Few FMCG items began to be produced in the domestic market on the eve of Indian independence, few of them had a consistent and standardized quality, but Naulakha soap – a laundry soap, which began production in 1895 and enjoyed devoted fans took.
Its founding story began when Ladha Mal Jain was barely 14 – but excited by the idea of starting her own business. While chatting with friends and discussing ideas where to try their hands, someone suggested to them that soap making is a good idea as it is a non-perishable item which can be used in every household is done on a daily basis. This fired the imagination of the young boy and he bought a large cauldron with the necessary ingredients and began the process of experimentation. After several rounds of trial and error, he was finally able to create a solid bar of soap that was not only effective at cleaning clothes but was also gentle on hands. Although,
Ravinder Jain, the third generation owner of the Centurion brand, said, “We have always had one thing in common – make soaps and ship them. In all these years, we have never spent a single penny on radio, TV or newspaper advertising . We sell the goods by word of mouth because even today we make this soap for the lady who washes clothes by hand. Our soap won’t cut or scratch her hands because we test each batch by placing a tiny crystal on our tongue. The tongue is the best tester. We are always concerned for our customers. There is no adulteration in our goods. Many soap manufacturers have tried to copy and duplicate, but we never go to police stations or courts to chase down duplicates. Best IPR is the feedback of our customers.
Ladha Mal saw immediate success in this venture as her soap gained a loyal customer base. He soon opened a small ‘factory’ as only small cottage industries were famous at that time. Amazingly, there were no other competitors in the same quality or price range so the sales numbers went up and the factory got bigger…then got bigger. Ladha Mal got married and had three sons and three daughters. He married again and had three more sons and three daughters with his second wife. The whole family lived together in Lahore.
After Partition in 1947, Ladha Mal Jain’s family had to flee to India, leaving their home and manufacturing units overnight. After a short stint in Ambala, the family moved to Old Delhi empty-handed and penniless. When the family was on the verge of doom, a miracle happened. A soap trader from Delhi, who had bought a large consignment from Ladha Mal, approached him with the outstanding amount. Like an ant clinging to a weak straw in running water, the family managed to start over. Ladha Mal took a two-storey house on rent on Sadar Thana Road. The family lived upstairs and the ground floor was set up to house ‘battis’ – as the baking vats are called in the parlance of the soap industry. It was completely a family affair, in which the father and six sons worked together.