G D Naidu or Gopalswamy Doraiswamy Naidu is fondly remembered as the ‘Edison of India’ for initiating the industrial revolution in the country.
During his lifetime, Naidu worked on several inventions in multiple fields like electrical, agricultural, mechanical and the automobile.
Among his path-breaking inventions are the kerosene-run fan, projection TV, mechanical calculator, ticket-vending machine, electric razor, and the first electric motor in the country.
Naidu was born on 23 March 1893 in a Telugu-speaking family. He was never quite interested in studies.
While working on his father’s farm, a 16-year-old Naidu laid eyes on a 1912 model Rudge motorcycle that belonged to a British revenue officer, and he wanted one for himself.
So, he left his native village, Kalangal, and moved to Coimbatore to work as a waiter at a hotel and eventually saved up Rs 300 to buy the bike.
Today, a century later, the bike is preserved in a Coimbatore museum named after him.
Following this, Naidu’s passion for electronics deepened. He dismantled the bike multiple times to study its design and structure and worked as a mechanic too.
A Coimbatore-based industrialist, Robert Stanes, forwarded a loan of Rs 4,000 to Naidu to help him buy a motor coach with which he began his transport business in 1920.
Though he drove his minibus himself for the first few years, he saw his business booming as the only way for people to travel inter-city was via bullock carts or walking.
By 1933, he owned a fleet of 280 buses under the company name Universal Motor Service (UMS) which became one of the largest public transport services in the country.
He also founded New Electric Works in Coimbatore in 1930 which gave India its first electric motor.
In 1944, Naidu retired from all his business-related activities and embarked on the road of philanthropy.
C V Raman best described the diverse life of Naidu, “A great educator, an entrepreneur in many fields of engineering and industry, a warm-hearted man filled with love for his fellows…”