Tribute to a business legend who worked for industrial growth under British rule

Born on November 22, 1882, Walchand Hirachand Doshi’s legacy stands tall on the road named after him. During the struggle for India’s Independence, the Walchand Group of Industries was one of the most prominent ones in the country.

Written by Kajol Runwal | Mumbai | Updated: July 3, 2017 1:49 pm
Walchand Hirachand Marg Mumbai, Walchand Hirachand Doshi, Roads of Mumbai, Indian Express News Phoenix Building, which housed the offices of Walchand group’s companies up to 1938, and its Construction House are located on the Walchand Hirachand Marg. (Express Photo by Santosh Parab)

Named after a leading industrialist of his time, Walchand Hirachand Marg has been in existence in the Fort area for several decades now.

“He was the first Indian man pioneering the aviation industry, maritime industry and automotive industry. He worked for industrial growth under the British rule and that was considered very brave. He was seeking a sort of commercial independence that the British resented,” said Arvind Raoji Doshi, Walchand Hirachand Doshi’s 78-year-old nephew.

Born on November 22, 1882, Walchand Hirachand Doshi’s legacy stands tall on the road named after him. During the struggle for India’s Independence, the Walchand Group of Industries was one of the most prominent ones in the country. Gita Piramal’s book “Business Legends” has detailed accounts of four all-time noteworthy entrepreneurs of India, and one of them is Doshi, along with G D Birla and J R D Tata.

This road was previously called Wittet Street — named after architect George Wittet who had designed many structures such as the Gateway of India and the Prince of Wales Museum (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya).

“It was named Walchand Hirachand Marg due to the iconic presence of the Phoenix Building, which initially housed 58 offices of Walchand Hirachand Doshi,” shared Jagdish Shetty, who runs a 57-year-old restaurant called Vasant Refreshments, right across the road from the renowned building.

“I had once spotted Walchand Hirachand’s daughter Kusumbai Shah and brother Gulabchand Doshi walking down the street towards the building,” recalled Shetty. Walchand Hirachand Doshi had three brothers — Gulabchand, Ratanchand and Lalachand.

Both the Phoenix Building, which housed the offices of Doshi’s all companies up to 1938, and the group’s Construction House are located on the Walchand Hirachand Marg.

“The Bombay corporation had a huge naming ceremony and the Wittet road was named as Walchand Hirachand Marg in the honour of Walchand Hirachand Doshi, nearly two decades after he passed away in 1953. There was a big shamiana (tent) and a pompous celebration,” recollected Arvind Raoji, who had a chance to witness the ceremony.

“This road has now become very quiet in comparison to what it used to be before when the Indira Dockyard was open. The Red Gate let out a lot of foreigners, who flocked this street,” shared Ashok Kakde, who has been working on Walchand Hirachand Marg for about 25 years now.

“I used to initially work as a contractor who hired labour to load/ unload cargos at the dockyard but after the Red Gate was closed down, I had only one choice — to sit at my friend Bhaskar’s chai stall for a living,” said 57-year-old Kakde.

“Walchand Hirachand Marg used to have 10-15 handicraft stores before the Indira Dockyard was shut down and now the number of these handicraft stores has dwindled down to about just five,” said Alam Singh Kandari, who has been working at a handicraft store on the road for almost 15 years now.

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