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Chance Beginnings – The Story of Paharpur Cooling Towers Ltd.
10 September 2014

Many years ago, some time in the 1960s, Mahendra Swarup, the man who started Paharpur Timbers Private Limited in

Calcutta (now named Paharpur Cooling Towers Ltd., Kolkata) told me the story of how he happened to enter the cooling tower business. His family owned a timber saw mill in the Calcutta dock area. In the beginning sawn timber and packing cases were manufactured and supplied to various industrial units and defence factories. Subsequently, more sophisticated items like ammunition boxes, truck bodies, railway coaches, etc. Were taken up. After independence, when India embarked on a drive to build new fertilizer and steel plants, the temples of modern India, as Nehru referred to them, cooling towers were imported from US and European companies. It was during 1956, when Fertilizer Corporation of India (FCI) was building India’s fi rst fertilizer plant at Sindri, when a chance opportunity came Mahendra Swarup’s way. The cooling tower for Sindri Fertilizer was being supplied by a US company. In transit, the wooden components of the cooling tower got destroyed in a fi re on board the ship. As the US company would take a long time to supply the replacement wooden components, and the project was nearing completion, the Sindri project chief selected Paharpur for replacing the burnt out wooden components of the cooling towers, specially because he was aware of Mahendra Swarup’s in-depth knowledge of wood and the fact that Paharpur had a modern wood treatment plant. The job was completed in time and Sindri Fertilizer plant was commissioned on schedule. After the successful completion of supplies of replacement treated wood components for the cooling tower at Sindri Fertilizer, a great opportunity came when FCI took up the next fertilizer plant at Rourkela Steel Plant. Here Paharpur succeeded in booking the order for the complete cooling tower against international competition with part supplies from India and part from USA. The Marley Company (later known as The Marley Cooling Tower Company) of USA provided the mechanical equipment as well as the technical knowhow. This order was given on turnkey basis and included design, manufacture, erection and commissioning of the cooling tower. New technology had to be absorbed by Mehendra Swarup almost singlehanded as Paharpur did not have many qualified engineers then. In 1962, after successfully completing the cooling tower for Rourkela Fertilizer Plant, Paharpur entered into a long-term technical collaboration agreement with The Marley Company. The technical collaboration between Paharpur and Marley lasted 30 years, by which time Paharpur had absorbed the technology fully and had established its own R&D facilities. Today, Paharpur is the largest integrated cooling tower company in Asia, producing all types of cooling towers, including giant concrete hyperbolic cooling towers for power plants. Paharpur’s range covers all capacities, from the smallest to the largest, in all types and with varied materials of construction. They have the largest range of CTI certified cooling towers in India and they are the only ones with CTI certifi ed cooling towers of crossflow design. The first tower for the HVAC industry was sold to Blue Star Ltd in 1963 for a 1200 ton centrifugal chiller installation at the Bhandara High Explosives Factory in Maharashtra and there has been no looking back since. Though the HVAC industry is a small contributor to Paharpur’s sales today, it plays a very important role in the business as many of their towers are located in prestigious modern airports and large hotels. With installations in over 50 countries all around the world, Paharpur’s sales in 2013-14 was over 1200 crores.

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