Friday, April 2, 2010

D. Balasundaram: The machine man Architects of Coimbatore

The first indigenous motor in the country was produced in Coimbatore in 1939 , thanks to an engineer who was working in the National Engineering Works of G.D.Naidu.

An electrical engineer from Sheffield University, England, D. Balasundaram had training in a major industrial unit there that had 12,000 employees manufacturing components for power stations.
He is said to have used the “copper rotor welding” technology to design this motor.

Born in 1913 at Avarampalayam ,Coimbatore, he first established Coimbatore Engineering and Trading Company to manufacture components for textile machinery.

When his Textool Company was born, the first ring frame was produced.

According to historian C.R.Elangovan, this was an achievement because it was a period immediately after the Second World War when everything was scarce and there were too many restrictions too.

Besides, everything had to be imported for which also there were a number of controls, licences and practical problems.

Undaunted, Mr.Balasundaram imported old machinery from Europe, repaired them and used for manufacturing various components.

In 1948, the Indian Government itself requested his Textool Company to manufacture guns and Mr.Balasundaram set up a separate division for the same.

From sten gun to SBBL-12 type of gun the unit provided.

His company, which started producing more and more textile components in 1949, had as much as 2,000 employees by 1952, an achievement by itself.

Textool became so prominent that it was manufacturing almost all the components required for textile units and it emerged as one of the top three in the country manufacturing such items. 

In 1955, he started manufacturing 5 HP diesel engines meant for agricultural pumpsets and the strength of the workforce commensurately shot up to 4,000 by 1957.

He improved upon the Ambar charka with four spindles designed by Ekambaram of Tirunelveli into a 16 spindle charka.

Though that attracted quite a lot of approbation and recognition , it did not become popular due to certain practical difficulties.

He was not deterred by the serious shortage of pig iron for his factory.

He produced indigenous machinery to make iron from the ore and did produce as much as 50 tonnes of iron a day at the Textool itself.

The company rose to such an eminent position that it received orders even from Neyveli Lignite Corporation for components to their machinery and Textool’s products were considered even sturdier than the ones imported from Germany.

In 1960, Mr.Balasundaram undertook a trip to Japan which revolutionised his activities. That led to his producing even railway signal equipment and also the cone winding machinery for textile units with Japanese co-operation.

Mr. Elangovan considers the total indigenous production of a passenger car in 1965 as one of the greatest achievements of Textool.

Besides, a tractor was made in the same company and the first tractor was handed over to the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, towards Bihar flood relief fund.

The serious recession in the textile industry that began in 1965 started hurting Textool also.
Many customers could not make their payments for the Textool products and the company was caught in a serious financial crisis.

It had to be closed down for some time.

When the State Government took over the company, Mr.Balasundaram relinquished his charge.
Most of the small entrepreneurs, especially in Ganapathi area, are said to have been former staff of the Textool Company and there is none who has not had some counsel or support from Mr.Balasundaram.

He is one who has never bothered about money. All that he thinks of is machines and nothing more.
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