Sunday, August 4, 2013


Hemendra Prasad Barooah will be remembered as one of the true pioneers of green and sustainable business thinking, an art lover and cultured human being from Assam. But he would be most remembered for his excellence in strategy that once saved tea industry from sure collapse in eighties of last century. According to Kallol Dutta, now president Bengal Chamber of Commerce and industry, “Barooah was the main man to handle insurgency and control it in a way so that the impact was least felt in the gardens. Otherwise, many would have lost their lives and estates would have collapsed He stood up as the main man to communicate with the insurgents, the trade unions, the government and the industry. The tea industry has lost a legend.”

   He is known for his ready wits and for clear vision. He could laugh at himself. Once, a Journalist, from Economic media, asked him, after the Annual Meeting of Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at Kolkata, as to how he should be remembered. He instantaneously quipped “As a sincere Indian, hailing from good old province of Assam, with its great culture.” He was a perfectionist. Barooah was the founder of B. & A LTD and one of the leading lights of the green business movement in Odessa and Assam died at age 87, following a massive heart attack. He went to Bangkok on 29th July for a health check up and died there suddenly on 31st July. His niece Dina and his long time Man Friday, Ranjan were with him when he breathed last. He is survived by his two daughters and host of grand children.  His wife and his son predeceased him. In Assam, he is considered not only as an industrialist but as a decent human being who was known for his humane approach to social and cultural cause. We, all his admirers condole his death.
He has been a philanthropist and did set up Kamal Kumari Foundation, immortalizing his mother’s name, to honour writers, scientist, painters and Journalist with national level award every year. He perhaps was not the richest billionaire of Assam, though many persons believed him as such. However, His father Siba Prasad Barooah was really the richest man from Assam during his time that even used to help great multinational like Williamson Magor’s stature during the days of Pat Williamson in thirties and fortes of last century
 Barooah  played a great role in bringing tea auction centre to Assam along with R. G. Baruah even  when  a part of  influential Calcutta  based tea lobby  opposed the move then.. He was a visionary and a great human being and lived the life a king size. Though he generally lived in Kolkata, culture of Assam was his first love. Tea industry later realized his contribution and nominated him as the president of Indian Tea Association during the most critical time of the industry, during the last century.
 Unlike many captains of industry, he led tea   industry from the front, whether negotiating with government or confronting with terrorists. B. M. Khaitan head of Williamson Magor group has been his life long friend who sincerely supported every move Barooah took for the good of the tea industry including setting up of ITA auditorium at Majkhowa, Guwahati , Assam and setting up of Security force more than confronting  terrorists, to build up the morale of the  planting community. He was one of the trustees of the Balaji Temple Trust of Guwahti till his death.
An MBA from Harvard in 1950 and a Padmashree, Barooah, a trailblazer in the tea industry, owned a number of companies, from tea to tourism. His flagship company, B&A Limited, today owns nine tea gardens, from original four gardens after family partition, with an average production of 57lakh kg of tea. The group also owns Assam Tea Brokers Private Limited, B&A Multiwall Packaging, Heritage North East Pvt Ltd and Kaziranga Golf Club Limited. Barooah said that, during later part of  forties, during last century mostly Indian students used to visit England for higher education. It was at the personal advice of legendary Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, a personal friend and Doctor of his father, Barooah, opted for Harvard Business School. It was a great experience for him.
After his son had died prematurely, he   decided to set up the H.P. Barooah Benevolent Trust, which would get a majority of his holdings. The trust would oversee the affairs of his companies.  He wanted to use the profits of his companies for the benefit of Assamese womenfolk and the education of their children. Barooah was also the past president of Bengal Club in Calcutta and also headed the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the eighties. “ Mr. Barooah was and continues to be our company’s heart and soul”, said  Somnath chatterjee, MD of B. & A Ltd,. "His iconic spirit and pioneering vision are not only his legacy, but our future. We will always honour his spirit by keeping his vision alive and the company on course,” he added. I was invited by him to join the board of B& A LTD in 2003 and served as a director of the company for seven years.
A pioneer in tea tourism, Barooah opened up his ancestral home at Jalukonibari, 15km from Jorhat, to tourists in 2000 and named it Thengal Manor. He, also  opened up two more colonial era managers’ bungalows of his gardens in the district at Gotonga and Sangsua to serve an unforgettable tea experience to visitors. His latest venture was opening up of a golf course of international standards, the Kaziranga Golf Resort, at Sangsua to give an added boost to tea tourism. His admirers said that the company’s and other socio – economic activities initiated by him were true  success  for the great vision and leadership of Barooah.
Barooah’s daring confrontation with Ulfa leadership has been a subject matter of a book, “Stranger of the Mist”, penned by  Sanjoy Hazarika during Eighties of last century. He roared like a lion in the meeting when he was questioned as to why he came for the meeting though no invitation was sent to him. Barooah replied that he has every right to be here when all the members of tea association were called and he being the vice president could not stay away.                                  


R.C. Agarwal said...

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Tanay Sharma said...

It's nice to read your post sir, Your dedication towards your work, your achievement and the big fight to save tea industry in the eighties was just amazing for me. I thank you on the behalf of "Halmari Tea - Assam Tea Online" for your support to Tea Industry.