Thursday, September 6, 2012

Buzzin' around

The Beehive Foundry was named very appropriately, by all accounts. It supposedly employed between 500 and 600 workmen even during the lean season and the "activity which prevails in a hive of bees is not excelled by the industry which is manifested by the large staff of employees of this company". Contractors to shipping companies, the railways and large builders among others, the Beehive Foundry was set up in this building, which housed Oakes & Co., arguably Madras' first department store. The Beehive Foundry was Oakes' foray into engineering and it grew to be quite successful, with the works going completely electric (from the original steam power) in 1914, subsequent upon their being awarded the contract to outfit the hospital ship Madras that year. 

Suryanarayana Rao, the scion of a Vijayawada-based business family set up business for himself in 1907. His friend C.A.Chettiar joined him a few years later, and the two of them ventured into the steel foundry and fabrication business. It is quite likely that they took over the Beehive Foundry soon after and the group came to be known as the Beehive Kowtha Group.

The foundry has moved to Vijayawada. But the Group continues to have fabrication shops in Chennai, as well as Hyderabad and Vijayawada; and its corporate office stays on at this address: Beehive Buildings, 57, Broadway, Chennai 600108!

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