Wednesday, August 5, 2015




It pains me to know that the “Time keeper of the Nation “ is facing extinction. Yes I mean HMT watch manufacturing shall shortly come to halt in our country.
Founded in 1953 , HMT was a brainchild of Pandit Jawahar lal Nehru.The company started with tractors and machine tools and later moved to Watches in 1961.The first Watch unit was also inaugurated by Pandit ji. The brand that had more than 11crore satisfied customers in India is facing Extinction today.

In Kashmir , We had a successful and well managed HMT Watch unit at Zainakote near srinagar city . We had some dealers as well in Srinagar . I remember “ TIME AND SOUND “ shop in Ganda Singh Building lal Chowk . I also remember the stylish brand names ; JANATA, SONA , NISHAT, PILOT, SWEEKAR ,VIJAY ,JAWAN, SAINIK, RAKSHAK, VISHWA, KAJAL, RAJAT , LALIT, KANCHAN , SUJATA, KOHINOOR, ELEGANCE , UTSAV , JHALAK, CHINAR, SANGAM , INOX GOLD ,ASTRA and many more. From Kashmir, we produced CHINAR. Come marriage season, you would find a spurt in demand for many models particularly gold plated KANCHAN. Quite often ,during Deepawali or Marriage season, prospective buyers were wait listed for KANCHAN.

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Smt.Indira Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh wore HMT watches.A gold plated HMT watch presented to Leonid Brezhnev by Indira ji was seen on his wrist for quite sometime. And with Indira Ji wearing a HMT watch,Many of her cabinet colleagues and senior bureaucrats too shifted to HMT wrist watches.

For quite sometime, the brand slogan for marketing HMT wrist watch would be..

" If you have the inclination,we have the time"

Quite often , a brief documentary made by Films Division to promote HMT wrist watches, was also screened in cinema Halls as a prelude or interlude to a commercial movie.

HMT gave us Quratz collections and Mechanical – hand wound and automatic series and the Pocket Watch. HMT also produced first Braile watch in the country
In fact HMT brand had a demand in Neighboring Pakistan as well. This fact I learnt possibly in 1977 when I saw an elderly lady from Srinagar buying three HMT watches which she wanted to carry to Pakistan where she was going for some marriage event . She had been specifically asked to bring HMT watches and Indian saris by her relations .

I vividly remember the company’s showroom outside Broadway Hotel in Srinagar . Be it an engagement in the family , a marriage function or a gift to some loved one , HMT wrist watch was the preferred choice.

Started in 1972, the Srinagar unit of HMT was initially engaged in assembling watch components but from December 1975, it started producing watches independently.
Many old employees still remember the immense contribution of Mr Pani and Mr Venkatesh ,two senior officers from Bangaluru unit ,who were deputed to valley for setting up Zainakote unit of the company in early seventies of the last century. Both of them had to work almost round the clock to establish HMT Zainakote srinagâr.

In January 1990, the srinagar unit faced major crisis when H L Khera General Manager of the company and an efficient officer was kidnapped and later killed by Armed Militants . With this killing and wide spread Militancy all around , a vast section of its employees felt terrorised and moved out of the valley . With them left some highly skilled staff that belonged to various states of the country . Manufacturing came to a grinding halt. Later Employees too opted for VRS while the accumulated losses of the company kept mounting . Inspite of recurring capital infusion by Government of India, the survival crisis of HMT could not be addressed .The market sheen and share of the brand kept dipping lower and lower .
This unit possibly gave kashmiris their first exposure to Corporate working . The unit had residential Quarters for staff, a crèche for its women employees , a subsidized Canteen and an efficient Transport system for the staff. I would see a good number of employees at Ahdoo’s Hotel at evening time enjoying their Tea , Kebabas , Butter Toasts and chicken Patties .

In march 2015 , I read a news item in a National News paper

“HMT’s three units — two in Karnataka and one in Andhra Pradesh — are among the five sick Central Public Sector Enterprises which the Union Government has decided to close down”

Inspite of repeated capital infusion at various units ,the company faced Pan country crisis and its market share kept dwindling for so many reasons.

We are told that all HMT units are to be shut down in phased manner . And BRPSE ( Board for reconstruction of Public sector Enterprises) has already given a go ahead for this winding up.

The elegant HMT brand is facing extinction now. In a market that is currently flooded with so many brands , we shall miss HMT.

I end this brief post on HMT watches with a couplet of Majrooh Sultanpuri

Duvaayein De Rahein hain Raaste Mujh Aabalaa Paa ko
Meray Qadamon ki Gulkaari Bayaabaan se chaman Tak hai..

( Autar Mota )

( Photograph source ..Wikipedia )

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