Robert Stanes, who made a small town a leading industrial city - Coimbatore, S.India

Robert Stanes, British industrialist based in Coimbatore,
Stanes House' ,150 years old was the residence of Sir Robert

During the British rule in 1800s,  numerous British business families moved over to India to start their business ventures and many of them succeeded in their pioneering efforts. They mainly owned coffee and tea estates  in the hilly places and some of them got into engineering goods, automobile, etc. Soon after independence, many companies left their operations under the control of Indians and retained their legacy. Even to day many British firms are household names.

Sir Robert Stanes (May 1841–September 1936),  a British businessman and philanthropist was the founder of  United Nilgiri Tea Estates (UNTE) in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, S.India.

StanesSchool, Coimbatore.
Son of James Stanes, china and glass shipping merchant and and  his wife Sarah Poultney Stanes, Robert  Stanes was  born in Aldgate, London the eighth of nine children. James already opened his line business in India which was under the  East India company's rule and many of his sons were taking care of his business, His second son James Stanes junior (1830–1852) opened the Runnymede Coffee Estate near Coonoor in Madras Presidency in 1848.  In May 1852 he died in a freak drowning accident. Subsequently James Stanes' sons one by one arrived in Madras Presidency to carry on their business. When aged seventeen, Robert Stanes came  to India  on 24 December 1858 on his father's ship, the SS Trafalgar. It was simply a holiday trip, but Robert ended up settling down  finally in Coimbatore, then a very small town in Madras Presidency (now in Tamil Nadu).  In those days, there was no direct railway link from Chennai to Coimbatore. After train journey up to Katpadi, he arrived at Coimbatore covering a long distance by bullock-cart ride and on horseback.   Five years later he established himself as  a successful coffee planter and operator of coffee curing plant. The Stanes Coffee Curing Works, on the Race course road, Coimbatore was established in 1861, the first of its kind in this region. The Stanes family established many tea and coffee plantations on the Nilagiri hills. If Nilagiri hills area is today famous for tea and coffee plantations, it is because of Stanes and his family who were pioneers in this field.

As ill-luck would have it, sudden  collapse of his brother Stanes Watson 's business which was linked with his business,  impacted Stanes and Co. In its wake in 1889, Robert lost his business and left with a paltry sum of just Rs.500.00 (roughly $8.00; about £40 then). The family endured the loss and pain stoically. Unmindful and determined, Robert started his business all over again  and climbed the rungs one by one and at the time of his death he  owned cotton mills, coffee and tea plantations in the Nilagiri hills, coffee curing plants, motor works and tire retreading plants. A small town through his efforts became an industrial town. Now Coimbatore is a major industrial city  and accounts for the largest number of submersible water pumps in India, automobile spares, etc. it was  once called the Manchester of S. India, having the largest number of cotton ginning and textile mills next  only to Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Robert Stanes was one of the pioneers in tire retreading business in India and his retreading plant in Coimbatore was one of the earliest ones in the Indian Sub continent. Robert also started  the Coimbatore Spinning and Weaving Mill,  the first textile mill in southern India.

Incidentally Robert Stanes was the first chairman of Coimbatore municipality when the town formed a municipal council.  In 1913, in recognition of his contribution to industries and education in Coimbatote,  Robert Stanes received  the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal. In 1920 he was knighted for his overall services to the society.  Robert  started Stanes school in Coimbatore  in 1862 and another
Stanes school began to function in Coonoor in 1875. Sir Robert, who died in Coimbatore in 1936,  was buried alongside his wife, Harriet Huntingdon Harris (1843–1901), at All Saints church, Coonoor, Nilagiri District.

Robert Stanes proved that 'with endurance and indomitable spirit  one can pass through the difficult hurdles in one's life and finally come out victorious.

A stickler for discipline and work ethics  Robert was instrumental in inspiring  G.D.Naidu, a well known inventor and industrialist in the late 1800s and early 1900s to run Bus transport company.  Presently, Stanes and co is part of Amalgamation group, a big industrial conglomerate based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Today Coimbatore has the reputation of being one of the leading industrial cities of India, it is because of Robert Stanes' vision and foresight.


Obituary, The Times, 8 September 1936
    Robert Stanes in The Hindu Metro Plus