Thursday, 26 December 2013

CONCLUSION - Present Day Relevance

CONCLUSION - Present Day Relevance

As Indian economy became more liberalized since the beginning of 1980s there has been a spurt of entrepreneurship across the country. The IT boom since 1990s did not see any major Marwari business house taking to it.

As caste barriers reduced and movement of people across he country increased English and Hindi came to be spoken understood across the entire country. With improvement in banking and telecommunication today one no longer faces the communication barriers which early Indian entrepreneurs faced.

India is supposed to have one of the best eco-systems today and 60% of the start-ups are from individuals with less than 5 years of work experience. There are a number of venture capitalist with access to funds from India and overseas who are eyeing these start-ups and not only fund their ventures but also help them in executing their plans and help them sail through the first few difficult years of setting up an enterprise.

Social networking has enabled aspiring entrepreneurs to connect to people of similar ideas and even find mentors across the globe who would be able to provide an input.

Resource group, access to capital etc which have been cited as the success to Marwari enterprise are today at the disposal of any aspiring entrepreneur.

Then how relevant is the Marwari enterprise today?



The Bengali nationalist Prafulla Chandra Ray's autobiography (1932) is a well-known text documenting a modern Bengali ambivalence about the Marwaris. Ray unfavorably compared the more fiscally conservative Marwaris with the urban Bengali gentry. The former, Ray argued, earned a thousand times more than they actually spent; unlike the anglicized Bengal Zemindars, the Marwaris were "mere parasites" who "do
not add a single farthing to the country's wealth, but have become the chosen instruments for the draining away of the country's wealth—the lifeblood of the peasants—to foreign lands." Despite his stated admiration for the Marwari penchant for hard work and business aptitude, Ray criticized Marwaris for not reinvesting their wealth back into the Bengal economy.

Even the Marwari diet, argued Ray, contributed to the economic drain. The Marwaris "survived" on dal, ghee, and wheat flour‚‚all items imported from outside Bengal. He wrote: "Whatever they spend finds its way back into their own pockets. Hence the Marwari or the Bhatia or the Punjabi, although they make their money and live in Calcutta, seldom add any wealth to Bengal nor is Bengal in any way materially benefited by their being residents of Bengal. They might as well have been residents of Kamchkatka or Timbuctoo."

PC Ray's comment about siphoning of Bengals wealth might have been relevant in the pre-independece era when India as a country did not come into being as a Sovereign country or due to over-romanticizing of a nationalist Bengali vouching for its region. However the community led government in Bengal couldn't do any better while in power post-independence. He would have been rather distraught after his founded company 'Bengal Chemicals' became un-manageable after his death and had to be nationalized by the Indian Govt.

Even the former Prime Minister of India JN Nehru commented in a rather helpless tone "Giving the drawbacks of the Marwari community and their ingenious practices they are still keep the money within the country and want their ashes to be immersed in the Ganga"

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

CONCLUSION - Limitations

CONCLUSION - Limitations

The 'bazaar' market was the grounds for capital accumulation for the Marwari community. As capital got accumulated through trading and speculation same were invested in the manufacturing sector which was a natural extension of the the bazaar which but then had become an essential part of the Marwari culture and identity.

In an economy where manufacturing licenses were hard to come buy and the government controlled all aspects right from the quantity of a product produces to the price it was sold in the market the ingenious accounting system of parta developed by the Marwaris proved successful in the manufacturing sector during the license raj.

The 'Ambassador' car manufactured by a Birla owned enterprise Hindustan Motors between 1950-1970s having a 'steering mechanism with the subtlety of an oxcart, guzzled gas like a sheik and shook like a guzzler became a symbol of India's sluggish Industrial sector where the marwari community had a major share.

Altough some critics might argue that Marwari enterprise flourished during this time next generation family members like Aditya Birla established Industries outside India in Indonesia and Malaysia to become global market leaders their respective Industry.

Another Limitation of the Marwari enterprise came was when the business reached a sizable level the promoters of the company would deploy family members at key decision posts which led to reduced accountability and discourage other people in the organization who would be worth that post.


CONCLUSION - Family Names

CONCLUSION - Family Names

Until mid-nineteenth century Hindus all over India did not use family names. It was their first name followed by the fathers name which was commonly used. As the British used family names extensively families who came in touch with them and migrated to British controlled regions also adopted the system of using family names.

Traditional Marwari names provide many examples of the relationship between lineage and geographical aspects of identity, as well as connections to trade and occupation.

1. Lineage: Names formed from the suffix '-ka' being added to a nickname for eg. Himmatsingka would relate to an ancestor named "Himmatsing" who became opoular in the society and his successors came to be known as  "Himmatsing Ka Beta" or "Himmatsing Ka Pota" literally meaning  "Himmatsing's Son" or "Himmatsing's Grandson". Family names like Murar-ka, Goen-ka, Harbajan-ka, Harlal-ka. Khem-ka are some examples of prominent Marwari names which originated from an ancestor.

2. Geographical Location: Named formed from the suffix '-wala', '-wal' or '-ia' being added to a nickname would relate to the family last village/town of migration while migrating within Sekhawati region. for eg. Tibre-wal comes from tiba, a village in Khetri. Jhunjhun-wala, Dumre-wala, Khandel-wal, Ganeri-wala, Kanod-ia, Didwan-ia, Patod-ia, Ber-ia, Manglun-ia, Makhar-ia, Murmur-ia, Garod-ia, Singod-ia, Bagar-ia, Sultan-ia, Parasrampur-ia, Singhan-ia, Sanganer-ia etc can all be traced to existing villages in the Sekhawati region.

Some Bania families form 'Bhiwani' region of Haryana role to prominence in the trade circles used 'Agarwalla' or 'Agarwal' as their official family name however they continue to be referred to as Bhwani-wala (pronounced as bihani-hala) by the older members of the community.

3. Occupation: There is no thumb rules to family names originating from occupations. Here are a few examples and their meaning

a. Modi: This family name is used across by Parsis, Gujarati Banias and Marwaris. Modi means 'Official Supplier'. Armies maintained by the princely states shifted from region to region to fight wars hence a Modi was appointed as the official supplier to the army who was responsible of arranging for provisioning and ratio for the army wherever it set its camp.

b. Todi: The name comes from the word 'toddy' which is country liquor. As the British established cantonments in different parts of India supply of good quality alcohol was needed to keep the troops entertained. Until then their limited required which was confined to establishment at sea ports was met through imports. Shortage or lack of alcohol availability in the country side often lead to soldiers falling for illicit liquor and poisoned themselves. Hence Todi was appointed to ensure supply of quality country made liquor to its troops.

c. Poddar: Those who financed the state against right to collect land-revenue.

d. Ruia: Supposed to be derieved from Cotton

e. Saraf: Again a name found commonly in Gujarati and Parsis in the form of 'Shroff'. With the plethora of currency in circulation during pre-british times the money changer was reffed to as a 'Shorff' and its occupation as Sarafi. 

4. Miscellaneous: Decendents of Nawab 'Kaim Khan' established estates of Fatehpur and Jhunjhunu in 15th Century. 'Khemani' a popular family name among Marwari families suggest these families had connections with these nawabs. Aggarwal Choudhris of Fatehpur were intimately connected with these Nawabs.

Use of 'gotra' like Mittal, Bansal, Singhal etc have also been in popular usage. In recent times traditional Marwari names have also been replaced simply by 'Agarwal'

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

OCCUPATIONS - Betting or Gambling?

OCCUPATIONS - Betting or Gambling?

Rain Gambling or "barsat ka satta" has they call it in Hindi was introduced to Calcutta public life by the Marwaris sometime in the nineteenth century, either by the 1820s (as Marwaris claimed) or by the 1870s (as the colonial government claimed). Rain gambling was confined to Cotton Street in the heart of Burabazar in northern Calcutta.

During the rain gambling season, corresponding with the monsoon rains, dozens of people all negotiating with the Marwari-financed brokers who handled bets on how much rain would fall during a certain period of time and when. The rain water was collected in the so-called "Calcutta rain gauge ( means "drain"). The term "Calcutta " suggests the pan—North Indian character of the practice, and may allude to its site of origin.

Anti-gambling legislation in British India initially took effect only in the three major cities of the colonial presidencies (Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras) after 1856. Subsequent pieces of legislation expanded the geographical jurisdiction of the law to outlaw gambling within ten miles of any railway station house in the (country stations and districts). But the major problem the British faced in such legislation was crafting a legal definition of gambling.

Marwari practices of "rain gambling" came to the attention of the Bombay Legislative Council several years after the passage of the general Anti-Gambling Act of 1886, when a group of Bombay Marwari rain gamblers took their case to the High Court. The court ruled that gambling on the rainfall did not fall under the scope of the 1886 Act. Rain gambling, the defense had argued, operated on the principles of betting (which was legal),not gambling (which was illegal). The precedent used in the case was the 1889 Bombay High Court case of, which held that rain gambling was a form of betting and not a form of gambling.

In short, the distinction held that gambling required persons to take an active role, whereas betting did not. If it were to be classified as actual illegal "gambling," the so-called rain gambling required a contest and active participation, which could not be proved in persons merely watching the rain fall. Rain gambling was defined as a monsoon event, when bets were placed on the amount of rain that would fall within a three-hour period, a period of time known in Hindi as In order to calculate the precise amount of rain that had fallen, a tank was
fitted with a spout from which the rainwater would overflow once a certain amount had fallen. Rain gambling, the defense argued, was really just a form of betting on a contingent event, without any kind of contest acted out between two persons. The defense argued that it was simply not possible for anyone to take an active role in the event, since rain gambling involved placing a bet, and then just watching and waiting to see if, when, and how much it would rain.

Even though laws had already been passed in England that outlawed wagers, bets, and gaming houses, similar laws had not been passed in India. This was partly because traditional Hindu law had permitted
such wagers.

As existing anti-gambling law could not include rain gambling in its scope. A new act was then proposed that would specifically target rain gambling in Bombay.One of the official reasons for banning rain gambling in Bombay was that the practice had reputedly spread to other communities. The fear that rain gambling networks would now lure non-Marwaris, even poor Europeans, became a sufficient reason to attempt to put it out completely.

The passage of anti-rain gambling legislation in Calcutta did not go unnoticed by Marwari merchants. On the evening of March 25, 1897, a large group of Marwari merchants gathered in what newspapers described as a "monster protest meeting" at the Dalhousie Institute, a well-known Calcutta social club. The purpose of this unusual meeting was to protest the rain gambling bill under consideration by the Bengal Council.

While the 1897 rain gambling act did effectively put an end to large-scale rain gambling operations, other forms of gambling arose in the place of rain gambling, possibly operated by the same brokers and dealers who had managed the gambling on rain. By banning rain gambling and attacking opium-figure gambling as well, the government may have counted on the "native instinct" to gamble to encourage former rain-gamblers to take up gambling on the government opium exchange, thereby increasing the government's revenue.

Despite the immense popularity of gambling and speculation as Marwari pastimes, these activities are seldom acknowledged in Marwari narratives of self-description, such as business, caste, and family histories. People peak  generally about the prevalence of speculation but are reluctant to speak about specifics, particularly regarding their own families. Biographical materials on various Marwari families also do not acknowledge,
at least openly, that fortunes were built from gambling and speculation. In fact, family history accounts often attempt to boast that the family's wealth did arise from speculation.

OCCUPATIONS - Industry & Manufacturing

OCCUPATIONS - Industry & Manufacturing

Raja Govindlal Pitty, a leading Marwari merchant and banker of Hyderabad & Bombay bought over cotton mills in the 1870's

During the 1st World War, encouraged by a lack of competitive imported goods from abroad and government assistance, Indian industrialization took on some impetus. In eastern India for the 1st time major enterprise emerged that were Indian-owned. In trade too, Indians, among them Marwaris expanded their share.

Until World War 1, Marwaris had not been prominent in Industry. The early Bombay cotton textile factories were all founded by Gujrati Banias and Parsees. The Brilas were in the forefront in Industrialization of all Marwaris. It was estimated by an insider that they increased from a party Rs.20 lac to Rs.80 lac during the war. They went on to establish their first Jute mill in Calcutta in 1919, Cotton Textile Mill in Delhi in 1920 and started Gwalior Cotton Textile mill in Delhi in 1921.

At the dissolution of the Currimbbhoy and Petit Cotton mill group in the 1930's several of their Bombay mills were taken over by Marwaris.

The protective tariff for sugar in 1932 led to the construction of a large number of sugar mills. Government encouragement helped the cement Industry. Birla built 3 giant sugar mills and Dalmia built 1. Ram Kishen Dalmia became a major factor in the Cement Industry.

Resistance to the Industrial drive was however encountered. The Jute Mills Association refused to admit the Marwari owned mills, and the jute transport companies charged them discriminatory rates. But then economic strength of the large Marwari houses eas such that they were able to overcome these obstacles. 

OCCUPATIONS - Commodities Trading & Speculation - Jute

OCCUPATIONS - Commodities Trading & Speculation - Jute

Jute has been grown in East Bengal for ages. Since 18th century it has been exported to Dundee in Great Britain from Calcutta where it was woven into hessians (woven-cloth) or sand bags and used by the Army in trenches during War.

Jute was either sold to mills in Calcutta or shipped abroad. With a few exceptions the mills bought through European agents, and Indians could only under broker them. European brokers received 1.25% commission on purchase of raw material out of which 0.25% was passed on to Marwaris who acted as under-brokers or guaranteed broker.

The Jute Balers Association of Calcutta had both European and Indian members, but was entirely dominated by the Europeans among them. By 1900 there were 74 balers on its rolls, of whom 49 were Marwaris. The Marwari balers and brokers found it difficult to be admitted to the Royal Exchange where Jute transactions were made. By 1909 an effort lead by Sir Badridas Goenka and other leading Marwari merchants resulted in the formation of the Baled Jute Association, which provided facilities for Marwari trading in Jute.

By 1895 Scottish Jute Mill owners operating mills in Dundee established mills in Bengal. In the immediate pre-World War 1 period and during the way itself, Marwaris also entered hessians trade, formerly a European preserve.

In 1917, the Birla Brothers established the first Indian office for the export of Jute in London and rapidly became 1 of the 3 leading Jute exporters. The office had to fight hard to get into the market and was not admitted to the "official"? Baltic Exchange for several years.

Speculative gains recieved by various Marwari businessmen enabled some of them to start industries right after the World War 1. GD Birla and Sarupchand Hukumchand of Indore started Jute mills in 1918-19. These were the 1st large Indian Controlled Jute Mills.

Friday, 20 December 2013

OCCUPATIONS - Commodities Trading & Speculation - Cotton

Commodities Trading & Speculation - Cotton

In 1788, the Governor General (at Calcutta) was requested by London to encourage
growth and improvement of Indian cottons to meet the requirement of the Lancashire
textile industry.

By 1793, the Court of Directors of East India Company in London revised their policy to

a. Increase import of raw materials
b. Increase the export of British manufactured goods.

By 1850, India accounted for almost one-sixth of the total textile exports from England and also became the largest consumer of British textiles. India was thus reduced from the position of a supplier of manufactured cotton goods to that of a supplier or raw cotton, for the British textile mills.

In 1820's the ryotwari system of land revenue was introduced in Madras Presidency. In the later years it was extended to Bombay Presidency. In the ryotwari system every registered holder of land was considered a Propritor and paid directly to the government.

It was introduced as an alternative to the zamindari system of land revenue which was practiced in Bengal Presidency which had generated a class of pest like blood sucking landlords which did not contribute significantly to the overall revenues.

The ryotwari allowed the landowner to gift, sale and mortgage his property. This allowed the land owner for the 1st time in history to obtain a cash loan against land.

As land now became a collateral Marwari money lenders who made inroads into cotton growing region for financing cotton cultivation.

When American Civil war broke out in 1861 there was a widespread belief in Britain that the supply of cotton from subsidiary sources especially India would keep the mills running. However in reality the total quantity of raw cotton imported into Britain from India was merely 20%.

The reason for this was the short-staple cotton grown in India was unsuitable for British Mills which were equipped for use of American long-staple variety.

The government stepped up measures to cultivate cotton in India. Under an executive order wasteland owned by the government could be acquired and held in fee simple by their owners and their heirs in perpetuity. This enabled Marwaris to amass huge land holdings which stayed with them until the Land ceiling act was imposed in 1976

By 1860 railroads from Bombay had extended until Nagpur trespassing Vidharbha region. This region having deep black soil and scanty rainfall coupled with railroad access to Bombay Port proved ideal for cultivation of cotton.

Moneylending for cultivation of cotton enabled the Marwaris to obtain tighter controls over the cultivators produced which led to natural extension into its trading and ginning. The prices of cotton increased manifolds which made farmers cultivate cotton instead of food grains and at times they even plowed down food crops to sow Cotton

The news of American Civil ware coming to and end reached India on 1st May 1865 and Britain again turned to American for raw cotton ending the short-lived glory of the Indian saple. Some business families laid the foundation of a stable and prosperous business on the basis of the profits earned in speculation during the Civil War years.