Bhavarlal Hiralal Jain, founding chairman of multinational Indian plastics processor Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd., died Feb. 25.
Jain, 79, was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi who preferred simple white khadi-style clothing. He built Jain Irrigation into a $1 billion multinational company with 28 manufacturing plants around the world.
The company is best known as the world's second-largest maker of drip irrigation equipment, manufacturing plastic tubing and components for micro-irrigation systems to help save water and boost crop yields, under its slogan of “More Crop Per Drop.”
It also has units manufacturing plastic pipe and sheet, and in food processing, energy and biotechnology.
“He was a man of small ideas which created big revolutions,” the company said in a statement. “He practiced what he preached and he built his entire business on a foundation of inclusiveness and sustainability over the last five decades.
“He believed small farmers are entrepreneurs and they must get dignity as well as higher income,” the company said.
Jain, known as “Bhau” to friends and associates, and the company were recognized globally.
The company ranked No. 7 on Fortune magazine's inaugural list of 51 “Change the World” companies in 2015. Jain spoke at Harvard Business School, and the company has been featured in case studies at Harvard and elsewhere.
Still, he could be frequently seen in the lush green fields around the company's headquarters outside the city of Jalgaon, working with agronomists and scientists experimenting with diverse crops from mango to rice.
He started in business in 1963 with $1,470, selling kerosene out of a hand-drawn cart. In the 1980s the company started PVC pipe manufacturing. He discovered micro irrigation while visiting a U.S. trade show in 1983.
Today the company has 10,000 employees. For drip irrigation equipment, it has a 60 percent market share in India and 15 percent worldwide. It has factories in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Its drip irrigation products have been used by 5 million of India's 100 million farmers: “We have lot of ground to cover, we have merely tapped the tip of the iceberg,” Jain once said.
Jain had received India's fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, and the prestigious Crawford Reid Award for promoting irrigation.
The company has also set-up a large agricultural research institute at Jain Hills near its headquarters, supported schools for educating children from poor families and funded the Gandhi Research Foundation to promote the vales of Mahatma Gandhi.
The company said Jain wanted to promote “good education and sound values. Values that have stood the test of time but are slowly and surely being eroded by the influence of Western culture on our youth.”