The story of the Mafatlal Group is a stirring saga of a blend of traditional values and modern technology triumphing over circumstances. Mr. Mafatlal Gagalbhai the founder, was born in 1873, to a weaver of Ahmedabad. His father, who was neither educated nor prosperous, made a living by doing odd jobs. It wasn't long before a young Mafatlal, who was still in his early teens, had to leave school to help his father peddle textile products. With goods hanging from their shoulders, both father and son would scour the countryside in search of buyers. Some of the buyers proved to be Mr. Mafatlal's benefactors in later years, when he metamorphosed into an industrialist. They not only provided him with capital, but also gave it at low rates of interest.
Driven by curiosity and ambition, he took up a job as a mill-hand. He wanted to understand the entire gamut of operations; his big break came only at the age of 31. Alongwith Chandulal Mahadevia, a friend, and Arthur Shorrock, an Englishman who knew some British textile-machinery manufacturers in Lancashire, he took over the management of a small mill in Ahmedabad, and named it the Shorrock Mill. Of the initial equity capital of Rs 3.25 lakhs, Mr. Mafatlal picked up 30 shares of Rs 1,000 each while his father picked up another 30 shares. Along with his partners, he evolved an innovative scheme to raise the rest of the funds. In those days, business concerns were run by managing agencies. So, the enterprising partners promised investors a share in the managing agency.
The first mill did extremely well, and Mr. Mafatlal developed an appetite for expansion. Six years later, in 1912, he bought a mill in neighbouring Nadiad for Rs 6.26 lakhs. The second mill was christened New Shorrock. For Mafatlal and the others in the textile business, the War years were the years of prosperity and expansion. Although the partnership was doing well, Mr. Mafatlal wanted to do something on his own. So, in 1916, he bought Jaffer Ali Mill, which was founded by the Nawab of Surat and renamed it Surat Cotton Spinning & Weaving Mills. Three years later, Mr. Mafatlal came to Mumbai, taking over the China Mill, which had been set up by a Parsi family in 1887.
It was in the 1970's and 1980's, under the leadership of Mr. Arvind Mafatlal, that the existing business was consolidated. The Group also diversified into Information Technology, Chemicals and the Engineering Industry. The late 1980's saw the Group further diversifying into the Financial Service Industry, Gas Distribution and later into Healthcare business. From 1995 onwards, the strategy has been to focus on the Core Competence viz. Textiles and Chemicals and divest from other businesses. Today, Chairman Mr. Hrishikesh Mafatlal, provides the strategic vision for Arvind Mafatlal Group, as it strides ahead with ambitious plans for the future.