Department of Industry, Commerce & Enterprises
Government of West Bengal

 Evolution of Industries in Bengal

Industrial Heritage

Since the earlier times, the industrial history of Bengal is replete with several instances of entrepreneurship ventures based on the influence of western science and technology.

The staple industries of late-eighteenth century eastern India were cotton and silk textiles, salt production, ship-building and the supply of indigo. Local textile manufacturers held on to the competition with machine-made imports; silk textile production and sales increased, while output of cotton textiles declined only after woven cloth was imported in the 1830s. Salt, indigo and ship-building suffered decline, however until 1830, industrial Bengal remained buoyant under British rule.

These showed the resilience of economic agents in colonial Bengal and their ability to adapt to the changing circumstances brought about by colonial rule.

Some Noted Industrialists:

R.N. Mookerjee

Hemendra Mohan Bose

Gour Mohan Dutta

Dwarakanath Tagore

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy

Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury

Some Other Notable Enterprises:


  • Literally meaning ‘good writing’, Sulekha Works Limited, an endeavour initiated in 1934 by two brothers - Sankaracharyya Maitra and Nani Gopal Maitra, is the pioneer in manufacturing of writing inks, allied writing instruments and homecare products in India.
  • Founded by two ardent followers of Gandhiji at Rajshahi (now in Bangladesh), the company was considered to be a symbol of ‘Swadeshi Movement’ and self reliance.
  • Gandhiji once said, “Sulekha ink was a symbolic defiance to the rule of the Raj”.
  • It helped to set up ink & writing instrument-manufacturing units in several countries of South Asia and Africa.
  • In 2010, the company launched a range of Solar powered products with an aim to bring light in the homes of millions who are yet to get the benefits of conventional power supply.


  • Dwarkin (formally known as Dwarkin & Son), founded in 1875 by Dwarkanath Ghose, was a pioneering Indian enterprise for the sale of Western and Indian musical instruments, which attained a legendary status, particularly with the development of the hand-held harmonium.
  • The name was coined by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, combining the names of the founder and that of Thomas Dawkins, a Loondon-based instrument manufacturer from where the company imported musical instruments early on.
  • When Jyotirindranath Tagore compiled a book with songs and musical notations, Dwarkin published it as ‘Swaralipigitimala’.
  • In 1879, the organisation also published ‘Binabadini’ - a magazine claimed to be one of the first publications on musical matters in Bengali.
  • Dwarkanath’s grandson, Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, Padma Bhushan, was a great tabla player.
Legacy of Construction and Iron & Steel Industries in Bengal:
  • For successful development of the fledging railway network and to meet other transportation infrastructure requirements like rails, goods wagons and construction of bridges – the firms like Jessop, Burn Standard, Braithewaite, Britannia Engg. Co., Bridge & Roof Company.
  • IISCO Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India at Burnpur was established in 1918, the Indian Iron & Steel Company. It was the flag ship of the Martin Burn group, presently amalgamated with SAIL in 2006 and renamed IISCO Steel Plant.
  • West Bengal has two major steel plants - Durgapur Steel Plant and Alloy Steel Plant.
  • Howrah Industrial region became a major foundry manufacturing hub By the middle of the 20th century and was the part was dubbed the ‘Sheffield of Asia’ for the role it played in the phenomenal growth and became the pioneer in producing Ferrous Casting in India.

The legacy of industrialization continued. The two World Wars and the Bengal Famine slowed down the growth a bit. However at the time of independence, Bengal ranked at the top in almost all the parameters of Economics, Business and Industry.

Rabindranath & Industries :
  • One of the great sons of Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore was also very supportive of the industrial growth in Bengal. During the 'Swadeshi Movement', he featured in over a hundred advertisements, endorsing books, medicines, musical instruments, stationery items, cosmetics and food products. He didn’t charge any money for that purpose but did it to push the nationalist agenda.
  • He even wrote in support of Radium cream, “Those who use beauty products like snow, cream and perfumery products like eau de cologne will find the products manufactured by the Radium factory not so different from foreign products.”
  • He even coined the name of the famous eatery - 'Jalajoga'.
  • He had composed quite a few songs in support of the Industrial Revolution in India, especially in Bengal.

Other noted manufacturing units setup after Independence :
  • Hindustan Cables Ltd.
    Hindustan Cables Ltd. (HCL) was set up in 1952 as the first telecommunication cable manufacturing unit in the country. The company has a plant in Rupnarayanpur, West Bengal;
  • National Instruments Ltd.
    National Instruments Ltd. (NIL), was incorporated as a PSE in 1957 after taking over the assets and liabilities of National Instruments Factory. The company manufactured various types of Optical & Opto Electronic Surveying Instruments including Pressure & Vacuum Gauges, Cameras, Gas Meters, etc. together with sophisticated Night Vision devices.
  • Tyre Corporation of India Ltd.
    Tyre Corporation of India Ltd. (TCIL) was incorporated in 1984 after the nationalization of M/s Incheck Tyres Ltd. and M/s National Rubber Manufacturers Ltd., having a manufacturing unit at Kankinara manufacturing of tyres for automobiles.
  • Andrew Yule & Co. Ltd. (AYCL)
    The company is engaged in manufacture, sales and servicing of various industrial products - industrial fans, tea machinery, air pollution control equipment, electrical equipments including switchgears, circuit breakers, etc. and tea production and processing in West Bengal. Transformers and Switchgears are also manufactured.
Important Manufacturing units setup in the recent times :
  • Shyam Steel Industries Limited which has a fully integrated steel manufacturing plant at Durgapur.
  • JSW Steel Limited signed a development agreement with the West Bengal Government; presently slag cement is being manufactured in the plant.
  • Peerless Group.
  • Duckback Group.
  • Purnendu Chatterjee of the Haldia Petrochem
  • TCG Group, Sadhan Dutta of Development Consultants Ltd.
  • Leather processing and shoe manufacturing –
    • Khadim's Brand
    • Sreeleathers Brand.
  • IT entrepreneur Bikram Dasgupta of the Globsyn Technologies etc.

A very business and entrepreneur friendly atmosphere is prevailing for the last few years. With investor friendly policies of the Government in power, Bengal is an attractive destination for industry. The state will be a top ranking destination for industries in the near future.

This brief video showcases the rich and diverse industrial heritage / past of West Bengal.