Larsen & Toubro

Henning Holck-Larsen
Henning Holck-Larsen

Henning Holck-Larsen (July 4, 1907 Frederiksberg, Denmark — July 27, 2003 Mumbai) was a Dane who co-founded the Indian engineering firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T).

Early life and career

Henning Holck-Larsen was educated at the University of Copenhagen (and what is now the Technical University of Denmark). He came to India in 1937 as a chemical engineer working for F. L. Smidth & Co. of Copenhagen. Partnering with his former schoolmate and fellow employee Søren Kristian Toubro, he set up Larsen & Toubro in 1938. The idea of L&T was conceived during a holiday in Matheran, a hill station near Bombay. Holck-Larsen was a risk-taker while Toubro was more conservative. Larsen and Toubro saw opportunities in India at time, when few Europeans had realised the country’s potential for industrial growth.

The first office of L&T, located in Bombay, was so small that only one of them could use it a time. Initially, L&T represented Danish dairy equipment manufacturers. However, the Danish imports were restricted during the World War II, forcing L&T to start a small workshop that provided servicing and undertook small jobs. The imports stopped after the German invasion of Denmark, forcing L&T to start manufacturing dairy equipment indigenously, a move that was successful.

Seeing opportunity in ship repair during wartime, Larsen and Toubro formed a new company called Hilda Ltd. Around this time, L&T also started two repair and fabrication shops. The internment of German engineers who were supposed to build a soda ash plant for the Tatas provided L&T another new opportunity.

Awards and recognitions

Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding (1976)
Knighthood from Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (1977)
Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal for Industrial Peace (1980)
Chemtech Foundation’s Chemical Industry Stalwart Award (2000)
Bombay Management Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2001)
Citation from the Indo-European Union Business Summit for promoting business beyond boundaries (2002)
Padma Bhushan (2002) for contribution to Indian industry