Visit the Kanpur of yore with a trip to Lal Imli Mill, one of the last remnants of BIC
The almost 128-feet clock tower flanking the majestic red-bricked wall of Lal Imli sounded the alarm for factory workers, for the first time, almost a century ago! Still standing as a testimony to Kanpur's tryst with textile manufacturing, the fame of clothing items produced by Lal Imli achieved great heights during the mid-20th century. In fact, its fame outgrew that of its parent company, as Cawnpore Woollen Mills (later British India Corporation) was famous among customers as Lal Imli Mills! Let's take a walk down the annals of history to know why the citizens of Kanpur still regale with its tall tales.
Popularity with a guarantee of quality
It is popularly believed that Lal Imli had the capacity to produce 65,000 meters of cloth during the 1950s, a length that can approximately cover the road connecting Kanpur and Hamirpur. Further, it is also stated that it employed 10,000 workers in three shifts for 24 hours a day to produce supreme quality woollen clothes made from Merino wool. Other than manufacturing woollens that were exported to foreign shores, Lal Imli also manufactured clothes used by the military for varied purposes.
After nationalisation, Lal Imli started functioning on the "no profit, no loss" model, thereby, the prices were so economical that each stratum of the community could afford it; starting from the marginalised to the elites. This ensured a steep rise in the popularity of woollen clothes produced by Lal Imli and consequently, it overshadowed other subsidiaries of Cawnpore Woollen Mills.
The rise of Manchester of East
Almost 300 British soldiers were killed during the Satti Chaura revolt in 1857 and after this incident, Britishers turned Kanpur into a fortress. Heavy deployment of armed personnel in and around the city resulted in high demand for woollen clothing, shoes, canvass tent and other textile materials. To meet these demands, Cawnpore Woollen Mills was established and these mills became the sourcing centre for the entire India and consequently, Kanpur earned the sobriquet of Manchester of East.
As the stories go, the warmth of a set of Lal Imli manufactured woollen clothing was so much that the wearers often started sweating, even in chilling winters! Live and hear similar tales as you interact with the locals while exploring these fossilised factories that stand as historical landmarks. Also, don't forget to document the mill worker colonies in your travelogue, which still stand as a testimony to the Manchester of East.