For various reasons, 1905 is a significant year in Indian history. In this year, the then Viceroy of India Lord Curzon took the decision to partition Bengal. The ‘Banga Bhanga’ agitation was started to oppose this. Abanindranath Tagore drew his famous ‘Bharat Mata’ picture in this year, inspired by nationalistic feelings. At the same time the Bangiya Kala Sansad Was founded inspired by his call. During this tumultous time, Girindra Coomar Laha (1889-1978), a meritorius student, passed out with flying colours in the Entrance Examinaiton from the City Collegiate School. After a short period of time, he joined Messrs. Aukhoy Coomar Laha, an organisation started in his father’s name. The business of this organisation was to supply paints used in the industry and in homes. The business was started in 1870. The shop was at the crossing of Bentinck Street and Dharamtolla Street, to the west of the famous Tipu Sultan mosque. The number of the shop then was 46/11 Bentinck Street. When the new Central Avenue was laid out, all establishments here were razed down and the shop then shifted to 1, Dharamtalla Street.
Having entered his father’s business in 1905 at the tender age of 16, Girindra Coomar Laha’s foresight told him that there was a great demand for paints as well other accessories used in arts and crafts. Also, that there was a promising future in this trade. With this idea in his mind, he and his only brother Bhabendra Coomar Laha (1891-1968) jointly left their father’s concern to establish G.C. Laha Private Limited. At that time, indigenous paints were not prevalent in this country. Most artists used paints manufactured by Winsor & Newton, a foreign company. Girindra Coomar Laha did not feel Satisfied buying these colours from the market. Without hesitating, he shot off a letter to the authorities of the world-famous company, asking if he could be a direct agent of their products.
A representative from the company visited Calcutta, and after striding up and down Dharamtalla street, finally managed to locate the shop face. The shop measured just three feet by five feet. But seeing the sincerity and optimism of the 16-year-old boy, the foreign gentleman was satisfied and the business agreement was prepared. From that time till the Indian Independence, the agreement was maintained with mutual respect. That famous G.C. Laha, the pride of all Bengalis and the witness of many vicissitudes down these historic years, has proudly stepped into its centenary year. It need not be repeated that the true, upright and philanthropic Girindra Coomar Laha is the driving force behind the organisation,. This man, who had an inclination for the arts, shared a cordial relationship with all contemporary artists, both the famous and the lesser known. One story goes that famous painter Raja Ravi Varma wrote to Messrs G.C. Laha, asking for a particular paint that he couldn’t find anywhere in south India. As soon as he received that letter, Girindra Coomar Laha sent off the paint to Varma without even bothering about an advance payment. After this incident, Raja Ravi Varma became a devoted customer of the shop. He has even visited the establishment a few times. As a memento of their friendship, he gifted Girindra Coomar Laha one of his oil paintings. It is a matter of great pride that the list of illustrious customers of the shop includes names like Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, NandalalBasu, Percy Brown, Jamini Ray, Arai Bose, Hemen Majumdar, the three Ukil brothers Sarada, Barada and Ranada, J.P. Ganguly, Bhabani Charan Laha, M.G. Thakur Singh, Debiprasad Roy Choudhury, Mukul Dey and others. With almost all these famous men, Girindra Coomar Laha progressed to a personal relationship through matters of mere business.
In the footsteps of their father, all three sons of Girindra Coomar Laha — Biswanath Laha (1914-1997), Pashupatinath Laha (1922) and & Loknath Laha (1926-2001) — have expanded the scope of their business. As with their father, they developed a deep friendship with well-known artists such as Gopal Ghosh, Satyajit Ray, Chintamani Kar, Sunil Madhav Sen, Sunil Pal, Shanu Lahiri Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, M. Fida Hussain, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Prakash Karmakar, Suvaprasanna as well as many of the young artists of this generation. Like their philanthropic father, his descendants have silently worked for the cause of social good and help for the needy. The son of Pashupati Laha,.Partho Laha (1966) and the son of the deceased Loknath Laha, Siddharth Laha (1967) have never moved away from the high ideals of their father and grandfather and have kept the giant wheels of the organisation running. This has only helped them move forward with honesty and sincerity. On the occasion of its centenary, I offer my warmest wishes and my heartfelt congratulations to this distinguished and exclusive distribution centre.