The rich economy of the Indian sub continent had already lured Egyptians, Arabians and Chinese, when the Europeans came in search of India’s fabled wealth and spices. While some seized the opportunity to exploit, others stayed back and multiplied the rich heritage with their enterprise. From the beginning of its long history of trade ties with the world, Cochin had taken centre stage in India's maritime trade. This is where the story of Aspinwall started, almost a century and a half ago...
The organized trading ventures and business establishments in Cochin were pioneered by the English, and one of the first enterprises in Cochin, South India was the firm of Oughterson & Campbell, from which originated the historical business house of Aspinwall. Oughterson & Campbell was established in 1844 with J. Oughterson as the senior partner. The main business of the firm was timber, shipbuilding and general trading. He eventually sold the business to Finlay Campbell & Co. of London in 1863. The acquisition of the Cochin property and business of Oughterson necessitated bringing in a young Englishman – Mr. John Hutchison Aspinwall, as a partner for management of the Cochin enterprise.
Ritchie Stewart & Co., the parent firm of Finlay Campbell & Co. of London, suffered a crash due to speculation in cotton trading during the American Civil War and in 1867; the entire assets of the firm in Cochin were transferred to the managing partner, Mr. J.H. Aspinwall. On the dissolution of the partnership, the business took the name of Aspinwall & Co. from 30th June 1867, with J.H. Aspinwall becoming the sole proprietor.
J.H. Aspinwall had taken keen interest in the civic and public activities of Cochin area and he was the Vice-President of the Fort Cochin Municipality during the years 1875 to 1878. J.H. Aspinwall was also the President of the Cochin Chamber of Commerce in 1870 and the Chamber records his leading role in the development of Cochin Port.
After the time of J.H. Aspinwall, W.N. Black became the sole surviving partner of the firm. Later his younger brother, E. H. Black, was admitted into the partnership. During the last quarter of the 19th century, the export trade of Cochin had become more general and extensive, with additional commodities participating in the trade, apart from many new trading companies of English and European origin establishing their business headquarters in Cochin. Coconut Oil and Pepper continued to be the primary lines of business of Aspinwall, apart from Coir Fiber / Rope, Hides, Lemongrass Oil, Ginger, Coffee, Turmeric, Copra, Timber, etc. The role of Black Brothers in developing the business of Aspinwall was invaluable, and records mention that William Black was “the real architect of Aspinwall” who diversified the business of the Company.
Although James Darragh first established coir manufacture and trade in 1859 at Alleppey, the real development of export of Coir Yarn took place later. Towards the end of the 19th century, Aspinwall & Co. was participating in the export of Coir Yarn and later in 1904 acquired the Cabral Yard property and established a Hydraulic Baling Press for Coir Yarn in Cochin. The property acquired from the Cabral Family has derived its name from the Portuguese navigator Cabral who made the first shipment of merchandise from Cochin in 1500. This was the beginning of our Natural Fiber business…
Until 1956, Aspinwall & Co. was having the status of a Private Limited Company with a substantial portion of the shares being held by the holding company of J.H. Vavasseur & Co. Ltd., of London. This position changed in 1956 and the Company was converted into a Public Limited Company with the sale of a small part of the shares by Vavasseur to Indian residents – the English holding company retaining the controlling interests. The first major sale of Aspinwall shares in India was to the Travancore Royal Family.
With this initial acquisition of shares by the Travancore Palace, during the reign of H.H. Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, Maharaja of Travancore, their representation on the Company started in 1956. This laid the basis for the acquisition of majority shares of Aspinwall & Co. Ltd., by the Travancore Royal Family in 1971, when the English owners decided to divest their holdings.
H.H. Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma joined the Board of Directors of the Company in 1991 and remained the Chairman of Aspinwall until his demise in 2013. A scholarly statesman who earned the love and respect of his people, he was instrumental in the further development of the Company.
After the demise of H.H. Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, H.H. Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma has taken over as the head of the Royal Family and continues his earlier role as the Managing Director of the Company. He has the vision and drive to take our company forward by maintaining and forging new business and client relationship. He has made us truly International with the recent launch of our European Operations near the Port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Our employees are inspired and motivated by his goals and aspirations.
Aspinwall entered the natural fibre processing industry over a hundred years ago with the manufacturing of handloom and powerloom matting products made from the cocos fibre, called ‘coir’. Coir, being India’s golden gift to the world, is a natural fibre extracted from the protective coconut husk, and is renowned for its versatility, natural elegance, and eco-friendliness (100% bio-degradable). In the Natural Fibre Division, you will see tradition and excellence going hand in hand. Our rich and long experience in the field makes us a better innovator. This could be seen reflected in the new product range that we constantly endeavour at. We are now into all types of floor coverings- made of both natural and synthetic fibres. We have our own manufacturing facility specialized in PVC tufted Coir mats . We are strong in Coir, Rubber, Sea grass, Polypropylene and Jute, and also make steady leaps in Coir Geo Textiles for which we are specialists .
With the recent establishment of our branch office in the Netherlands, at close proximity to Port of Rotterdam, Aspinwall aims to effectively promote our natural fibre product offering through a local dedicated approach, and provide value-addition by being able to cater to the exact requirement of buyers like even few pallet loads of similar products. Further we also offer to clear containers at the port and arrange for delivery of full containers at the customer warehouse.
© Copyright 2014 Aspinwall & Co Ltd. Natural Fibre Division