Monday 19 August 2013


Bombay & Malwa

Migrations to Bombay started after 1800. This was much earlier than Calcutta which could have been attributed to the International character of Bombay as a Center of Trade. They however faced resistance from Gujarati moneylenders in Ahmednagar and Parsee merchants in Bombay City who had long before established themselves in the region.

In central India, the rural areas of Bombay Province, the Marwari’s became the pre-eminent local moneylenders and merchants.  They financed especially the growth of cash crops which the British demanded. After the reduction in land revenue (1835-50) created some surplus with the peasant on which a meager retail trade could be based. Ingenious businessmen never seem to have existed in any number of this area.

Marwaris in this region often started as small shopkeepers, rapidly taking on to money-lending for financing crops which were demanded by the British, at first opium and then cotton. Many of the migrants arrived just before 1860. Their fortunes may well have been founded on their participation in the cotton-export boom of Bombay during the American Civil War years, when the American raw cotton supplies to mills in Britain were disrupted. A Later spurt of migration seems to have occurred between 1890 and 1910, much of it via Indore. 

One Aggarwal firm in the Central Provinces was particularly noteworthy. The firm of Bacchraj Jamnalal Bajaj based in Wardha was especially prominent in supplying cotton to the Japanese. By 1913 the firm shipped out 40K bales/year and reaped a profit of Rs.75 Lakhs. The firm became famous because of its proprietors, Seth Jamnalal Bajaj played a leading role in the independence struggle.

An apocryphal story when Jamnalal Bajaj entered business it was common practice for Marwari traders to sprinkle water on the cotton bales to increase its weight while selling to mills. When firm’s munshi suggest him to do the same he refused to do so. Instead he put up a banner “Dry Bales for Sale”. The purchaser with prospects of not having to bear the risk of buying water sprinkled bales where he was uncertain of water sprinkled gladly paid a premium for dry bales offered by Jamnalal Bajaj.

After Independence their heirs took the Bajaj firm into industry outside Wardha and played a crucial role in post-independence industrialization of the nation.  

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