This year TAFE celebrates its Diamond Jubilee, 60 glorious years of work and a way of life and work that celebrates values and people first.
On a cool morning, December 15, 1960 to be precise, when Mr. S. Anantharamakrishnan announced at a press conference in Chennai, his plans to manufacture tractors and implements at Simpson’s Industrial Estate in collaboration with Massey Ferguson of Toronto it started another Green Revolution – the mechanization of farming in India.
It is only fitting that we pay tribute to S Anantharamakrishnan, fondly called J and to the people who followed him in taking TAFE to its present leadership position through a spotlight series – 6 in all.
It plots the genesis of TAFE – the hard work of men and women of TAFE, the pioneering spirit of J, the gentle giant that A Sivasailam was, the gender bender that Mallika Srinivasan proved to be and the story of cultivating a dream that after 60 years is Cultivating the World.
Chronicle 1: S Anantharamakrishnan, the Pioneer.
When the wheels began to move
The 1st half of the 20th century was the nascent, very early days of the automobile. But they were heady times when the romance of the car gripped the imagination of people worldwide. The thrill of speed, the fantastic mobility, the comfort in long distance travel, the crunching of distances fascinated the laymen and the engineers alike. The passenger car also gave a glimpse of the future of transport.
In Madras, Southern India, a remarkable man, passionate about automobiles understood the impact they were going to have in our lives. He instinctively knew it would eventually turn out to be an extension of a man’s personality, an expression of his individuality. And he set the wheels in motion for the automobile industry in India. This man was S Anantharamakrishnan or J, as he was fondly called.
It was J who earned the sobriquet Detroit of the South for Madras. He was a renaissance man, who gave India a head start in automobiles. TAFE was his vision too.
Engaging the gears
When J turned the ignition of the first car, that was to roll out his plant. He also turned the fortunes of the city and the country. He truly set the stage for the eventual blossoming of Chennai, then Madras, as the Detroit of the south! But what truly set him apart was his foray into every aspect of automobile engineering. So farsighted was his vision that it went beyond mere assembling of vehicles. He built an entire vertically integrated auto industry where the sum of the parts went on to make up the total. In the process, it gave the newly emerging nation just the boost it needed in self confidence in its own engineering abilities and skills.
When a nascent nation gathered speed
J was a true forerunner of the automobile industry in the South India. By putting Southern India on the business map and into national consciousness, he proved to be a true nation builder.
The two decades, between 1945 and 1964 the years J was at the helm, were crucial years as he developed one of India’s most enduring and diverse conglomerates, the Amalgamations Group.
J’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit gave India its head starts in automobiles and agriculture.
Pioneers like J built enduring organizations that helped the country walk confidently on the path fulfill its destiny and find its true place among great nations of the world.
Another fascinating facet of J was his deep connect to a lesser seen and even lesser known India -an India of green patterned hinterland, vast cultivations, and agricultural swathes tilled for millenniums by the great Indian farmer.
J was a visionary when it came to agriculture and he always emphasized its importance to the wellbeing of a nation. His sheer passion for agriculture and his respect and admiration for the farmers were the cornerstone for TAFE.
For the man from Alwarkurichi, his connect to his village remained strong all his life. His rooting for agriculture and the farmer came from the village’s agricultural traditions. J had a clear vision on importance of these two to the nation’s food security, to the wellbeing and health of its coming generations. This deep connect and the passion for agriculture was the springboard for TAFE and J Farms
Traveling the uncharted, drawing a map for the future
And with TAFE, J set out to map the future in agriculture, a map that pinpointed the importance of science, research, mechanization, resource utilization in cultivation and knowledge sharing with those who cultivate for the world.
What revolution J’s TAFE heralded, the uncharted waters it sailed and mapped, the challenges it faced on the way to be the top tractor company in the world is another story, for another day.
Men like J were fueled by the vision of India that was confident, self-assured and on par with the best in the world. They worked towards empowering their people with skills, welcomed innovation and were at the forefront as nation builders.