Image: Motor Indus­tries Co. Ltd., Bangalore

Table of Con­tents
Intro­duc­tion  |  “His­to­ri­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on” by Bosch  |  Bosch (in) India  |  The Records  |  Rese­arch Out­look   |   Archi­ves   |   End­no­tes   |   Biblio­gra­phy


Com­pa­ny archi­ves hold the mate­ria­li­zed pos­si­bi­li­ties for firms to empha­si­ze their his­to­ri­cal signi­fi­can­ce and to crea­te their tra­di­ti­on and can the­r­e­fo­re be important for cor­po­ra­te iden­ti­ties and bran­ding. Sys­te­ma­tic “his­to­ri­cal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on”[1] estab­lishes the company’s image for board mem­bers, stake­hol­ders and employees, as well as for out­si­ders, cus­to­mers and part­ners. As a mat­ter of fact, one can hard­ly speak of “the” com­pa­ny archi­ve, as the­re are few over­ar­ching rules, and archi­val stan­dards are – sim­ply put – deve­lo­ped by the respec­ti­ve company’s inte­rests. The expe­ri­en­ces of rese­ar­chers working with such archi­ves will dif­fer enorm­ously, depen­ding on the com­pa­ny. This artic­le sheds light on the head­quar­ters’ archi­ve of one of Germany’s big­gest glo­bal com­pa­nies, Robert Bosch GmbH’s archi­ve in Stutt­gart, Baden-Wuert­tem­berg, and shows its poten­ti­al for rese­arch on Indo-Ger­man eco­no­mic relations.

Gene­ral­ly spea­king, many lar­ge and still acti­ve com­pa­nies such as Bosch store their own records, whe­re­as many smal­ler and medi­um-sized com­pa­nies that cea­sed to exist have depo­si­ted their hol­dings in the respec­ti­ve state’s eco­no­mic archi­ve (Lan­des­wirt­schafts­ar­chi­ve) or ano­ther sui­ta­ble lar­ger archi­ve, e.g. the com­pa­ny J.M. Voith, which was acti­ve in India simul­ta­neous­ly with Bosch and who­se mate­ri­al can be found in the Wirt­schafts­ar­chiv Baden-Wuert­tem­berg, WABW.[2] In the lat­ter case, the company’s coll­ec­tions usual­ly beco­me one sin­gle hol­ding, as they are inte­gra­ted into an exis­ting archi­val structure.

Com­pa­ny archi­ves hold mate­ri­al that ran­ges from adver­ti­sing pos­ters and pho­to albums through cor­re­spon­den­ces, con­tracts and balan­ce sheets to tech­ni­cal dra­wings and arte­facts, such as the end pro­ducts of manu­fac­tu­ring from dif­fe­rent time peri­ods. In order to crea­te a space to dis­play tho­se arte­facts, the­re may be a cor­re­spon­ding muse­um, as is the case at the Daim­ler AG’s com­pa­ny archi­ve, which is also based in Stutt­gart. This direct con­nec­tion to an insti­tu­ti­on deter­mi­nes the pro­fi­le of the com­pa­ny for the public and reve­als the importance that com­pa­nies ascri­be to retai­ning con­trol over the material’s inter­pre­ta­ti­on. Repre­sen­ta­tio­nal claims are the­r­e­fo­re inher­ent to the natu­re of com­pa­ny archi­ves and the files that are con­side­red wort­hy to con­ser­ve. Bes­i­des, com­pa­ny archi­ves are cer­tain­ly not crea­ted with the inde­pen­dent rese­ar­cher in mind, but for inter­nal pur­po­ses or on legal grounds. The effects this has on the inter­ac­tions bet­ween user and archi­ve have to be considered.

Many firms view scho­lar­ly enga­ge­ment with their varie­ty of sources with inte­rest, so if the initi­al inquiry about per­mis­si­on to con­duct rese­arch is suc­cessful, it is often encou­ra­ged and one finds sup­port from archi­val staff. Howe­ver, it is obvious that, on prin­ci­ple, some com­pa­nies will not be open towards inde­pen­dent rese­ar­chers working in their archi­ves. The rese­ar­cher should tre­at the archi­ve as the company’s pri­va­te space, which can mean a neces­sa­ry chan­ge in habits and approa­ches. If inex­pe­ri­en­ced in the field of busi­ness histo­ry, she is used to start­ing an inves­ti­ga­ti­on by going through digi­tal or ana­lo­gue fin­ding aids, ther­eby accu­mu­la­ting a sen­se of the con­text of the files. One can initi­al­ly be thrown off by the invi­si­bi­li­ty of fin­ding aids and cata­lo­gue struc­tures in many com­pa­ny archi­ves. While eco­no­mic sta­te archi­ves will gene­ral­ly have fin­ding aids available for the rese­ar­cher, it is a dif­fe­rent sto­ry for tho­se that are pos­s­es­sed by the firm. In the Bosch archi­ve, for exam­p­le, the data­ba­se or cata­lo­gue is available sole­ly to the archi­vists, who will then act as inter­me­dia­ries using key­words pro­vi­ded by the rese­ar­cher and by their own knowledge.

To respect Bosch’s pri­va­cy regu­la­ti­ons, MIDA does not publish details on files and hol­dings in the data­ba­se. The main objec­ti­ve of this ent­ry to the Archi­val Refle­xi­con is the­r­e­fo­re to dis­pel pos­si­ble con­cerns by gui­ding and inspi­ring future rese­ar­chers towards working within the archive’s boun­da­ries. The artic­le does not give a descrip­ti­on of the ori­gi­nal struc­tu­re of the mate­ri­al, but rather hints at pos­si­ble rese­arch rou­tes with the files, while out­lining the rele­van­ce of Bosch’s acti­vi­ties in India.

Historical Communication” by Bosch

Bosch’s com­pa­ny archi­ve is part of the company’s depart­ment of “His­to­ri­sche Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on” (C/CGC-HC). It is loca­ted in the cen­tral part of Stutt­gart, the South Ger­man head­quar­ters not only of Bosch, but also of other glo­bal­ly known com­pa­nies, a fact that con­tri­bu­ted to the deep con­nec­tions Bosch shares with other local­ly based firms, which can be tra­ced throug­hout various archi­ves. One fre­quent­ly encoun­ters the name “Bosch” in the eco­no­mic archi­ve of the sta­te of Baden-Würt­tem­berg, WABW, espe­ci­al­ly in the hol­ding of the Cham­ber of Com­mer­ce, Stutt­gart.[3] Docu­ments in the Daim­ler archi­ve also refe­rence part­ner­ships with Bosch in the Indi­an context.

The Bosch archi­ve was estab­lished in 1933 for the occa­si­on of a “dou­ble jubi­lee”: 50 years sin­ce the foun­da­ti­on of the com­pa­ny and the 75th bir­th­day of foun­der Robert Bosch. It was initi­al­ly crea­ted as a muse­um with a cor­re­spon­ding archi­ve. From 1992 onwards, the archi­ve was part of the public rela­ti­ons depart­ment of the com­pa­ny until it was assi­gned to “His­to­ri­sche Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on”. The archi­ve com­pri­ses 2,500 run­ning met­res of records that con­sist of various mate­ri­als: writ­ten records, tech­ni­cal dra­wings, pho­tos and around 16,000 arte­facts, such as spark plugs from dif­fe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons.[4]

Cur­rent rese­arch con­di­ti­ons are influen­ced by the archive’s recent move within the city of Stutt­gart. Files are stored in an exter­nal depot, away from the office space, hence spon­ta­neous orde­ring of files is dif­fi­cult and orders should be pla­ced in advan­ce. The archi­ve deci­des on rese­arch per­mis­si­ons indi­vi­du­al­ly, as the­re is no obli­ga­ti­on to let every rese­ar­cher work with unli­mi­t­ed mate­ri­als. As defi­ned by the user regu­la­ti­ons, rese­arch is gene­ral­ly aut­ho­ri­zed to any­bo­dy who can evi­dence “legi­ti­ma­te inte­rest” in the firm’s histo­ry, so this mat­ter should be suf­fi­ci­ent­ly explai­ned in the initi­al approa­ching email.

The start­ing point for a descrip­ti­on of the pur­po­se of an Archi­val Refle­xi­con ent­ry are the boxes: the stan­dard grey archi­ve boxes, car­ry­ing the file num­ber in pen­cil, which indi­ca­tes grou­pings of seve­ral boxes tog­e­ther as a hol­ding (Bestand). Secu­ri­ty levels assi­gned to each box tend to be set rest­ric­tively and per­mits are given to each inqui­rer indi­vi­du­al­ly. A box in the Bosch archi­ve is trea­ted as a file (Archi­va­lie) and coll­ec­tions of docu­ments that do not neces­s­a­ri­ly belong tog­e­ther the­ma­ti­cal­ly are some­ti­mes stored within the same file. In this man­ner, the box “3 0005 1560 Länder—Indien—MICO” holds docu­ments that ran­ge from 1934 to 1996, con­tai­ning news­pa­per artic­les, cor­re­spon­den­ces with part­ner com­pa­ny Moussel & Co. Ltd., the fac­to­ry maga­zi­ne “MICO Wheel” from 1994, a bro­chu­re for the occa­si­on of the 25th anni­ver­sa­ry of the Voca­tio­nal Cent­re in 1986 and a fair amount more.[5]

Such maga­zi­nes and bro­chu­res, which are abun­dant throug­hout the archi­ve, rela­te to and some­ti­mes even spe­ci­fi­cal­ly speak of a con­cept cal­led “mile­sto­nes”. It is used as a way to struc­tu­re the cor­po­ra­te histo­ry chro­no­lo­gi­cal­ly, with achie­ve­ments being the main bench­marks that defi­ne the path. Apart from the docu­ments that are con­cer­ned almost exclu­si­ve­ly with MICO (nowa­days Bosch Limi­t­ed) and India, orde­ring minu­tes of spe­ci­fic mee­tings can be fruitful. Here, the rese­ar­cher should pro­vi­de some know­ledge of the tigh­test pos­si­ble time­frame of inte­rest. Com­bi­ning this time­frame with a search for minu­tes (“Sit­zungs­pro­to­kol­le”, that often even car­ry the key­word “India” or “MICO” in the archive’s cata­lo­gue), the archi­vist can help loca­te minu­tes of rele­vant board mee­tings etc.

Bosch com­mu­ni­ca­tes being proud of its long invol­vement on for­eign mar­kets. Howe­ver, as Joh­ler and Spa­ra­cio (2011: 9) sta­ted in their 2011 publi­ca­ti­on on Gast­ar­bei­ter:[6] a lot can be found about Bosch in the world, but not quite as much about the world at Bosch. This obser­va­ti­on is defi­ni­te­ly true for the Indi­an con­text, as well. Most of the India-rela­ted mate­ri­al that one is pro­vi­ded with in the archi­ve will cover the actions and the repre­sen­ta­ti­on of Bosch and its Ger­man employees in India, while few records illus­tra­te a rever­se exchange.

Bosch (in) India

The histo­ry of Bosch in India star­ted in the ear­ly 1920s with the estab­lish­ment of a repre­sen­ta­ti­ve office in Cal­cut­ta. The sales house Illies & Co. from Ham­burg impor­ted spark plugs, magne­to igni­ti­on sys­tems and other auto com­pon­ents to Bri­tish India. In the begin­ning, howe­ver, Bosch was unable to com­pe­te with the estab­lished Bri­tish and US sup­pli­ers. After the Second World War, it was rather dif­fi­cult for Bosch to re-estab­lish its­elf inter­na­tio­nal­ly in the so-cal­led indus­tri­al count­ries, sin­ce many of its fac­to­ries abroad had been des­troy­ed or expro­pria­ted. They deci­ded to con­cen­tra­te on pro­mi­sing mar­kets that they had pre­vious­ly not given much atten­ti­on, such as India (see Bähr/Erkner 2013: 333).

Suc­cess came gra­du­al­ly: accor­ding to the repre­sen­ta­tively desi­gned “A Short Memoir of Bosch India” (Bosch Ltd. 2014: 17), Bhail­al Patel from the Bosch com­pa­ny Kino-Bau­er sug­gested estab­li­shing a base in India short­ly after inde­pen­dence. Fol­lo­wing this, the year 1951 marks an important year in the histo­ry of Bosch in India. It is the foun­ding year of the Motor Indus­tries Com­pa­ny Ltd. (MICO), of which Bosch instant­ly bought 49%, upon dis­cus­sing lar­ger invest­ments in the Indi­an auto­mo­ti­ve indus­try with Daim­ler-Benz (Bähr/Erkner 2013: 333). MICO was foun­ded by K.C. Var­ma and Rag­h­unan­dan Saran as a sub­si­dia­ry of Gha­zia­bad Engi­nee­ring Co. (GEC), the main dis­tri­bu­tor of Bosch pro­ducts in India at the time (see Bosch Ltd. 2014: 15). Things moved fast from here onwards: MICO beca­me the sole dis­tri­bu­tor, and after the Indi­an sta­te imple­men­ted rest­ric­ti­ve import regu­la­ti­ons, a fac­to­ry was set up at Adu­go­di, Banga­lo­re in 1953 to manu­fac­tu­re spark plugs, nozz­le hol­ders, fil­ters and fuel-injec­tion pumps by Bosch licen­se. A tool-room app­ren­ti­ce­ship sche­me was imple­men­ted in the same year, a Voca­tio­nal Cent­re fol­lo­wed in 1960.

By 1961, 2,000 peo­p­le work­ed at the Banga­lo­re plant, which had alre­a­dy star­ted export busi­ness, and 57.5% of MICO shares had been bought by Bosch, an act that Herdt (1986: 105) descri­bed as “streng­thening the tech­no­lo­gi­cal umbi­li­cal cord to MICO”. The affi­lia­ti­on with MICO as a “self-suf­fi­ci­ent and strong” exam­p­le of a Bosch part­ner mani­fes­ted its­elf in the moti­va­ti­on to invest and in the ubi­qui­tous will to diver­si­fy pro­duc­tion along with India’s chan­ging indus­tri­al mar­ket (Ibid.: 106). Lar­ge sums were inves­ted in MICO plants in India in the late 1960s and ear­ly 1970s: a second plant was instal­led in Nas­ik in 1969–1971, a third in Naga­nat­ha­pura in 1988. Pro­ducts from the Nas­ik plant were expor­ted to the Fede­ral Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny (FRG) and other count­ries around the world, while the Naga­nat­ha­pura plant con­tri­bu­ted to diver­si­fy­ing pro­duc­tion. By acqui­ring other com­pa­nies in various sec­tors of engi­nee­ring, such as con­trol and moti­on tech­no­lo­gies etc., Bosch out­put beca­me addi­tio­nal­ly diver­se in India over the years, as well. The part­ner­ship with MICO would go on, and in the late 1980s, the second-lar­gest num­ber of Bosch employees out­side of Ger­ma­ny was based in India (behind Bra­zil; Bähr/Erkner 2013: 425) until even­tual­ly, in 2008, MICO was ren­a­med Bosch Limited.

Even though the Banga­lo­re plant initi­al­ly strug­g­led to make a pro­fit, most publi­ca­ti­ons by and about Bosch stress its con­tri­bu­ti­on to the growth of India’s auto­mo­ti­ve indus­try (e.g. Langenscheidt/Steinruecke 2011: 84; Herdt 1986: 106; Bosch Ltd. 2014: 17, 37–39). Bosch com­mu­ni­ca­tors were gene­ral­ly more trans­pa­rent about the role of their own finan­cial and busi­ness inte­rests than some other Ger­man com­pa­nies in India were. Bosch being one of the first com­pa­nies to get invol­ved in deve­lo­p­ment aid, for exam­p­le in the con­text of the pro­duc­tion of water pumps for agri­cul­tu­re, is an achie­ve­ment nota­b­ly ver­ba­li­zed (Herdt 1096: 107; see also Bosch 1961: 111).

In their repre­sen­ta­ti­ve por­tra­y­al of big Ger­man com­pa­nies in India, Lan­gen­scheidt and Stein­rue­cke sta­ted that a part of Bosch’s abili­ty to grow in India was due to dis­tri­bu­ting accoun­ta­bi­li­ty among­st Indi­an agents: “[This] has also widen­ed the scope of respon­si­bi­li­ty for local manage­ment and deve­lo­ped Indi­an talent” (2011: 84). State­ments that hint at aid in deve­lo­ping a new Indi­an work­force are found throug­hout the archi­val mate­ri­al, too. The afo­re­men­tio­ned bro­chu­re for the Voca­tio­nal Cent­re from 1986 speaks about the “human fac­tor” that has to “keep pace” with new machi­nery, illus­t­ra­ting the gene­ral strugg­le of fac­to­ries to adjust trai­ning faci­li­ties to par­al­lel tech­no­lo­gi­cal advan­ces.[7] Spe­cial atten­ti­on was given to sec­tors that requi­red high-pre­cis­i­on hand­ling skills, such as manu­fac­tu­ring fuel-injec­tion pumps. Sin­ce the MICO Voca­tio­nal Cent­re col­la­bo­ra­ted with the Indi­an govern­ment in deve­lo­ping the App­ren­ti­ces Act of 1961, the means of trai­ning at MICO did not mere­ly have theo­re­ti­cal ties to the regu­la­ti­ons of trai­ning on a natio­nal level. The Cent­re its­elf explai­ned its impact in the fol­lo­wing words:

[Man] can only be as effec­ti­ve as he is allo­wed to be by his rela­ti­onships with men and machi­nes. Hence, to be a con­tri­bu­ting mem­ber of his group, man has to be in harm­o­ny with his working envi­ron­ment. Espe­ci­al­ly as tech­no­lo­gies res­ha­pe work­shops and other work­places, and machi­nes gain in sophisti­ca­ti­on, the human fac­tor has to keep pace. The ans­wer lies in trai­ning and deve­lo­p­ment. The deve­lo­p­ment of human resour­ces can­not be left to indi­vi­du­al initia­ti­ve. It has to be built into a plan­ned pro­gram­me and imple­men­ted as a con­scious and sus­tained effort. This has been the gui­ding phi­lo­so­phy in MICO.[8]

When West Ger­man com­pa­nies began to invest in India by buil­ding fac­to­ries in the 1950s, they soon com­plai­ned about a lack of skil­led workers on the ground. Many sta­ted that Indi­an gra­dua­te engi­neers had not under­go­ne any prac­ti­cal trai­ning at all when they were led to the machi­nes (see Hunck 1963: 70). The importance of prac­ti­cal skills in con­trast to aca­de­mic know­ledge was hence­forth stres­sed. At MICO Voca­tio­nal Cent­re, gra­dua­te engi­neers and other uni­ver­si­ty-edu­ca­ted per­son­nel were trai­ned in manu­al skills in one-year cour­ses. App­ren­ti­ces who had not under­go­ne aca­de­mic edu­ca­ti­on befo­re were trai­ned for three years as “trade app­ren­ti­ces”. They were trai­ned as elec­tri­ci­ans, fit­ters, grin­ders, machi­nists or mill­w­right mecha­nics.[9] Infor­ma­ti­on of this sort is easi­ly loca­ted in the records at the Bosch archi­ve, sin­ce sta­tis­tics and sum­ma­ries of MICO’s per­for­mance were com­mu­ni­ca­ted through the mate­ri­al published for stake­hol­ders and the in-house maga­zi­nes, as well as in stored reports or artic­les by third parties.

The Records

Most­ly in Ger­man, some­ti­mes in Eng­lish, the records date from appro­xi­m­ate­ly the 1930s onward and are suc­ces­si­ve­ly exten­ded. The­se ear­liest files on Bosch in India most­ly rela­te to sale hou­ses sel­ling Bosch pro­ducts in India, such as GEC. As the com­pa­ny from Stutt­gart was pre­pa­ring to col­la­bo­ra­te, infor­ma­ti­ve mate­ri­al of a gene­ral sort about India and its eco­no­my was coll­ec­ted. The files reve­al con­side­ra­ti­ons of pro­fi­ta­bi­li­ty and stra­te­gies to get invol­ved on the Indi­an mar­ket. After the invol­vement with MICO had been estab­lished, the mate­ri­al repres­ents the expan­si­on of the com­pa­ny, grou­ped around core ele­ments such as plans for the con­s­truc­tion of fur­ther plants in Nas­ik and Naga­nat­ha­pura. Cor­re­spon­den­ces that are found in the boxes addi­tio­nal­ly deal with the Bosch sales part­ners in India, data on impor­ted pro­ducts or for­eign exch­an­ge deve­lo­p­ments. Other types of files, like the occa­sio­nal minu­tes of board mee­tings of MICO, Annu­al Reports, balan­ce sheets, sta­tis­tics and rati­os, are scat­te­red over the boxes.

Within com­pa­ny archi­ves, hol­dings are often part­ly rela­ted to important board mem­bers or other decis­i­on makers, e.g. after inhe­ri­ting their pri­va­te papers. This par­ti­cu­lar form of orga­niza­ti­on shows inter­na­tio­na­li­ty as an obvious aspect of the busi­ness. High-ran­king employees or chief board mem­bers tra­vel­led around the world fre­quent­ly and left cor­re­spon­den­ces, reports, sche­du­les and minu­tes. In the ear­ly 1950s, Bosch also built fac­to­ries in Aus­tra­lia and Bra­zil and got more invol­ved in the Japa­ne­se mar­ket by sel­ling licen­ses (Herdt 1986: 154–156). The simul­tan­ei­ty of the­se ven­tures is mir­rored in the boxes at the archi­ve. Atten­ding important nego­tia­ti­ons in India and in Bra­zil within a short time span, the records by the most important decis­i­on makers are then stored clo­se to one ano­ther, some­ti­mes even in the same box or fol­der, and can open glo­bal per­spec­ti­ves for the rea­der. Trips were plan­ned meti­cu­lous­ly, with dupli­ca­tes and quin­tu­pli­ca­tes of the tra­vel sche­du­les, whe­ther it was for the visits of high-ran­king Indi­an employees to the FRG or the other way around, or, for exam­p­le for a visit of Abid Huss­ain, who came to Stutt­gart to visit the com­pa­ny in 1988 in his role as a mem­ber of India’s Plan­ning Com­mis­si­on.[10]

Among the Ger­man men on the Bosch side, the name Hans Merk­le is men­tio­ned with high fre­quen­cy in the records rela­ted to MICO . Merk­le was mana­ging direc­tor of the finan­cial depart­ment from the late 1950s onwards and then con­tin­ued to shape the busi­ness throug­hout the deca­des as chair­man of the manage­ment board (1963–1984, which is a cru­cial time peri­od for Bosch’s acti­vi­ties in India). An hono­ra­ry mem­ber of the manage­ment board, he pas­sed away in 2000. In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the Bosch manage­ment board included up to more than a dozen men at the same time. Ano­ther name that can be pin­poin­ted in rela­ti­on to India is Paul Stein, who was in Bosch’s legal depart­ment from 1953 onwards and left the MICO direc­to­ry board in 1989. To the public, he was not as repre­sen­ta­ti­ve as Merk­le, but his influence was cer­tain­ly not small, as his signa­tures on many cor­re­spon­den­ces indi­ca­te (see also Bähr/Erkner 2013: 311). The Indi­an MICO men are less often visi­ble in the Stutt­gart archi­ve, even though some stand out, such as Bhail­al Patel. Patel was a mem­ber of MICO’s direc­to­ry board from 1955 onwards and beca­me chair­man in 1969 and Pre­si­dent of the Indo-Ger­man Cham­ber of Com­mer­ce (IGCC) in 1963–1964. He remain­ed chair­man eme­ri­tus until his pas­sing in 1983. At the fes­ti­vi­ties for the 25th jubi­lee of MICO, for which Merk­le had also tra­vel­led to India, Patel gave a speech that can be found in the archi­ve and that speaks of the histo­ry of MICO, the busi­ness rela­ti­ons, the agree­ments and the achie­ve­ments made in the cour­se of the col­la­bo­ra­ti­on.[11]

Repre­sen­ta­ti­ve mate­ri­al like Patel’s wel­co­me speech, coll­ec­ted news­pa­per artic­les that men­ti­on Bosch in India or MICO, bro­chu­res and so on con­sti­tu­te the majo­ri­ty of the records available to rese­ar­chers. Repre­sen­ta­ti­ve are also intern­al­ly published things, such as the scat­te­red ver­si­ons of the fac­to­ry jour­nal “MICO Wheel”. Many of the­se inter­nal publi­ca­ti­ons were meant for stake­hol­ders. An intri­guing thing to stumb­le upon in this mate­ri­al, bes­i­des the uni­que infor­ma­ti­on on the factory’s con­cerns, is the adver­ti­se­ments. They are not neces­s­a­ri­ly for Bosch or MICO, but most­ly for other West Ger­man com­pa­nies that were acti­ve in India in one way or the other. For exam­p­le, many com­pa­nies put up a one-page adver­ti­se­ment in a maga­zi­ne on the Hano­ver Trade Fair in 1984, dis­tri­bu­ted among­st com­pa­nies by the Indo-Ger­man Cham­ber of Com­mer­ce (IGCC), e.g. com­pa­nies like Otto or Bha­rat Fritz Wer­ner.[12] Not only do the adver­ti­se­ments signi­fy who was acti­ve in India at the time, they often include much leng­thi­er texts than what is com­mon today, pro­vi­ding infor­ma­ti­on about acti­vi­ties, rhe­to­ric and world view. For exam­p­le, a MICO adver­ti­se­ment in the IGCC maga­zi­ne offers insights into its tar­get group by equa­ting “tra­di­ti­on” (repre­sen­ted by a pho­to of two hands car­ving ivo­ry dei­ty figu­ri­nes) and “modern tech­no­lo­gy” (two hands hol­ding a small metal machi­ne part), sta­ting that the “India of today is a hap­py blend” of both.[13] Adver­ti­se­ments like this cate­red to con­ser­va­ti­ves as well as pro­gress enthu­si­asts, and to the blend of both.

This maga­zi­ne and other publi­ca­ti­ons by the IGCC that Bosch coll­ec­ted also show the kind of infor­ma­ti­on and gui­dance that was sent to Bosch and other com­pa­nies and was being stored the­re. Espe­ci­al­ly the IGCC’s infor­ma­ti­ve out­put can be of gre­at value for rese­arch on the Indo-Ger­man eco­no­mic ent­an­gle­ments of the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tu­ry, as they pro­vi­ded not only gui­de­lines, but also con­cre­te sta­tis­tics, such as lists of firms that were loo­king for export part­ners.[14]

Research Outlook

Though this over­view could by no means be exhaus­ti­ve, inte­res­t­ing out­looks for pos­si­ble future rese­arch deri­ve from the enga­ge­ment with the mate­ri­al. Gene­ral­ly, the archi­ve can rela­te to rese­arch are­as of Indo-Ger­man eco­no­mic col­la­bo­ra­ti­on, tech­ni­cal edu­ca­ti­on, busi­ness histo­ry and the histo­ry of tech­ni­cal deve­lo­p­ments. The­re are many pos­si­ble rou­tes for rese­arch with the Bosch archi­ve and, as far as is known, the­re has to date not been an inten­si­ve aca­de­mic enga­ge­ment with the Bosch-MICO matters.

The archi­ve shows com­pa­ny ethics, values, poli­tics, visi­ons, ideo­lo­gies and inte­rests that one can cer­tain­ly inter­pret regar­ding their repre­sen­ta­ti­on in India. The lens of the Ger­man archi­val mate­ri­al can help broa­den per­spec­ti­ves, as the mate­ri­al pro­vi­des pos­si­bi­li­ties to trace sto­ries of trans­na­tio­na­li­ty and glo­bal con­nec­tions. Con­nec­ting the fin­dings from the Bosch archi­ve in Stutt­gart with other archi­val mate­ri­al, such as the afo­re­men­tio­ned sta­te eco­no­mic archi­ves, the com­pa­ny archi­ve of Daim­ler Benz or the Natio­nal Archi­ves of India (which held dis­cus­sions on the App­ren­ti­ces Act 1961 and on import regu­la­ti­ons affec­ting MICO), will sure­ly be a chal­len­ging but rewar­ding approach.

Tra­cing busi­ness net­works through the­se archi­ves offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to include small com­pa­nies in the rese­arch as they beco­me visi­ble through their part­ner­ships with lar­ge enti­ties such as Bosch. Busi­ness links will reve­al and reflect cer­tain dis­cour­ses of the time, of dif­fe­rent approa­ches to trade or part­ner­ship, and of pos­si­bly chan­ging and vary­ing con­cepts of “the firm”. The Bosch archi­ve offers pos­si­bi­li­ties to unco­ver nuan­ced his­to­ries in the mate­ri­al and to place them within cor­po­ra­te histo­ry, but also out­side of it. In the end, one has to read the records in a way that app­re­cia­tes and pro­ble­ma­ti­zes the repre­sen­ta­ti­ve natu­re of the records.


Robert Bosch GmbH, His­to­ri­sche Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on (RB)

Wirt­schafts­ar­chiv Baden-Würt­tem­berg, Stutt­gart (WABW)


[1]  The Ger­man term “His­to­ri­sche Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on” is used main­ly by com­pa­nies to enga­ge with their own histo­ry. It is direc­ted at mar­ke­ting, cor­po­ra­te iden­ti­ty and image.

[2]  The WABW can be found in the MIDA Database.

[3]  Wirt­schafts­ar­chiv Baden-Würt­tem­berg, Stutt­gart (WABW), Bestand A 16.

[4]  The num­bers are from 2016; the infor­ma­ti­on was recei­ved from the archive.

[5]  Robert Bosch GmbH, His­to­ri­sche Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on, 3 0005 1560.

[6]  Tog­e­ther with stu­dents from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tübin­gen, Joh­ler and Spa­ra­cio tried to at least part­ly clo­se this gap through their publi­ca­ti­on and a rela­ted exhi­bi­ti­on, for which they inter­view­ed seve­ral of the for­mer workers who con­tin­ued to live in Stuttgart.

[7]  Robert Bosch GmbH, His­to­ri­sche Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on (RB), 3 0005 1560.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  Ibid.

[10] RB, 1 017 004.

[11] RB, 3 0005 1560.

[12] RB, 1 017 038.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.


Bähr, Johan­nes, Paul Erkner, Bosch – Geschich­te eines Welt­un­ter­neh­mens. Munich: C.H. Beck, 2013.

Cor­po­ra­te Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons Team, Bosch India (ed.), A Short Memoir of Bosch India, Decem­ber 2014, (last acces­sed 2 Dec. 2019).

Herdt, Hans, Bosch 1886–1986. Por­trät eines Unter­neh­mens. Stutt­gart: Deut­sche Ver­lags­an­stalt, 1986.

Hunck, Joseph-Maria, India Tomor­row: Pat­tern of Indo-Ger­man future. Düs­sel­dorf: Ver­lag Han­dels–   blatt, 1963.

Knel­les­sen, Wolf­gang, Kata­log zu der Jubi­lä­ums-Aus­stel­lung im Robert-Bosch-Haus Stutt­gart 24. Sep­tem­ber bis 16. Novem­ber 1986. Stutt­gart: Ernst Klett, 1986.

Lan­gen­scheidt, Flo­ri­an, Bern­hard Stein­rue­cke (eds.), Ger­man Stan­dards – Ger­man Com­pa­nies in India. Colo­gne: Deut­sche Stan­dards EDITIONEN GmbH, 2011.

Joh­ler, Rein­hard and Feli­cia Spa­ra­cio (eds.), Abfah­ren. Ankom­men. Bosch­ler sein. Lebens­ge­schich­ten aus der Arbeits­welt. Tübin­gen: Tübin­ger Ver­ei­ni­gung für Volks­kun­de e.V., 2008.

Robert Bosch GmbH (ed.), 75 Jah­re Bosch 1886–1961 – Ein geschicht­li­cher Über­blick. Stutt­gart: Deut­sche Ver­lags-Anstalt, 1961.

Jose­fi­ne Hoff­mann, CeMIS, Georg-August-Uni­ver­si­tät Göttingen

MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con

Edi­tors: Anan­di­ta Baj­pai, Hei­ke Liebau
Lay­out: Mon­ja Hof­mann, Nico Putz
Host: ZMO, Kirch­weg 33, 14129 Ber­lin
Cont­act: archival.reflexicon [at]

ISSN 2628–5029