This is the story of IEC known as the India Engineering Corporation. This is the narrative of a man’s will to survive, perseverance, and ability to rise against all odds. The story here is about Shri. Shankar Mahashabde, who conquered all adversities to fulfil his dream.
It was on the fateful day of August 31st, 1936, that Shri Shankar Jagannath Mahashabde was born to Shri Jagannath Gopal Mahashabde and Smt. Ramabai in Pune, India. The Mahashabde family moved around frequently since Shri Jagannath Mahashabde was an irrigation engineer. His job required him to build irrigation canals anywhere that was needed. Shri Shankar was the youngest of the four Mahashabde children.
When he was about six years old, his father tragically passed away. It was a severe blow to the Mahashabde family as they grappled with the loss of the sole breadwinner and loving father to the four children. Ramabai, who was left alone, took the reins and attempted to make ends meet in whatever way she could.
Though Shri Shankar was a young boy, he was not oblivious to the hardships his family was going through, and it made him determined at a young age to succeed at whatever he undertook.
While in school, Shri Shankar demonstrated the traits of a self-starter and an innovator. He constructed a functional model of an Epidiascope Water Turbine with financial aid from his
principal. This earned him first place in an interschool science competition and a full scholarship from the principal of Wadia College for his BSC. Although he was a scholarship student, Shri Shankar earned extra income by servicing electrical equipment after college to avoid burdening his mother with his college expenses. In college, Shri Shankar displayed his ingenuity by building a scale model of the very popular train, the Deccan Queen, with a bogie running on a 12-volt battery. He was awarded the first prize in the intercollegiate
exhibition. A while later, Shri Shankar was awarded Rs. 100 in yet another exhibition—that sum in that era could sustain a family of four for a month.
Shri Shankar’s mother, Ramabai, always believed that her son had an entrepreneurial streak, even though his path was riddled with hurdles at the time. As a symbol of her trust in his
talents, she sold her gold jewellery to provide him with the funds for his business venture.
That was a stepping stone to a lifetime of achievements. Shri Shankar began humble and young, selling Kiran light bulbs for a pittance of one Anna. His close friend Nowsher connected Shri Shankar to Mr. Surtia, who recommended that he start producing domestic hot water geysers. Shri Shankar knew that domestic geysers would be in great demand in times to come, but he did not have the resources to build them himself on a large scale. Never to be daunted by adversity, he decided to demonstrate the domestic hot water geyser to the then-Vice Chairman of the Bank of Maharashtra, Mr. N.G. Pawar, at his residence to obtain a loan. Mr. Pawar, who was impressed with the concept, suggested Shri Shankar form a partnership with his son to manufacture and supply domestic hot water geysers throughout India. Though Shri Shankar had started on the path of entrepreneurship, the collaboration eventually died out, leaving Shri Shankar once again to his own devices.
His ability to work with engineering equipment brought Shri Shankar an opportunity to work as a labour contractor with Philips India Pvt. Ltd. Shri Shankar rode his bicycle 20 kilometres to Philips India, delivered the equipment, installed it, and rode it 20 kilometres back home. His hard work gradually paid off, and the volume of work increased. Providence had finally smiled at Shri Shankar, enabling him to set up his office at 603, Sadashiv Peth, Pune. This marked the birth of India Engineering Corporation. While Shri Shankar was working hard at his business as a labour contractor, the word was spreading across Pune about his prowess at fixing things. His expertise and counsel were sought after by many. In 1961, when the Panshet dam burst, flooding areas of the city and leaving no clean drinking water for the inhabitants, it was Shri Shankar they turned to for assistance. Without any prior experience of dealing with such a massive problem, Shri Shankar, after deliberating with engineers, advised them to install a vertical turbine pump to syphon off water from the Katraj dam to the city.
Expansion of his business was Shri Shankar’s main priority. He had by now established himself as a trusted vendor for piping contracts with Kirloskar Oil Engines and Philips India Pvt.
Ltd. Although Shri Shankar was well known by now, the Pudumjee Paper Mill in Thergaon turned the tide in his favour. He designed and built the pipeline for their manufacturing plant according to the criteria established by their German counterparts. Another notable example is the installation of a 600 horsepower Worthington USA VT Pump for Central Paper Mill Ltd. on the banks of the Tapi River among cobras and tribals.
Shri Shankar’s life was good, and with a continuous stream of business flowing in, there was no looking back. He had dreamt of building his own business since he was a boy, and he could now see it come true. Slowly, the germ of the idea of setting up his factory started taking shape.
Shri Shankar bought a plot of land in the desolate H-zone of Pimpri and set up a small workshop there with lathes, milling machines, drills, and other equipment supplied by Hindustan Machine Tools. This was the culmination of his dreams. Being a devotee of Shiva, a Shiva temple was erected to garner the lords’ blessings. Never leaving his past behind, Shri Shankar’s bicycle still occupies a place of pride at the entrance of the factory. Even though Shri Shankar had established his own factory, life was not easy for him. The Indian Army, after the India-Pakistan war of 1965, contracted him to install 40 HPVT Pumps in the Kutch desert. While working in such an environment was taxing for him, the soldiers needed water. Having successfully installed the first pump at the borewell and had Colonel Bawa inaugurate it, Shri Shankar returned to Pune. Little did he know that life held surprises for him.
Shri Shankar subsequently discovered that one of the pumps’ pulleys had failed, with the result that the pump had fallen 250 feet down the borewell. After a struggle, Shri Shankar replaced the pump and got it operating, only to discover that his dues were denied to him until he recovered the pump from the borewell. His equipment was also confiscated and a suit filed against him. Despite his distress, Shri Shankar stood his ground and was triumphant after a year and a half of court battle. The company was unable to withstand the blow, and Shri Shankar almost lost everything he had achieved. It was disheartening for Shri Shankar, but despite having suffered significant losses in the business, his indomitable spirit still remained intact and he was ready to start all over again.