Fundamental industrial development presents a difficult quandary about where to invest scarce resources and talent. Achievements in one sector compound the need for engineering skills and fabricating capacity in another. Orchestrating each stage of industrial advance to harmonize total productive capability with available markets requires exceptional organizational leadership.
The role of the foreign entrepreneur, participating in such accelerating industrialization, is rarely easy but can prove crucial for efficiency in accomplishing national goals. Especially is this so when the foreigner works alone, or in a small team, rather than as a representative of a large foreign firm or a multinational corporation.
HENNING HOLCK-LARSEN, a young master of chemical engineering from the University of Copenhagen, came to India nearly 40 years ago to sell equipment for manufacturing cement. In 1938 he and Soren Kristian Toubro established Larsen & Toubro with a clerk, a messenger and the motto: “In Service Lies Success.” During World War II they operated a repair shop as the first emergency floating dock in Bombay harbor for repair and conversion of Allied merchant vessels as warships. Foregoing making more immediately profitable consumer goods in favor of designing and fabricating capital equipment for vital industries, and using Indian personnel and capital, they made that country’s first indigenous dairy machinery. Manufacture of sophisticated switchgears firmly established their reputation. Uncompromising quality control, reliability, and excellent after-sales-service ensured the technical collaboration of world-famous engineering firms. Planning production ahead to mesh with India’s five-year plans, they have contributed much to import substitution.
Larsen & Toubro Limited now has annual sales of over US$100 million. Their industrial estate at Powai, outside Bombay, sprawls over 34 landscaped hectares; four subsidiaries and four associated companies operate elsewhere. Nearly one-third of their more than 10,000 employees are engineers. The range and quality of their engineering accomplishments span the wide spectrum of industrialization in India and abroad; alloy steel pressure vessels and boiler feedwater heaters for fertilizer plants, carbon steel columns for petroleum refineries, stainless steel spray drying plants for PVC resin manufacture, and the first nuclear reactor vessels for India’s nuclear program are but a few.
In a competitive world market orders have come from 28 countries: the U.K., Denmark, the U.S.S.R., Australia, eight Asian, nine Middle Eastern and seven African states. Local investors respond promptly to capital needs; today more than 25,000 Indians own 97 percent of Larsen & Toubro Limited. Committed to Indianization before this became government policy, the company today has only two foreign technicians who will leave this year plus Chairman HOLCK-LARSEN. However, neither favoritism, nepotism nor high connection influence employment, which is strictly on merit. Insistence on professionalism of management and engineering, recognition of competence, and tireless experimentation with new ideas by a 200-member research and development staff have made the firm a technology leader. Further enhancing morale among an exceptional employee corps is HOLCK- LARSEN'S stress on the essential link between personal and organizational growth. Continuing training is given to engineers, managers, workers, apprentices and even vendors and subcontractors at the firm—in India and abroad. Constructive suggestions are rewarded. Employee benefits range from a consumers’ cooperative store and credit cooperative to medical care, educational opportunities, nutrition, family planning, sports and yoga classes.
Over it all presides the modest, carefully-spoken, gifted Dane who has shown how Westem technology can contribute to the betterment of life in the East.
In electing HENNING HOLCK-LARSEN to receive the 1976 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his signal contribution towards India’s technical modernization, complementing industrialization with human concern.