Founded in 1830, Calcutta Chamber of Commerce is the oldest Commerce and Industry Association not only in India but in entire Asia. The documents and records available with the Chamber reveal that the first public meeting of the Tradesman of Calcutta took place on Saturday the 12th of June 1830, at Messrs. Leyburn & Co.'s rooms at 2 Lal Bazar Street. This meeting was the result of a private one, held in consequence of a recommendation from the Hon'ble Sir Charles Edward Grey, the then Chief Justice of Bengal.
Excellence & Business Association 194 years
Pursuant to the public circular about two hundred tradesmen of Calcutta and its adjoining areas gathered at 9 A.M. on 5th of July 1830 at the Exchange Rooms of Mckenzie, Lyall & Co., at 14 Tank Square (now known as BBD Bagh). Mr. Samuel Smith was called upon to Chair the meeting. The Meeting adopted a resolution to form an association of tradesman named as "Calcutta Trades Association" with Samuel Smith of Samuel Smith & Co. as its first President. In 1958, J C Sharma of Cooke & Kelvey became the first Indian to be elected as the Master.
The foundation of the first ever business organization was thus laid in Calcutta the then Capital of India, to encourage trade and commerce and accelerate business and industrial growth of India.
The Calcutta Trades Association which was established in 1830, assumed the name of "Calcutta Chamber of Commerce" in 1977. It is indeed a matter of pride that Calcutta Chamber of Commerce can rightfully claim to be the oldest Chamber of Commerce not only in India but also in the entire Asian region.
On the 29th of December 1834, the Association was granted recognition as the first public body with powers to address the Government direct and on the 18th of January, 1883 it acquired the status of a corporate Body immediately following the incorporation of the Indian Companies Act, 1882. The most distinguishing operational aspect of the Calcutta Trades Association and its descendent, the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce, was its contribution for improving Calcutta's civic amenities.
In 1862, the Calcutta Trade Association adopted its emblem and motto. The motto "Industria Ditat" is in Latin, translated in English it means "Diligence makes one rich". With the socio-economic change in the country we follow the same motto with some difference ---- "DILIGENCE BRINGS PROSPERITY AND WELFARE TO A COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE", because diligence is the basis of industrialisation with disciplined trade and commerce.
The history of the West Bengal Legislature dates back to 18 January 1862 when under the Indian Councils Act of 1861, a 12 Member Legislative Council for Bengal was established by the Governor-General of India with the Lt. Governor of Bengal and some nominated members. Mr. Frederick Jennings of Messrs. F. & C. Osler the Master was the first recipient of the honour of being nominated by the Lieut. - Governor of Bengal as a Member of that Council. The Calcutta Trade Association had the privilege of having one seat in the Legislative Council and subsequently in the Legislative Assembly till 1947.
In recognition of its contribution to City of Calcutta, Under the Act II of 1888 (the Calcutta Municipal Consolidation Act), the Calcutta Trade Association was entitled to elect four persons, which were then nominated by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal to act as Municipal Commissioners at the Calcutta Corporation. The first four members nominated were A. Action of Caledonian Printing Co. Ltd, M P Gasper, Barrister-at- Law, W H Phelps of Phelps & Co. and W M Osmond of Mackintosh, Burn & Co.
The Port Commission, as reconstituted under the Act III of 1887, in recognition of the contribution of the Calcutta Trades Association entitled it to nominate one member as the Commissioner. George Irving was the first member to be nominated. Over the years several members of the Association were honored for their services and contribution to the society, trade and business.
The Chamber had a great contribution towards drafting of the original Calcutta Municipal Bill. It also agitated effectively for improvement of the conservancy service in Calcutta. It was also during this post-war period that the Association took active interest in the Bengal Town Planning Bill of 1920, the Merchandise Marks Act and the Bengal Children social ills and abuses. The historical testimonials reveal that the Chamber was instrumental in introducing the Copyright Act, Limited Partnership Act and Apprenticeship Law, Calcutta Port Trust Bill and also to broach the idea of construction of Howrah Bridge across the Hooghly River. The Chamber's contribution to the construction of Town Hall was very significant.
The Chamber demonstrated its progressive role by whole-heartedly supporting the Bank Nationalization and welcoming the nationalization of General Insurance. It gave the first corporate support to the opening of National Employment Register when Employment Exchange was an unknown concept. It tried to mitigate human sufferings by raising funds for providing relief to the victims of flood, famine and natural calamities.
It may be recalled with real gratification that this august body has established the tradition over a century and ninety-two years to serve the country and the people in material progress and help development of the metropolitan City of Calcutta.
The journey of 193 years from Calcutta Trade Association to the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce is one of reflecting change and driving change. No other business organization has been a player, a witness and a game changer to the events and changes taken place in the history of the country. Several players have entered into this arena over the period for the life to change. What will not change is the fact that Calcutta Chamber of Commerce will always be the leading indicator and the creator of change it its field of activity.