Our story begins on a pleasant June evening in Calcutta, in 1952. 2 friends made their way home from a movie, talking about life and the future. An opportunity had presented itself, one that they were going to jump right into - they were going to start their own transport company.
As agents of a company handling transport operations in Balurghat, they had some understanding of what it would take. The family’s first business of trading, fuel supply, and bus services in various parts of West Bengal had also given them some exposure to the on-ground realities of transport.
The next morning, on June 25th, 1952, Balurghat Air Transport came to life.
Sri UC Sethia started the company from an unused spare office, with a single aircraft. At the time, transportation was not good or very reliable, partly due to poor roads that had hastily been built post-independence.
In addition to commercial projects, Balurghat Air Transport became another vehicle for the family’s good works in service of the community and the country. The goodwill they had built added to the reputation they were building as transparent and dependable operators. One of India’s oldest airliners, Balurghat Air Transport operated for a decade, providing transport services for both passengers and cargo. With the Chinese aggression in 1962 came nationalization, and the company pivoted to road transport and logistics.
The challenge with road transport at the time - particularly in the North East of India - was the lack of bridges.
Trucks would have to offload often, cross the river via country boats, and reload materials on the other side. With a limited permit system and a lack of rigidity over rules and safety, it was of utmost importance to leadership that Balurghat remains a name associated with transparency and above-board operations. Competition was very fierce then, as it is now, yet the Balurghat brand grew across Eastern India.
From locals along routes to the authorities to clients, there was an appreciation of the integrity of operations and the vast scope of the social service performed by the company and company individuals.
In 1971 the country faced another war. Balurghat being a border town was in the midst of the shelling, during which time the family opened its doors to provide shelter to town inhabitants. The company provided transportation services to the government, carried rations to the troops, and received recognition for their service. The unrest in the area caused the other partners in the business to baulk, and Balurghat entered the new decade as a company run solely by the 4 brothers of the Sethia family.
As a young country gaining momentum, the 80s were a time of growth in India. In 1980, Balurghat Technologies was awarded the tender of transportation for the development of a new paper mill in Assam.
The Hindustan Paper Corporation project was carried out over a period of 5 years, in the midst of the Assam movement. From 1980 to 1985, Balurghat Technologies remained the sole contractor till the completion of the project. Alongside this historic project, a second, landmark project was also underway. In 1982, Balurghat Technologies became part of one of the largest projects of the government of India at the time - NALCO.
Managing monumental government contracts in hard-to-reach areas and doing so with speed and efficiency further grew the company’s reputation. With the IPO in 1993, Balurghat Technologies became a public company and focused on growing the fleet size and gaining momentum in a period of high growth. Despite technology making an impact on several other industries, it hadn’t quite made a mark on the logistics industry just yet. The challenges of poor infrastructure also remained. Working on defence projects in sensitive areas as well as companies like Bata and delivering goods right to retail stores, the company was able to grow its strength while diving deeper into exploring the other possibilities in logistics in order to serve a growing and innovating customer base.
The late 90s saw a split in the larger family, leading to untiring efforts in the 2000s to make the company liability-free and fully compliant in 8 years.
Today, Balurghat Technologies is a company with a vast legacy of dependability, in terms of clients as well as the community. The third generation operates with a standard of excellence that has been a highlight of the company’s service offering since its inception.
“None of our clients have ever felt that we haven’t executed the way they wanted. It might not work out commercially, but it has never happened that we had a project that we didn’t execute as per the client’s requirements. They depend on us because regardless of the value of the consignment, we execute the delivery. It might not work out commercially for us or them - because either our rates are too high or we are not competitive enough, but once a project is received, it is executed.”
The ability to pioneer while operating as a traditional company has also been a long-standing quality of the company. Today that is a pivot to very fast-paced technology adoption that can serve both traditional needs as well as more new-age requirements. As the company makes new strides in the sunrise industry of today, it brings with it a lifetime of knowledge and experience, giving old and new clients a blended advantage that few companies are able to offer.