As we pay tribute to our freedom fighters and look back at the midnight hour when India woke up to freedom, we remember the day as deliverance from the British Raj. However, the British have given India other reasons to remember them, one of them being India’s vast tea empire. In order to quench their thirst for tea, The British popularised the cultivation of tea in India, to an extent where today India is the largest producer of tea, after China.
Since it is a day of reminiscences, let us walk down the memory lane to see how a British owned tea company in India went ahead to become the largest tea producing company in the world with the help of an Indian visionary.
The inception of The Wiliamson Magor Group dates back to 1869, when J.H Williamson & Richard Boycott Magor formed a partnership firm, Williamson Magor & Company. In over a few decades the company grew in strength expanding through mergers and decided to become a Public Limited Co. in 1954. It was during this year, when the company faced a threat to be bought out, that Mr. B.M Khaitan (the principal supplier of packaging material and fertilizers to Williamson Magor) provided the money to the company and helped in reinstating its position. Brij Mohan Khaitan, fondly referred to as Birju, eventually became the chairman of Williamson Magor in 1966 and he took the company to new heights. The following years saw successive mergers and in 1975, after the merger with Macneil & Barry Ltd., the company was named Macneil & Magor Ltd. Another big step was taken in the year 1987 when the Khaitan family bought shareholding from the Guthrie family in the McLeod Russel group, thus becoming the single largest producer of Assam tea till date. The company was renamed Williamson Magor & Co. Ltd. in 1992. The group in 1994 acquired 51% holding of Union Carbide India Ltd and renamed it Eveready Industries India Limited, which today enjoys more than 50% market share in their battery and flashlight business.
The Williamson Magor & Co. Ltd subsequently became a pure Investment and Group Shareholding Company and since 2003 has been acting as a Non-Banking Financial Company with substantial investments in group companies like McLeod Russel India Limited, Eveready Industries India Limited, McNally Bharat Engineering Company Limited, etc.
Mr B.M Khaitan says he was not a Tea man, and yet the tea empire he made is a true example of his passion. Let’s take a pledge this Independence Day to be passionate and follow our dreams.
Happy Independence Day!!