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Once referred to by writer Nani Palkhivala as a man who “all his life cares for honor and not about honors”, Naval Godrej is truly inspiration for all. His work went beyond the four walls of his office. This man’s life did not only speak of excellence and innovation, but also of humility and love.
Naval Godrej, fondly known to his peers as “Naoroji”, was a pioneer Indian Industrialist. He was the nephew of the founder of the Godrej group, and yet his stature in the company never came up to his head. People would remember Naval as someone who spent more time on the shop floor than on his desk. He liked moving around and tinkering with things. Like a little kid, his sheer curiosity for machines gave him the tools to create and get involved. He loved working around people and never did he mind getting his hands dirty. Naval Godrej earned the respect of everyone.
Naval Godrej was a firm believer in the idea “make in india”. That phrase was not even there yet during his time. He believed in the capacity of Indians to innovate and create new things. It must be such a marvel to be around a person such as him. Naval continually pushed forward the idea of India’s Industrial self-reliance. He knew in his heart that his people were capable of wondrous things if given the chance.
With this passion for innovation, and faith in his people, Naval Godrej paved the way for the creation of “all India made” products. This included typewriters, machine tools, forklift trucks and refrigerators. Imagine this simple Gandhian man, who didn’t have any formal higher education actually dreaming up something and making it happen. Naval Godrej was truly a man to reckon with.
Naval Godrej was self-taught, and yet he rose to the ranks as a mechanical genius. Just using his curiosity driven heart, he was able to do so much for Godrej group and for his country.
His natural love for machines, also lead him to develop the Godrej Tool Room. Here he encouraged his peers to innovate and initiate the creation of new products and machines. Naval was such a forward thinker, and he was continually searching for new ways to create. He partnered with ISRO (India Space Research Organization) and Godrej group was then tasked to manufacture satellite components to ISRO in 1986.
Naval Godrej achievements put Godrej group in the map. They were now a household name.
Despite all of these accolades, Naval Godrej never forgot to give back. It was so natural for him to help the people around him or wherever. He led the set-up of the Industrial Garden Township of Piroshanagar. Aside from that he also pioneered the development of the Foundation of Research in Community Health and Foundation for Medical Research (Focused on Leprosy Treatment). Naval Godrej supported not only these foundations, but he also helped out hospitals, clinics and schools in Mumbai.
Naval Godrej, was known as a man of innovation, a genius at most, but he is also a man of the people. He did the things he did not for fame or fortune, but for the service of others. He believed in his people and his country, that is why he gave them the opportunity to grow. He is truly a rare soul and we can only wish that his story will continue to inspire.
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