In 1882, industrialist Walchand Hirachand started his empire-building from a small project for the railways
in 1920 when he successfully completed the Bhor Ghat tunnel for a railway route from Mumbai to Pune.
Walchand set up Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) in 1926, which went on to build some of India's
landmark construction projects.
Hailing from a trading community that migrated to Sholapur from Saurashtra in
the middle of the 19th century, Seth Walchand Hirachand was born at Sholapur,
Maharashtra in a Digambar Jain family engaged in trading and money lending.
Walchand's company was merged into Tata Construction Company in 1920. In
1929, he became the Managing Director of the company, and in 1935 Tatas sold
their stake in the firm to Walchand.
Walchand floated the Scindia Steam Navigation Company Limited (SSNCL) after
he acquired the ship–S.S. Loyalty– from Maharaja Madhavrao Scindia of
Gwalior. SS Loyalty made its maiden international voyage on 5 April 1919 by
sailing from Mumbai to London.
The founding day of SSNCL (April 5) is now celebrated as India's National Maritime Day.
Walchand's foresight led to the establishment of the first indigenous shipbuilding yard in the country in
Visakhapatnam, Scindia Shipyard, in 1941. The company, taken over by the Government of India in 1952
and re-christened as the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL). Its first product, the ship 'Jalusha' was
launched soon after independence by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948. However, the shipyard came under
government control a few months later and was fully nationalized in 1961.
Walchand also founded the Indian aircraft industry when he established Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL)
Disaster Resource Network (DRN): HCC is one of the founding companies of DRN Global, an initiative
of the World Economic Forum, to implement quick relief during natural disasters.
India's first all-concrete dam at Vaitarna, Maharashtra was completed in 1954 by HCC. It was also the
first dam built using fully mechanized construction methods with aerial cableways.
Walchand was interested in establishing a car factory in India. In 1945, he established Premier
Automobiles near Mumbai.
Established in 1944, Premier was one of the first Indian companies to start making automobiles. In
collaboration with Chrysler Corporation, USA, India's first car rolled out of the Premier factory in 1947.
The JV assembled cars like Dodge, Desots and Plymouth.
In collaboration with Fiat SpA, Italy, Premier first started assembling the Fiat 500 in India. In 1954, came the
Fiat 1100, one of the most popular models ever produced.
In 1973, Premier commenced marketing of the cars under the brand name 'Premier', after the agreement
with Fiat expired
Apart from the most popular car in India, the Premier Padmini, Premier also manufactured the country's
widest range of commercial vehicles for a variety of road transport applications. Current products include
Roadstar Tipper, Sigma Lifeline ambulance & Sigma Express cargo carrier.
Among the other companies he pioneered were the Walchandnagar Industries Limited, located at
Walchandnagar, an industrial township near Pune and Ravalgaon Sugar.