Mills and factories start a boom

The second in the series of articles on Bangalore’s growth tells us how the sleepy town was transformed into an industrial hub.

Our last article on Bangalore’s history talked about its electrification, the first city in Asia to be electrified. Continuing with our series on Bangalore’s development, we will now see how a sleepy town was transformed into a robust city by industrialisation.

Mysore Lamps factory

Mysore Lamps factory at Yeshwantpur (pic: Gopal MS)

The medium and large scale industries started to appear in Bangalore in the mid 19th century. We owe much of the origin of the Government Press (operated in Wesleyan Mission Society), which was the first one to start the trend in Bangalore, to Rev. J Garret. Later, he not only set up the first printing press in Bangalore in 1866, but also translated the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Panchatantra, Shabda Manidarpana, and other works. His son, Edward Peter Rice, was the first to publish the history of Kannada literature in English in 1915.

The most thriving industry to start in Bangalore was the cotton mills, owing its beginnings to the American Civil War which drove the demand for cotton and helped in setting up several ginning and spinning units. In 1884, the Bangalore Mills Limited, one of the oldest modern steam mills, was established. It was set up for the manufacture of carpets by S. Lee in 1875. By 1879, it had sufficient revenue to install woolen machinery powered by a 12 HP steam engine. It became ‘The Bangalore Woolen, Cotton and Silk Mills Company Limited’ in 1884, but was acquired by Binny and Company in 1886.

The history of industrialisation of Karnataka would be incomplete without the mention of Sir M. Visvesvaraya. It was his legendary vision which led to the beginning of The Mysore Economic Conference in 1911, wherein three committees were set up for agriculture, industries and commerce. It also led to the initiation of surveys and collection of statistical data, as well as, founding of the Department of Industries and Commerce.


The conference led to the establishment of the sandalwood oil factory. Although sandalwood has ancient origins in the state, the modernisation of the industry using scientific methods was brought about in 1916. A boom for its demand led the state to tender arrangements for distilling some of its wood in New York, too. The other initiative of the conference was also to set up the government soap factory. The technology behind the soap factory was possible due to the several preliminary experiments undertaken by the Indian Institute of Science. The factory was set up in 1917, and SG Sastri was sent to England in order to gain experience. A modern plant was imported from John Scot and Sons, England, for the purpose. The first Mysore toilet soap was launched in the November of 1918 from its Yeshwantpur factory. The factory is still famous for its sandalwood soap all over the country.

Mysore sandal factory

Karnataka Soaps and Detergents (makers of Mysore Sandal soap), West of Chord Road (pic: Arun Patre)

Some of the other private industries which made a foray in this period include Maanay Roller Flour Mills (1910), Imperial Tobacco Company of India in Frazer Town (1912), Minerva Mills which manufactured cotton fabrics (1919), Kaiser-I-Hind Woolen Mills (1922) and The Steel Construction Company Limited (1924) manufactured oil expellers and spare parts, over-head travelling cranes, industrial machinery and steel works. Elgin Flour Mills was set up in 1930, while Mysore Industrial and Testing Laboratories Limited, set up in 1931, later known as MITL, used to serve as a test house for government store purchase committee, as well as, for private industries. It manufactured medicinal products such as tincture, spirits and ointment.

In 1932, the Government Porcelain Factory was set up in Malleshwaram which manufactured domestic crockery and art-ware products in collaboration with Nippon Gaishi Kaisha, Nagova (Japan). It would later become a part of Bharat Heavy Electronic Limited (BHEL). The government started several initiatives which brought about a boom in the economy of Bangalore quite early on. This explains the large migrant population in the city back then, while it is the IT boom which has led to the same in recent times. Moving to Bangalore for better economic pursuits has, therefore, sustained through the century.

Some of the other government establishments include the electric company, AMCO (1934), which manufactured batteries of motor cars, farm lighting and radios. Also, the Mysore Lamp Works was setup in Yeshwantpur in 1936 and The Mysore Vegetable Oil Products on Platform Road setup in 1938 manufactured vanaspati and refined oil.

The industrialisation of Bangalore continued with some of the largest PSU’s which set base in the city, made it their hub for their research and production activities. Look out for more on the history of the PSUs in our next article of this series.


The Bangalore District Handbook – 1930 , T.Rangaswami
Gazetteer of India – Karnataka State Bangalore District

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