Monday, January 17, 2011
Hailing from humble backgrounds and peasant families most nineteenth century entrepreneurs started their innovations as a way of solving immediate problems. However unknown to them at the time is the fact their quest would end up casting their names into the eternal hall of fame.
Apart from becoming brand names and bequeathing their family lineages with mind-boggling wealth these pioneers revolutionized consumerism and redefined the map of modernity forever. From household items to automobile and electronic goods their achievements stands out like giant anthills in the vast savannah of our times.
The most prominent case here is that of Henry Ford, the American inventor who not only spearheaded the hallmarks of modern motoring but also revolutionized the concept of personnel management and mass production. His Model T. automobile proved to be the turning point of the American transport industry. In the pursuit of his industrial endevours, the versatile Henry Ford met a young and ambitious entrepreneur named Harvey S. Firestone who introduced to him a pair of wide pneumatic tires that proved to be a perfect match for Ford’s then crude automobile.
The two became lifelong partners who together laid the foundations of the modern automobile industry. Other notable names that played a crucial role in the development of the motoring industry include Benz, Daimler, Toyoda, Suzuki, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Peugeot and many others.
Around the same time a Bavarian Frenchman engineer named Rudoff Diesel was busy designing an internal combustion engine that would drive huge machineries like locomotives, ships and electricity generating plants. Although his crude contraption nearly killed him when it exploded in his lab, he proved that fuel could be ignited without a spark through his successful model. By 1898 Diesel was a multimillionaire with his engines being used to power pipelines, automobile, trucks, submarine, oil fields and later on transoceanic ships.
But perhaps one of the most overwhelming stories of a determined businessman is that of William Colgate. After being a salesman for sometime Colgate set up his starch, soap and candle business in Dutch Street in New York in 1806. After his death his son Samuel reconstituted the manufacturing establishment and registered it as Colgate Company in 1857.
Many years later the company, under Samuel’s sons, introduced toothpaste packed in a collapsible tube, list in the New York Stock Exchange and started production all over the world to become the household name that it is today. Apart from toothpastes and toothbrushes Colgate also deals with detergents, fabric conditioners, soaps hair care products and pet nutrition all of which sells in over 200 countries worldwide.
While Mr. William Colgate was busy trying to make humanity orally clean, another peasant boy in the far away Russia was preoccupied with designing a drink so potent that it would make the minds of men flatter than dough on a rolling pin. His name was Pyotr Arsenievich Smirnov. The young man’s business acumen germinated a commercial empire that experienced huge growth through the 1860s. But after the Russian revolution the Bolsheviks nationalized business in 1877 and sought to arrest Smirnov’s son Vladimir who narrowly fled the country.
Undeterred, the younger Smirnov revived the brand (spelled in its French as Smirnoff) by establishing distilleries in Istanbul, Ukraine and Paris. Smirnoff have expanded mightily through the last century and though the brand is now owned by Diageo, Pyotr’s great-great-great grandson Boris sought to re-establish the family business in Russia a few years ago but lost the legal battle to the current brand owners. He is still contesting the decision.
But long before Smirnov came into the world to tinker with vodka concoctions that eventually hatched Smirnoff, Sir Arthur Guinness had already discovered a formula for brewing a bittersweet-burnt flavoured stout beer way back in 1759. The hard hitting brew has not only remained the world’s most selling and enduring beer brands but its also the official trademark of the Republic of Ireland with the Guinness St. James Gate in Dublin remain an important historical monument. Guinness has also produced a string of witty award winning and world-changing advertising and promotional campaigns.
Around the times of Smirnoff, Tomas Bata who hailed from a family of generational cobblers set up a modest shoe company in an obscure town deep in the Czech Republic called Zlin. Although the Bata Shoe Company made small inroads in the beginning a huge demand of military boats during the World War II proved to be a turning point.
Apart from the huge war demands the company’s rapid growth was also propelled by determined workers motivated by Tomas’ philosophy of providing social amenities like housing, schools and cinema halls for his staff.
Headquartered in Lausanne, the Bata Shoe Company currently has a retail presence in over 50 countries, production facilities in 26 states and its said to have sold an estimated 14 billion pairs of shoes since its inception.
Other captains of industry whose phenomenal names have endured the test of time includes Boeing, Barclays, Hilton, Hewlett and Packard among many others.