In 1876, five residents of Kanpur namely, Mr. George Allen, Mr. W.E. Cooper, Mr. Bevan Petman, Dr. Condon and Mr. Gavin S. Jones erected a small mill for the manufacture, chiefly of army blankets. The original plant appears to have consisted of Cards and mules, followed by handlooms in the Weaving and a power driven Finishing plant. This company, which was known as "The Woollen Mills, Cawnpore," continued until 1882, after which it was converted into a Public Company with limited liability under the new Indian Companies Act. The name of the new Company was "THE CAWNPORE WOOLLEN MILLS AND ARMY CLOTHS MANUFACTURING CO., LTD." - a name which it continued till 1914, when opportunity of a change in the capital structure of the Company was taken to alter the name to "The Cawnpore Woollen Mills Co. Ltd.”
During the early years of the Limited Company's existence, the private company of Messrs. Cooper Allen & Co., under the guidance of Mr. William Cooper and Mr. George Allen, acted as Managing Agents, but they resigned this position at the end of 1888 and thereafter the Company managed its own affairs under a Board of Directors. The turning point in the Company's fortunes was the appointment, as Manager in 1884, of Mr. A. McRobert, who afterwards became Sir Alexander MacRobert, Bart., K.B.E., LL.D., who continued to direct the affairs of the Company until his death in 1922.
Throughout his management of the Cawnpore Woollen Mills there was a period of continued expansion. To the original Woollen Plant was added a Worsted Plant in the late 1880's also a Felt-making Plant, and, to absorb the excess worsted yarns which the plant was capable of producing, a Hosiery Plant, and Power Looms with a fully equipped Finishing Plant to follow were gradually installed. The lines of development were thus laid down at a very early date, and expansion continued along these lines until the end of the First World War.
Thereafter, a gradual change in plant became necessary to meet the increased demand for finer quality goods which had sprung up all over India and, while limitations of space precluded any large extension of building, it was possible to obtain greater efficiency by regrouping of the plant and the buildings which were then available.
The company suffered a grave setback in 1910 when a serious fire broke out which smouldered for several months. The damage was largely confined to the godowns containing the company's manufactured goods and the bulk of its stocks of raw materials, but fortunately the Manufacturing Plant was, with the exception of some handlooms, largely untouched. The loss, therefore, although severe, did not greatly affect the working of the Mills, which was soon in a position again to enter the market.
During 1910 and 1911 a large rebuilding programme had been taken in hand and this was completed in 1912, and the buildings then erected contain the bulk of the Manufacturing Plant. In the years 1914-18, as during the whole of the present War, the entire productive capacity of the Mills was placed at the disposal of Government. and was utilized under orders issued by the Government of India.
In the year 1920, The British India Corporation was established and registered as a Limited Company, managed by a Board of Directors. The corporation was formed with the specific object of combining and amalgamating under one Board of Directors, the following businesses with effect from 1st of January, 1920.
• Cawnpore Woollen Mills Co. LALIMLI, Kanpur (Estd. in 1876)
• Cooper Allen & Co. Ltd., Kanpur (Estd. in 1881).
• North West Tannery Co. Ltd. Kanpur (Ested. in 1881)
• New Egerton Woollen Mills Co. Ltd. DHARIWAL, Dhariwal, Punjab (Estd. 1882)
• Cawnpore Cotton Mills Co. Ltd. KAKOMI, Kanpur (Estd. in 1882)
• Empire Engineering Co. Ltd. Kanpur (Estd. in 1894)
The fortunes of the company, and alongwith it, its unit Lal-imli, continued to score new heights under the British Regime. It was during the 2nd World War that the mills were worked to full capacity so as to fulfill the larger demand of Woollen Cloth for the British Armed Forces and this was probably the period when Lal-imli achieved peak performance in terms of production and capacity utilization. But by the time the war was over, the writing on the wall was clear that sooner or later the British would have to leave India.
The then management thus lost interest in the progress and development of the woollen units and all activities of expansion and updating of plant and machinery received a set back. The Indian private management which took over from the Britishers also did not take any effective measures towards restoring the mills to their normal health. The fortunes of the units thus continued to waver.
In 1956 when Sri Haridas Mundra was the Chairman of the company a scam involving the issue of duplicate share certificates took place which snow-balled into a major national issue. The scam took such proportions that it had effects on the Government Exchequer and the then Finance Minister Sri T.T. Krishnamachari had to resign, over the issue.
As a result of the Mundra Scam, the Board of Directors of BIC was dissolved and a fresh Board of Directors was constituted by the High Court of Allahabad. Sri H.S. Chaturvedi Retd. Judge was appointed as Chairman of BIC, and the Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University became the Vice Chairman.
In 1961-62 The British India Corporation acquired M/s. Begg Sutherland and Co. by purchasing shares of the company and thus took over the entire control and management of the Corporation. This corporation was owning six companies viz
1) The Elgin Mills Co. Ltd.
2) Cawnpore Textile Ltd.
3) Saran Engineering Co. Ltd.
4) Brushware Ltd.
5) Kanpur Sugar Works
6) Chamapran Sugar Words
During the 1970s the downward slide of the company continued and the mills started inching towards sickness. By the year 1980 the mills were almost on the verge of closure. To avoid such a disastrous end to the pioneers of the Woollen Industry, BIC was taken over by the Govt. of India on 11th June, 1981 by a special act of the Parliament "The British India Corporation Ltd. (Acquisition of Shares) Act, 1981."
The private shares of the company was thus acquired by the Government of of India, The Govt. took corrective measures in the form of partial doses of modernization to pull BIC out of doldrums, but the same proved ineffective.
The company continued to incur losses specially because the modalities of nationalization did not address the issue of old liabilities which continued to exist. Even the loans taken by the private management prior to nationalization continued to get compounded resulting in massive accrual of liabilities. The rate at which such liabilities continued to grow was definitely much higher than the company's activities.
As the company continued to incur losses, it was referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) on 31st March, 1991 under the provisions of S.I.C.A. The BIFR declared the company sick.
The modified draft rehabilitation scheme of BIC was approved by BIFR in Feb. 2008. As per directions of cabinet the MDRS was reassessed by IFCI & WRA and forwarded to BRPSE for its approval. The scheme was approved by BRPSE on 28th July, 2010. It is expected that the cabinet approval and other formalities will be completed shortly and thereafter production activities shall resume in full swing.