Naval Godrej: Pioneer of Progress
125 years ago, Ardeshir Godrej, a young man of 29 years, set up a small factory in
Lalbaug in Bombay to make locks — the first of its kind in India. This was the humble
origin, of what today has become a trusted household name — ‘Godrej’. The story of
the Godrej family is a tale of courage, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Naoroji ‘Naval’ Pirojsha Godrej followed in the illustrious footsteps of his uncle
Ardeshir Burjorji Godrej, and father Pirojsha Burjorji Godrej to uphold the ideals of
‘Swadeshi’ and excellence in manufacturing. Naval was a self-taught engineer with
an inquisitive and restless mind that enjoyed mechanical challenges. He joined the
factory at age 17 and learned by working on the factory floor. He pioneered the
development of the Machine Tool industry in India. He led the Godrej team in
creating the first Indian-made typewriter, refrigerator and forklift trucks. He worked
hard to realize his father’s dream of Pirojshanagar as an ideal garden-city. To his
credit also is Godrej’s successful foray into making crucial components for the Indian
space programme. Naval Godrej was instrumental in setting up the Indian Machine
Tools Association and established an international exhibition of machine tool
manufacturers, IMTEX. As his uncle and father before him, Naval was also devoted
to many philanthropic and charitable works.
Naval’s philosophy of responsible corporate behaviour and worker’s welfare was well
ahead of his time. His soft-spoken, easy style of management and true devotion to
the ideal of the larger Godrej ‘family’ will always be remembered and emulated by
the generations that follow him.