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Sir M. Visvesvaraya - the man behind Hindustan Aeronautics Limited

Contrary to the popular belief, the main reason behind Bengaluru's rise to fame as the scientific & high-tech industrial hub is not really the climate, but mainly the strategic planning & tireless efforts by visionaries, who had long ago realized the importance of education & role of industries in overall prosperity. One such example is that of the establishment of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in which Sir M Visvesvaraya had played a crucial role, and how his efforts helped the city become the hub for aerospace research.


Way back in the mid 1930s, Sir M Visvesvaraya (Sir MV) had undertaken an extensive industrial tour to Europe & USA (at his personal expense) and soon after his return, came up with detailed proposals on setting up modern industries including automobile & aircraft factories in India. As expected, the British Govt immediately rejected all his proposals, but Sir MV was hopeful and started preparing the groundwork so that he wouldn't waste any time when opportunity would knock at the door in future. By the end of the decade, with the outbreak of World War II, opportunity indeed came calling.


As the war intensified, the British Govt took up Sir MV's old proposals & approved the setting up of aircraft industry, as they needed a factory in India which could service military aircrafts of Britain & its allies during the war. Before the British could change their mind, Sir MV quickly seized the opportunity and got in touch with Walchand Hirachand, a powerful industrialist from Bombay who had earlier shown interest in Sir MV's proposals, and invited him to Bengaluru to discuss about the ambitious project.


Meanwhile, Sir MV got in touch with the Maharaja of Mysore and convinced him to release 1000 acres of land in Bengaluru, which was offered free of cost to Walchand for the purpose of building a large aircraft factory. Although Walchand wanted to setup the industry in Bombay, he was impressed with the enthusiasm of Sir MV, the cooperation of the Maharaja, and the irresistible offer of 1000 acres land, which attracted him to Bengaluru to establish Hindustan Aircraft Limited.


For the nex few months, Sir MV personally visited the construction site every evening to check the progress & provided inputs, to ensure that it was of international standards. The reason behind his enthusiasm towards the aircraft factory was because it was one of the earliest high-tech industries, and he knew that once the aircraft factory was ready, then it would eventually attract many more subsidiary factories & high-tech industries.


HAL was finally inaugurated in 1940, and over the years, as Sir MV had envisioned, it led to the birth of several new factories & research centres around it, including Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), and many more institutions which were built within close proximity of HAL (so that they could all synchronously utilize each others expertise & resources) in Bengaluru, thus adding another feather into the cap of the city, as the aerospace research hub of India.

Story by
Guru Prasad

Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...

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