Most Powerful CEOs 2013: Common family system, frugality has played a major role in the success of the Marwari community


Dr DK Taknet

The Marwari community has had a glorious past, filled with countless examples of courage, perseverance and dedication. They originate from the region of Rajputana, where small towns were linked to international shopping centers in the Middle Ages, due to which there was a constant traffic of caravans.

As a result of the Marathi and Pindari invasions and discriminatory British policies, the traditional Rajputana trade virtually came to an end.

In the 17th century, the Marwaris moved to other parts of the country. Among them were the ancestors of Jagat Seth who later became “kingmakers” and prominent bankers.

Before 1780, some Marwari companies had started banking activities in central India and by 1803 the Marwari moved to Delhi. In 1813, the Charter Act of England gave European traders the freedom to trade in India and they established their offices in Bombay and Calcutta. They needed agents to procure the raw materials.

As the traders in Rajputana had no source of income, they were drawn to the opportunity. The biggest boost for the Marwaris came when British traders began to take over domestic and international trade through Calcutta.

By 1850 the large Marwari companies had established their branches all over the country and some Marwari had opened their offices in China. Between 1860 and 1880, the Marwaris had reached Assam, the difficult mountainous region having no easy transportation. It has been said in this context “Jahan Naa Pahunche Belgadi, Wahan Pahunche Marwari” (Marwari can reach where even the bullock cart cannot reach).

The Chief Prime Minister of Assam, Gopinath Bardoloi, had declared that “the credit for changing the face of Assam goes to the Marwaris”. Until the end of the 19th century, their migration had become a common feature.

Initially, the Marwaris were engaged in banking, insurance and speculation. Famous historian James Tod wrote that nine out of ten traders in India were from Marwar. Later, they played prominent roles in jute, burlap, food grains, cotton, cloth, brokerage, import-export, and petroleum trading. They captured almost all of the Bengali jute trade. In a short time, the Marwaris became popular in various trades and became famous as “Kings of Business”.

Ram Gopal Mohta became the Iron King, Hanuman Bux was known as the Steel King, Banshidhar Jalan as the Jute King, Moti Ram Jhunjhunwala as the Silver King, Ram Narain as the Cotton King and Baldevdas Dudvewala like the king of the share.

After 1910, the Marwari community began to invest the profits in industries. The Soorajmull Nagarmul company established the first jute factory in 1911. The Birla family opened the first Indian jute export office in London in 1917 and became one of the top three jute merchants. The Birlas established a jute mill in Calcutta in 1919 and were the first to contact the Japanese, followed by Keshoram Podar.

Later, the Marwaris established in Calcutta the first jute mill, the first bank, the first insurance company, the first textile factory and the first electrically operated tire factory. It is worth mentioning that the position of the Marwaris had become preponderant before independence.

The Marwaris succeeded in filling the void left by British traders. After 1942, British businessmen began to sell and the Marwari came forward to take control of their businesses. 66 European companies came under Indian management in 1952.

The Indian government developed its first industrial policy in 1948. Since the Marwaris took part in the independence movement and became pillars of Congress, they have approached political decision-makers allowing them to receive facilities provided by the government in the form of loans, foreign currencies and collaborations. , this is considered the golden age of the Marwari community.

It can be mentioned that in the pre-independence era the Marwaris were part of the main Indian trading communities, but after independence they got the same position in industries. Birlas, Agarwal, Singhanias, Ruias, Bangurs, Bajajs, Goenkas, Modis, Khaitans, Poddars, Kanorias, Dalmias, all have become popular for increasing investment, figure of business and profits of their various businesses.

At present, the majority of the big giants in the private sector belong to the Marwari community. Research on this aspect has revealed that some unfavorable geo-socio-cultural factors have turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Frugality, the common family system, hands-on training, strong caste loyalties, and community organizations played an important role in the success of the community.

The Marwaris installed gaddis (desks) with mattresses, pillows, ledger and small safes. But their simple, small offices dealt with lakhs of rupees on a daily basis. At night, these gaddis served as beds for the owner and his colleagues.

Change is the law of nature. New ideas and business techniques have replaced traditional ideas. The Marwaris’ corporate culture also underwent a radical transformation after independence. It’s been a long journey from the gaddi to the air-conditioned boardroom.

(The author is a business historian)

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