Gopalaswamy Doraiswamy Naidu was an Indian inventor and engineer who is fondly known as the ‘Edison of India’, the ‘Wealth Creator of Coimbatore’ and also as ‘Adhisaya Manidhar’ or the Miracle Man. He was a school dropout and did not study beyond class three; yet he excelled as a versatile genius and a creative inventor.
He manufactured the first indigenous electric motor in India. He also developed independently an internal combustion four stroke engine. His contributions extended from industrial, including electrical and mechanical; to agricultural and automobile. He was also known for his philanthropic activities.
G.D. Naidu was born on 23 March 1893 at Kalangal, Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, India. He was named Doraiswamy, and belonged to a traditional Telugu family. His father, Gopalaswamy Naidu, was a farmer. Duraiswamy’s mother died when he was just a few months old.
His father wanted to raise him as scholarly child. So, he sent his son to Lakshmi Naayakanpaalayam village to his cousin, who took good care of him.
He was an average student during his schooldays. He disliked attending classes. He always got into troubles in school. Due to this, he could only study up to the third standard. His story is a classic school-dropout success stories.
At an early age, Gopalswamy wanted to stand on his feet. He wanted to buy a motorcycle from his own earnings. So he began working as a waiter in a Coimbatore hotel. After buying the motorcycle, he spent time in repairing and maintenance. He was interested in dismantling the parts and re-assembling the motorbike. This helped him learn a lot about automobile engineering and he became a mechanic.
He also worked in a cotton ginning mill for a few years and later set up a cotton business. However, the business failed when he tried to expand it to Bombay.
In 1920, helped by an industrialist in Coimbatore, Robert Stanes, he bought a motor coach and began his transport business. He started his transport service between the cities of Pollachi and Palani.
He kept on expanding his business. By 1933, he owned as many as 280 buses. Within a few years his transport service called Universal Motor Service (UMS) became one of the largest and most efficient public transport services in India.
Later Life and his Inventions
Naidu went on world tour several times. In 1935, while in London, he filmed the funeral of King George V. He had also photographed Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. He personally met Adolf Hitler in Germany before the start of World War II. He also contested the 1936 Provincial General Elections, but lost. He had a Rolls Royce car and was the only Indian at that time to own this luxury car.
G.D. Naidu invented an electric razor called ‘Rasant’ which had an electric motor running on dry cells. He also manufactured the small motor for it, which was made at a factory in the German town called Heilbronn. He got the 3rd Prize for UMS Razor Company for razor blades in 1936 in Leipzieg, Germany.
In 1939, he also opened an electric motor factory called the New Electric Works (NEW) in Coimbatore, in collaboration with an entrepreneur friend D. Balasundaram. This factory manufactured the first indigenous electric motor in India. He then founded a company called, Lakshmi Machine Works (LMW).
During this period, he also invented a host of useful items, almost 100 gadgets, such as:
- Refrigerator, Recorder, Radio, Clock
- Shaving Blades which were super-thin
- Distance Adjuster for Cameras
- Fruit Juice Extractor
- Tamper-proof vote-recording machine
- Kerosene-run fan
- Calculator, and many more utility items.
In 1941, he announced that he can manufacture five-valve Radio sets in India at a cost of just Rupees 70, which was a fraction of the cost at which radios were selling at that time.
In 1952, he produced a two-seater petrol engine car which cost just Rs. 2000. However, he could not manufacture it commercially as the government refused to grant it the required licence.
His research and invention were not just restricted to mechanical and electrical machineries, but extended to several other areas. In case of agriculture and crops, he produced new improved varieties of cash crops such as cotton, maize, banana, papaya, coconut etc.
He completed the construction of a house in just 11 hours, beginning with the laying of foundation at 6 am to completion by 5 pm evening.
He founded several companies in diversified industries, such as Universal Radiators Factory, UMS Radio Industry, Gopal Clock Industry, Coimbatore Armature Winding Works, Carbon manufacturing industry, Coimbatore Diesel products and Coimbatore Engineering Private Limited etc.
In 1944, he took retirement from active involvement with industry and business; as he pursued philanthropy. He made a bungalow in Coimbatore, naming it Gopala Bhag in memory of his father. He made this his home and office and lived there till his last day.
In 1946, he started an institute named, Industrial Labour Welfare Association (ILWA) which is now known as G.D. Naidu Charities. He instituted many welfare schemes for his employees and the backward section of society. He also provided grants to scholars for research.
In 1967, the G.D. Naidu Industrial Exhibition was established. During the 1950-60’s his companies provided employment in the engineering and manufacturing sectors.
He helped set up India’s first Polytechnic college, the Arthur Hope Polytechnic which was named after the Governor of Madras Arthur Hope. It was later renamed as The Government Polytechnic of Coimbatore. He also set up the Arthur Hope College of Engineering which was later called the Government College of Technology (GCT). G.D. Naidu became the first principal of the college. He donated both these institutions to the government.
Death and Obituaries
Naidu passed away on January 4, 1974. Rich tributes were paid to him by eminent personalities in India. He left behind his son G.D. Gopal and grandchildren G.D. Rajkumar and Shantini.
G.D. Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Coimbatore is named after him, which is managed by his daughter-in-law Mrs. Chandra Gopal. His grandson Mr. G.D. Rajkumar now runs the Geedee Industries. A permanent Industrial Exhibition and museum has been set up in Coimbatore in his memory.
Despite the fact that his contributions and services did not get due recognition from the government, he continues to be a much respected industrialist and inventor in the eyes of the public. He made a difference in the life of millions of people, by providing employment opportunities. He has inspired several generations of entrepreneurs in India.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah