From a small-time villager to the managing director of one of Calcutta’s most “innovative” companies to the recipient of a national award, he has done the Bengal jute industry a star turn.
Early this month, Anukul Samanta, the man who developed a natural fibre from jute and polymer to produce doors, windows and ceilings — instead of the more conventional wood and aluminium — was in Delhi to receive the national award for the best “research and development work” in the country.
Samanta, who boasts of heading a company, along with his four brothers, with an annual turnover of Rs 13 crore, is now working on technical collaboration with several countries, including South Africa, Kenya and Bangladesh, for putting the jute of Bengal back on the global map.
Samanta’s rags-to-riches story started back in 1964, when the five brothers, known in their Canal East Road locality as the “Pandavas”, started manufacturing and selling paint brushes of all shapes and sizes. Known as the “All India Brush Works”, the company provided them a footing in Calcutta and soon, the brothers began to think on bigger lines.
In 1987, the Samantas — Joydeb, Dasharathi, Mahadeb and Basudeb, along with Anukul — made a foray in a different business by manufacturing fibreglass items. “We started off by getting some orders from the Indian Railways to supply window frames made of fibre plastic to replace the aluminium ones that were getting stolen,” said Anukul.
The product proved a success and the orders grew in numbers from all zonal railways in India and even Bangladesh.
It was not until 1996 that Anukul Samanta decided to invest in jute composite goods. “The jute industry in Bengal was dying and factories were closing down. We, however, thought that jute still had a long way to go and could still be a winner not only in India, but in other countries as well,” recollected elder brother Dasarathi, chairman of AB Composites Pvt Ltd.
The company, after rigorous research and development, involving the finest brains behind jute manufacturing, developed a natural fibre from a composition of jute and polymer to produce household products like doors, windows, furniture, ceilings and floorings. The product proved cheaper and equally, if not more, durable than the traditional materials like plywood, asbestos and aluminium. “Not only is the product eco-friendly, but it is fire and water resistant,” Dasarathi explained.
Within a short span of time, the business grew and the product was adopted by various agencies, like the Indian Railways, PWD, BSNL, the LIC (eastern region) and other organisations.
The efforts of the Pandavas, however, did not go unnoticed, as the central government decided to recognise Anukul Samanta for his stupendous efforts in “research and development in small-scale industries”. He was awarded the national award on August 30 at a glittering function in the capital. “This award will, hopefully, motivate me to take the jute industry back to its days of glory,” said Anukul.