India’s largest software park –HITEC City in Hyderabad. During its inauguration in 1998, PM Vajpayee had made a comment by incorporating L&T's slogan itself:  “This is another of the instances where L&T has made India proud.”
 
Marching ahead in the IT sector, in 2009 the conglomerate founded L&T Technology Services (LTTS). While LTI offers IT-enabled services, LTTS offers a range of digital technologies to its industrial customers. To further strengthen its hold in the IT and digital business, in 2019, L&T acquired the IT company Mindtree.
 
THE 2010s: MAKING A SMART MOVE 
 
Complementing India’s digital drive is the Smart Cities Mission that the Modi government  launched in 2015. And here too, L&T is playing the most prominent role among all private players that the Central government has roped in.
 
L&T’s Smart World & Communication (SWC) vertical is implementing the Smart Cities Mission – either fully or partially – in several cities across India, including Mumbai, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Prayagraj, Visakhapatnam, Raipur, Jhansi, etc.  
 
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit India in 2020, SWC’s smart solutions are helping several state governments to implement COVID protocols in their cities, in terms of automated crowd-alert, vehicular restriction, temperature scan, 24x7 control room and so on.
 
Also, the Company has recently developed an integrated digital platform, L&T EduTech, whose ambit spans from skilling to recruitment by focusing on employability assessment, reinforced learning, skilling and reskilling. To help small-scale enterprises, the Company has also developed a dedicated platform named SuFin. Over 70,000 supply chain enterprises are already listed on SuFin.
 
THE 2020s: SUSTAINING THE FUTURE
 
India is party to the global convention that seeks to drastically cut  emissions of greenhouse gases  to shape a sustainable world. Complementing India’s commitment, L&T has ramped up its green businesses severalfold in recent years, with offerings on green technologies and renewable energy.
 
L&T has a diversified renewable portfolio of 32 MW floating solar power plants, 135 MWH of battery energy storage projects, 500 micro grids, 14,000 solar water pumps and has so far developed over 25 million sq ft of certified green buildings. Last year, it commissioned India’s first large scale solar photovoltaic-cum-battery energy storage system in the Andamans for public sector entity NLC India Ltd.
 
Always at the cutting edge of technology, L&T is now extensively harnessing Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence which too will go into the service of the nation striding towards a smarter and sustainable future as it steps into the 75th year of Independence.
 
Since its inception, L&T has kept up with the times. Today, because of its storied history and varied experience, L&T is geared to support India’s big leap to a brighter future.
 
As the company’s CEO & MD, Mr Subrahmanyan, puts it: “Fortified by our heritage, inspired by our vision, guided by our cherished values, we will continue to play an increasingly important role in nation-building and take the country to new heights of progress and prosperity, with products, projects and services that are made for, by and in India.”

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