On November 24, 1804, the British made Coimbatore a district headquarters. Before that, for over 1,500 years, it was just a cluster of villages. The city derives its name from a popular Tribal chief Kovan. City chronicler Rajesh Govindarajulu points out a few institutions, industrialists and inventions that make Coimbatore what it is today.
The city has many who fight for the cause of the environment. From individuals such as bus conductor M. Yoganathan and green movements such as Oli and Osai to Siruthuli and RAAC, our environment has many eco-warriors.
From engineering (PSG Tech, CIT) and arts and science colleges to schools that welcomed people from all strata of society (Sarvajana), the city has been a pioneer in the field of education.
From Viswanatha Iyer’s famous jaangiri of yore and Annapoorna’s famous vadai and filter coffee to Sri Krishna Sweets’ mysurpa and A1 Chips’ crunchy delights that have taken Coimbatore places, the city offers gourmands a lovely spread.
If at all you have to fall sick, it might well be in Coimbatore, as people say. The city is home to many multi-speciality hospitals and pioneering practitioners who are world renowned.
The oldest independent democratic social institute in Coimbatore. It was started in 1891. Standing under a tree dubbed The Wisdom Tree, its members would discuss how best to improve the city.
It was P.A. Raju Chettiar who laid the framework for the jewellery industry in Coimbatore. It was the leading centre for jewellery in peninsular India. Kirtilal Kalidas transformed the diamond business and years later, Emerald Jewellery has taken mass production to another level. Today, our jewellery can compete with the best from Mumbai and Kolkata.
P. Sabapathy did not want his bride-to-be to spend hours grinding batter on the aataangal when they got married. So he invented the electric wet grinder somewhere in the 60s. So every time you eat soft idlis and crisp dosais, thank Sabapathy and a few others. Krishnamurthy of Lakshmi Grinders popularised the electrical grinder, commercially. And then there was R. Doraiswamy who introduced the Santha tilting wet grinder. This did away with the need to lift the heavy stone as women had to do earlier. Finally came L.G. Varadaraj with ELGI Ultra, the country’s first table top grinder. Today, more than 200 manufacturers in and around the city manufacture wet grinders and now Coimbatore wet grinders have a Geographical Indication tag.
A flourishing motor pump industry in the city manufactures sump pumps, borewell pumps and well pumps.
The first pump to be manufactured (in the 1920s) was called DPF after Dhandayudhapani Foundry where it was made. This was followed by products from Subbiah Foundry and Textool. The industry probably thrived here because of strong demand – Coimbatore received scant rainfall and the ground was parched. Today, there are hundreds of pump manufacturers in the city who cater to the growing demand world wide.
Spinning machines and spinning mills
Three people took the spinning machine industry to new heights – D. Balasundaram of Textool, P.R. Ramakrishnan of Ramakrishna Industries who later set up the Coimbatore Institute of Technology and G.K. Devarajulu of Lakshmi Machine Works. Mills raised the status of many underprivileged families. Among the prominent mill owners in Coimbatore were Diwan Bahadur P. Somasundaram Chettiar, the first Indian large mill owner of the city and Radhakrishna Mills’ R. Venkataswamy Naidu, who was called the Birla of South India. He spearheaded the South India Mill Owners Association (later SIMA) from 1933-1958.
G.D. Naidu was known for innovation. Proof lies in the museum named after him on Avanashi Road.
He also forged a long-standing bond with industries in Germany, which continues to this day. G.D. Naidu and LRG Naidu revolutionised bus services in this part of the country.
S.P.Narasimhalu Naidu, who took part in the watershed 1885 Congress session, was called the Raja Ram Mohan Roy of South India, for his work in the field of widow remarriage.
T.A. Ramalingam came to be known for popularising the modern cooperative movement.
Sir R. K. Shanmukham Chetty became the first finance minister of Independent India. He was passionate about sharing knowledge and wanted his city to develop holistically.
C.S. Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar laid the groundwork for a city that would grow exponentially. R.S. Puram is named after him. If our city handles its growing population reasonably well, credit must go to his planning. He was chairman of the Coimbatore Municipality from 1921-36.
C. Subramanian was a green revolution pioneer and a Bharat Ratna awardee .
Kasthuri Sreenivasan, a textile scientist, was actively involved in textile research under the aegis of SITRA. He set up an art gallery and textile museum.
Management Guru C.K. Prahalad propagated the ‘fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’ paradigm. He was born in Ramnagar.
M.K. Krishna Chetty of Asoka Paaku, who lived by that principle. He made a fortune selling small sachets of betel nut.
P. Subramanian, an industrialist, is proof that you can make a difference if you really want to.
His Shanthi Social Services offers subsidised food, medicine and other facilities.