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Monday, July 5, 2010

Calicut's E&S Company

Senior citizens of Calicut would recall that the tea dust they bought some half a century ago used to come in large plywood chests and was dispensed by the retailer in pounds or its fractions. These tea chests had on its sides a string of letters stencilled in black, indicating the plantation from which the merchandise came, the date of packing and the wholesale price and the company that supplied it, in bold -E&SJCWS


Buyers would, of course, recognise the first two letters, for E&S was a reputed company in Calicut and provided employment to thousands in their plantations, tea factories and other businesses. Like many other colonial institutions, E&S has also vanished from Malabar scene without leaving a trace.


How did this unlikely name become a household name in Malabar and much of South India? It takes us back to the history of co-operation. It is recognised that the first co-operative was launched by 28 flannel weavers who came together in 1844 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Soon the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) movement took shape and the English CWS was formed in 1863-64. Starting with the business of wholesale merchanting, these CWSs expanded to cover every item of business from production to retailing. It also dabbled in banking and insurance. At one time, the English CWS owned 174 factories in different parts of England and Wales. Similarly, the Scottish CWS owned 56 factories and employed 13000 workers. In the pre-world war years these two CWSs came together to form the English and Scottish Joint Co-operative Wholesale Society (E&SJCWS). 

The Society did a commendable job during the years of the First World War in holding the price in Britain by ensuring adequate supply of consumer goods. Perhaps as recognition of this good work, it was permitted to acquire more than 32000 acres of tea plantation in South India and Ceylon in 1920. Thus came into existence the largest player in tea production and trade in the east which at one time had controlled almost one sixth of the tea import into Britain and was competing with private players like Brooke Bond and Lipton.
The Co-operative had its own printing press at Longsight, Manchester which brought out many items advertising its tea. The pictures above are the covers of playing cards promoting its tea, produced by the Manchester Press.

We could not trace any remnant of the E&S Company in Calicut. We are, however, sure that many readers would have their own reminiscences of the Company which was once part of many Malabar families. It is reported that most of its tea estates in Kerala and Tamil Nadu were taken over by the Parry Agro Industries Ltd.

12 comments:

  1. English and Scottish Joint co-operative whosale Society Offices in Calicut Beach was sold to KSEB , that building is still there as relic of the past. In the days gone by the building was painted every year and the brass name plates were shinning always.. The KSEB's main Office was built on the ground of their Staff Club and tennis court land.The General Manager's Bungalow , in Chevayur , was bought by the Kayanadis' and the Chief Accountant's bungalow is now the Presentation Convent High school.Once they ]E&S} sold from pin onwards. Those days pins and safety pins were imported !!. They were the main distributors of Cycles, Horlicks, Cadbury chocolate , Shaving blades etc.They Later on shifted the operation to Wellijngdon Island. when it was bought over a by a firm In Madras. I think it is TI group , I am not sure . One of their Bungalows in Fort Kochi was bought over by Tata Tea. .
    It was one of the coveted place to work.Old order changes yielding place to new. Up to 60's Calicut had sizable British Managerial Professionals., Best wishes -premnath

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  2. Quite Interesting. Thanks to Shri Premnath for the additional info.

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  3. That was quite illuminating. Coupled with Spencer, I assume E&S provided all the imported finer-ies!!I do recall the plywood tea chests from the estates....I hope somebody has some photographs of all these buildings, would be interesting to display them...of days long gone

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  4. Thank you Premnath for the interesting information on the E&S buildings. Instead of the shining brass plates we now have the gates festooned with flags of many hues belonging to various trade unions of employees of KSEB!
    We also recall passing by the majestic 'Chevayur Bungalow' on the highest point on the road to the Medical College, before it was purchased by a planter in the 60s or so.
    E&S held the shares in their plantation business in Tamil Nadu and Assam till as late as 1981 when it was transferred to the Murugappa Group owned Parry Agro Industries. It is possible that Tatas bought over the Kerala assets.
    I hope ex-employees and relatives come forward to fill in more details of the institution called E&S.

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  5. Thanks, PNS. We agree - Premnath's comments have really added flesh and blood to the skeletal information that we could gather!

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  6. Many thanks, Maddy, for the comments. The buildings mentioned by Premnath still stand, although in a rather dilapidated condition (except the guest house of KSEB). It would be nice if we could collect the reminiscences of old employees about the days when the top management was mainly European. Unlike other colonial establishments, this one was a co-operative and it would be interesting to understand the working of a non-political co-operative.

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  7. I was born in Murugalli
    estate, ca.1935, my name is George my father was the head teamaker of the Murugalli factory. his name was Frank D'Rozario. As a young lad I was employed by the E and S in the Murugalli office as a check roll clerk. I have very good memories of those early years. I left the estates to pursue studies in Germany in the 60's.. I now live in Canada. my e-mail address is georgedrozario@rogers.com. I would love to hear from anyone

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  8. My Father Sri K Gopinath worked as an engineer with E&S

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Thanks, Kichu, for visiting the site and commenting. I am sure you must have stories of how E&S was during your childhood. Would you mind sharing these with our readers?

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  11. I was too young hardly 5 years - but definetly those were the best days

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  12. I was too young hardly 5 years - but definetly those were the best days

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