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 ship 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 subsidiary 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 feed water 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- LARSIN'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
firmin 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
Intemational Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his signal contribution
towards India's technical modemization, complementing industrialization with human concern.