Our Independence marked the rise of many luminaries whose lives coincided with the evolution of Modern India. O P Jindal, Bauji to his countless admirers, was one such son of the soil. Born a farmer, he became an industry leader, and campaigned relentlessly for a self-reliant India. As a youth, he dreamt of an India where the “Made in England” labels on various products would be replaced by the “Made in India” markings.
While self-reliance may have got a renewed thrust in the present times, O P Jindal used to say, almost half a century ago, “If we are to become a front-ranking nation, we will necessarily have to become self-reliant in industrial development, and we will have to match the developed world in technology.”
That a farmer’s son rose to become India’s fourth-largest industrialist is a tribute to his vision, grit, hard work, and courage.
A nationalist-entrepreneur, he believed an industry could never grow unless the communities around it prospered. Educating the girl child was an article of faith for him. “Educate a boy, you help a family; educate a girl child, you help two families,” he would say.
Jindal was a people’s leader. In his avatar as a public representative, he served as an MLA, MP (representing Kurukshetra) and a Minister in the State of Haryana. He always believed that differences — and it’s only natural to have differences – can easily be resolved through dialogues.
He was born on August 7, 1930, at Nalwa in Haryana’s Hisar. He set up a steel pipes, bends and sockets factory at Lilua near Kolkata in 1952, only to return to Hisar, attracted as he was to the idea of serving his home state. In 1960, he set up an iron and steel factory, one of the temples of Modern India, and a precursor to the O P Jindal group.
An industrialist who was ahead of his times, Jindal stressed a lot on R&D. He may not have acquired any formal training, but his engineering acumen and insights were legendary. He used to say that he would listen to ordinary grassroots workers more than he would listen to engineers – such was his faith in the native Indian genius. He established a pipes mill, based on Swadeshi technology. In 1970, he set up Jindal Strips Limited.
Raigarh, the picturesque cultural capital of Chhattisgarh, was to be his karmabhoomi later, where he laid the foundations of the group’s expansion. Raigarh, housing JSPL’s coal-based sponge iron plant – the largest of its kind in the world – is a testimony to his vision and nation-building commitment.
Jindal saw the future and his model of backward integration through coal mine development and forward integration through steel plants and power plants set an example for others to follow. Similarly, way back in the 1990s, he visualized CGP DRI based steel making, now a reality at JSPL’s Angul unit in Odisha — a first in the world.
Jindal also chose public life to serve the nation. He became an MLA in 1991, and MP in 1996. He was made Haryana Power Minister in 2005.
He was a firm believer in the philosophy that truth, honesty and hard work were the essential ingredients of a successful life. “Struggles are inevitable in one’s life. If you deal with them with hard work, honesty and truth, no obstacle is insurmountable,” he would say.
Whether as an industry leader or a public representative or a philanthropist, he ensured that the poor, the needy, Dalits, backwards and the downtrodden benefited from economic and political activities, and more opportunities were created for their inclusion in the mainstream.
CSR may have become a buzzword today, but for Jindal, it was his life philosophy. He would say his factories and plants were incomplete without the accompanying townships for workers, schools and hospitals. He believed that skill development was a necessary tool to tackle the growing unemployment.
His ideas of inclusion, communities, skilling are deeply ingrained in the group. Little wonder then that the O P Jindal group has carved a unique identity for itself, the world over.
Thanks to the life lessons that he imparted to his children, and others who came in his contact, all his four sons are leading lights of Corporate India today. Prithvi Raj Jindal (Jindal SAW), Sajjan Jindal (JSW), Ratan Jindal (Jindal Stainless) and Naveen Jindal (JSPL) are contributing towards nation building and creating a better tomorrow. Sminu Jindal, Parth Jindal, Abhyuday Jindal and Venkatesh Jindal are the third generation leaders promising to carry forward O P Jindal’s formidable legacy.
While releasing his biography on August 7, 2005, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh observed: “Om Prakash ji belongs to that rare generation of pioneering Indian entrepreneurs whose roots lay deep in the soil of Mother India, but whose dreams soared into the skies. Men like him mastered modern technology and applied such knowledge in the service of the common man. That he could do so much with so little that was at his disposal when he took first steps is a testimony to his immense managerial and technical skills.”
Where others saw walls, he saw doors. Jindal based his life on the ‘India First’ ideology. This remains the cornerstone of the group’s philosophy.