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First Czech Investor in India: Bata

Bata has been a household name in India for a long time now. After so many years none of the brands takes the place of Bata shoes. For Indians, it’s a symbol of good quality and they trust Bata more than any other footwear brand. But most of the people don’t know how this footwear brand makes its place in the heart of every Indian and where it came from. 

The history of Bata company in Indie is long. Lets start from the beginning:


Tomas Bata senior (1876-1932)

So, the name of the man who’s behind this legacy, was Czech businessman Mr Thomas Bata sr, born in Zlin (Czech Republic) on 3rd April 1876.

He visited India in the late 1920s to source rubber and leather for his footwear factories. He saw several barefoot Indians and realized there was a huge market in the subcontinent, too. He vowed to make affordable footwear for the masses.

Mr Tomas Bata decided to invest in India. The first ever workshop of Bata Shoe Company Ltd. in India was initially set up in Konnagar (today part of Kolkata) on the West bank of Hugli river in 1931.The company rented a building and started an experimental shoe production in Konnagar with 75 experts from Czechoslovakia.

His first visit to India was by boat but second time he decided to fly to India with his own aircraft. The aircraft departed from the town of Otrokovice (Czech Republic) on 10 December 1931 and landed in Calcutta (India) on January 16, 1932.

During his second visit to India he decided to buy a property south of Kolkata and to build a town called Batanagar on the East side of the Hugh river. However he died during a crash plane in 1932 when his son Thomas Bata junior was still a minor child. J. A. Bata, brother of Late Tomas Bata senior, took charge over the family business.

Jan Antonín Baťa aka John Antonin Bata (1898 - 1965)

At the time when Jan Antonín Baťa became owner and chief executive officer, the Bata organization employed 16,560 co-workers that maintained 1,645 shops and 25 enterprises. Most of it in Czechia (15,770 employees, 1,500 shops, 25 enterprises) and Slovakia (2 enterprises, 250 employees). The international businesses of the Baťa company consisted of 790 employees, 132 shops and 20 international enterprises.


Batanagar Factory

Bata factory in Batanagar in 1930s


It was him who built up an industrial manufacturing city called Batanagar in 1934. Thanks to him Batanagar became one of the bigger suburban cities near Kolkata. The Batanagar factory is even today one of the largest Bata factories, producing millions of closed shoes, dress shoes and open sandals. 

J. A. Bata also established Bataganj (near Patna, Bihar), Batapur (near Lahore, today in Pakistan) and few other small townships around the factory for the worker's welfare.

J. A. Bata became "King of Shoes". Under his management the Bata group of companies more than doubled the production and made a lot of business wordwide. During his visits to India, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Hongkong, Japan, United States and other countries he was using a modern aircraft Electra which is even at the historical aircrafts museum in Prague

In 1939 when Czechoslovakia was annexed by Nazi Germany J. A. Bata unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the German authorities in order to prevent the control of his company from being taken over by the German army. With his family he went into exil to the United States but in 1941 was blacklisted for having entered into negotiations with the Nazis and was exiled again, settling finally in Brazil, where he founded several towns, including: BataiporãBataguassuBatatubaAnaurilândia and Mariápolis, communities where more than 100,000 people live today.


Thomas Bata jr. (1914 - 2008)

Thomas Bata junior was son of the founder of Bata shoemaking factories Tomas Bata senior. He was born in Prague in 1914 and he ran the Bata Shoe Company from the 1940s until the 1980s. During the time he became the largest shoe maker in the world. 

In 1946 Bata operated 38 factories and 2,168 company shops. His factories produced 34 million pairs of shoes and employed 34,000 people. The headquarter of his company was in the Czech town of Zlin where he also built a lot of houses for people working in his factory.

Unfortunately, in 1948, the communist regime in Czechoslovakia came to power and the factory was fully seized. The town of Zlin has been renamed Gottwaldov after the first Czechoslovak communist President Klement Gotwald and the factory was renamed from Bata to Svit.

Thomas Bata jr. emigrated to Canada where he continued in his incredible business.

Bata company came back to Czechoslovakia only after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The town Gottwaldow was renamed back to Zlin where on 1st January 2001 Tomas Bata University has been established.

Thomas Bata jr. set up shoe making factory in Faridabad (near Delhi). To commemorate this fact a metro station in Faridabad was officially named Bata Chowk. 


Bata Chowk Inauguration

Bata Chowk metro station was officially inaugurated on 6th  September 2015 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President (that time Union Minister for Urban Development) M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Rural Development Birender Singh, Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal.

The metro station is situated near to Bata Colony where Bata factory was making shoes for many years. The factory was closed already but many people who were working in this factory are stil living in this colony. If you want to find it just go from Bata Chowk metro station to cross Bata Chowk up to the end of Bata Flyover where is still open nic Bata Showroom. Not far from that place is Bata Tool Market.

In 2018 when President of India Ram Nath Kovind visited the Czech Republic he mentioned that “the Czech Republic can be a key partner for India's development initiatives” and he also gave an example of Bata when he addressed the Indian Community. That time President Kovind said "A great son of the Czech Republic, Thomas Bata founded the Bata shoe company in a town not far from Prague. And from here it spread to every nook and corner of the world including Batanagar, close to Kolkata in India. Bata shoes today walk in every village, every town and every city in India”. 





First Czech Investor in India: Bata