Walchand Hirachand Doshi, popularly known as Seth Walchand, a notable Indian industrialist, pioneered India’s inaugural shipyard, aircraft factory, and automobile manufacturing unit. His establishments contributed significantly by introducing multiple construction firms, engineering enterprises, and diverse businesses to the nation.
Walchand Hirachand Doshi was born on November 23, 1882, in Sholapur to a prominent family active in commerce, politics, and religion. Tragically, his mother passed away within fifteen days of his birth. Raised by his father, Seth Hirachand, a devoted Jain, Walchand imbibed values of selflessness, duty, and societal service. After completing his matriculation in 1899, he joined his father's business in Bombay and pursued further studies at St. Xavier's College due to his avid interest in learning.
Walchand Hirachand's Trailblazing Journey
Known as a visionary, Walchandnagar Industries Limited, situated in Walchandnagar, an industrial hub near Pune, stands today as a crucial defense and nuclear equipment manufacturer. For Walchand, industries were not merely avenues for financial gain but also arenas for embarking on adventurous endeavors.
Despite pioneering India's role in various industries, Walchand's reliance on excessive debt and nationalization seemed to overshadow his contributions.
For instance, inspired by a visit to Hollywood, he aimed to establish a vast studio, now recognized as Walchand Studio in India, initiating discussions with renowned Bollywood producer-director V. Shantaram, albeit with no tangible outcome.
The historic voyage of the first Indian ship, 'SS Loyalty,' which sailed from Mumbai to London on April 5, 1919, was personally overseen by Walchand Hirachand. This significant event led to the declaration of April 5 as National Maritime Day in independent India, commemorating that voyage.
Throughout his life, he initiated numerous charitable trusts, establishing educational institutions, boarding houses, and engaging in philanthropic activities and sponsorships to support various causes.
Walchand Hirachand Doshi's Evolution from Railways to Aviation and Media Ventures
Impressed by influential leaders like Dadabhai Navroji, Justice M. G. Ranade, Raobahadur G. V. Joshi, and R. C Dutt, Walchand Hirachand Doshi diverted from his family's cotton trade business. Instead, he entered railway contracting for construction-related projects. Disagreeing with government control in certain project aspects, he ventured into establishing his shipyard.
He further contributed significantly to India's industrial landscape by founding the country's maiden aircraft factory. Recognizing the potential of mass communication, he developed mass media avenues. Alongside Annie Besant and M. R. Jayakar, Walchand sponsored the pioneering national news agency, the Free Press of India, founded in 1927.
He died on April 8, 1953, at Siddhpur.