Saturday, June 21, 2014

Main gate

It is not really the main gate, but for most of the workers of Simpson & Co Ltd, these are the gates through which they would enter their workplace. The firm is over 150 years old, having been established sometime in the 1840s. Arnold Wright, writing in 1914 about businesses in Madras, claims the year to be 1840 itself. After 170 years, that is a minor quibble, but more interesting is what Wright says about the range of its products. The firm was set up by A.F. Simpson, a Scotsman who came to Madras to ply his trade as a wheelwright. He expanded into harnesses, saddles, boots - all those things that riders may need - and then into coaches also. In a short span of 5 years, Simpson was able to make a name for his products in Madras city and moved from his initial premises on Poonamallee High Road to Mount Road. 

The products were of quite high quality and Simpson reached out to a clientele beyond Madras. The way he chose to get there was through London; it was, even in the 19th century, a preferred vacation spot for rich and famous Indians. Displaying (and advertising) his coaches at industrial exhibitions in London, he canvassed orders from his target demographic right there and supplied them from his works on Mount Road.

By the early 20th century, Simpson had passed on and the firm was being run by George Underhill Cuddon, who had joined the firm as a clerk in 1891. In 1914, the products, as described by Wright, included "carriages, motor-cars, or billiard-tables". However, sometime in the middle of the 20th century, Simpson & Co Ltd had become more specialized, as a manufacturer of diesel engines for various applications. In the 1980s, they attempted a joint venture with Ford to assemble trucks (or LCVs) but that was not successful. They continue to stick with the engines - and they look set to be doing it for another 170 years and more!

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