Contributor : M Subramanian
Meeting Larsen and Toubro, in person
When I came to Bombay in 1958, I got a job as an Apprentice in Petrol Pump manufacturing firm MIDCO at Sion. A friend of my cousin Haran, who was employed with MIDCO, offered me this. I was placed in the Service Department under him. Within 3 months, I became familiar with servicing of all models of petrol pumps – MIDCO-WAYNE, Gilbarco, Tokhiem to mention a few.
After a year, I became a fitter and was transferred to Assembly and workshops. One J.E.Zilka was the Foreman. (The first Jew I came across in my life). I was put on all jobs and quickly I learnt what was needed to be learnt. After a year Zilka was sent on foreign training.
One of my colleagues joined L&T in the Petrol Pump Manufacturing Department. One day he came to me and said “L&T is also manufacturing Petrol Pumps and they have got an order for servicing
petrol pumps and majority of them are MIDCO pumps. They want skilled persons familiar with petrol pumps.” He took my application to L&T. Within 10 days I got an interview call. KR Shenoy (no relation of HR Shenoy) and Ethirajan took my interview. I was told that I was selected and will get an appointment letter shortly. I was very happy and told everybody that I will be joining L&T very shortly.
But unfortunately, I didn’t get any letter.
Knowing that I had started applying for jobs, by the time one Thakkar has joined as Works Manger and he took a special interest in me. He asked me to work as an acting charge hand. He increased
my salary also and trained me in all jobs like lathe, drilling, milling etc., He trained me in welding also. I had become a full pledged skilled fitter who can work on any job.
After a year, I shifted my residence to Dombivli and I sent a letter to L&T informing my present address as c/o Madras Café, Dombivli East.
One evening while I was having my coffee, Madras Cafe
owner’s friend, who used to have coffee in the evening, there was a telephone call asking for one Mr Subramanian. He enquired “Who is Subramanian here?” Since everybody knew me as Mani, the owner was a little confused. I said I am the person. The friend said “I am Venkatachalam (he was secretary to VKAlexandar) and working for L&T. You have got an interview call. Tomorrow morning you meet me at Dombivli station, I will take to L&T.
Next day I went with him to Powai. I was interviewed by Chandrasekhar. It was just a formality. No questions were asked.
He said “Due to some technical issues, I could not be appointed earlier. Now you have to join Audco (Audco started in Powai C building Stage IV) and after 3 months you will resign from Audco and will be joining L&T. If it is alright with you, we will send you an appointment letter. I agreed to that and I got my appointment letter within a week.
When I resigned from Midco, they were not willing to relieve me
and offered me better salary etc., but I decided to join Audco. On the last day at Midco my boss said “Though you are leaving us now, anytime you feel like coming back, you will be taken back and your absence will be treated as leave without pay.”
In August 1962, I joined Audco and I was the only third workman there. Audco just started manufacturing valves; I was asked work on lapping machine.
Lapping compound used to spill all over my dress and hands, and it used to take a lot of time to clean. In this process I was missing my bus and had to walk up to Sakinaka, take a bus to Kurla (a private bus) and reach Dombivli very late by 8 in the night.
After 10 days, I was to attend my friend’s marriage reception and in order not to miss that I washed early and carefully worked so that I could rush to catch the L&T bus. Just after 10 minutes, Chandrasekhar entered the Shop floor; hee fired me for washing my hands well before the shift time. He said “This not MIDCO and you cannot do these things here.” I told him that my intention was not to stop the work earlier but to catch the bus in time. I narrated to him that I had been missing the bus for the last few days and had to attend a marriage that day.
He said “You should have told me this earlier.” He took me to his seniors (I think AV Fernandes and Roy Chowdry). They discussed and we all went to the regal Gunnar Hansen, who was the General Manager (Manufacturing). Again it was explained to him. He
called the transport person (Raman or Sashikant, I don’t remember), and said “Our buses should leave only after 10 minutes of shift closure. You also look out for this person before leaving the bus.”
After that I was told to change the dress and come back quickly. I was shocked and thought that I will be sacked. I was cursing myself for not only missing the bus but losing the job also. When I came back I was surprised to see a car was arranged to drop me at Kurla Station!
After a month, we were told that SK Toubro was going to visit Audco, and we have to keep all the machines working. As there were few operators, I was assigned the 1st machine and once SK Toubro goes to the next machine I must quickly go to 6th machine.
When SKToubro came, as soon as he left the 1st machine, I quickly went to the 6th machine and started that. When he came to the 6th
machine, he looked at me for a few moments, and asked whether my brother is working here. I said “No Sir”. He said “I saw a person like you operating the 1st machine.” Sir, I am the same person and
this arrangement is made to show you all the machines in working condition.” He smiled at me and patted me on the back.
October 1962, I resigned from Audco and Joined L&T.
Afterwards whenever he visited Powai, he recognised and smiled at me.
Before my retirement, I took an appointment to meet Henning Holck Larsen. When I met him at his residence, he asked what for I wanted to meet him. I said “Sir, I want to convey my thanks and gratitude to you. Along with L&T, I also grown up and today if I am somebody it is due my employment with L&T.”
He said “No. I must thank you people for making L&T great.”
He spent about half an hour with me had tea. Though initially he refused, afterwards I took a photograph with him.
I may be one of the few employees who interacted with both the founders of Larsen & Toubro.
A sweet memory to remember and to be proud of!