Gujarati Indians Prosperity
before arrival of the British.
Recently, Gujarat organised a conclave of business leaders from all over India and abroad called ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ at Ahmedabad.
On this occasion, The Times of India, Ahmedabad carried a special feature on the history of Gujarat – a look back at how Gujarati Business Tycoons ruled
over world trade and the seas for centuries before the arrival of the British Merchants.
A brief account of the achievements of ancient Gujarat, as reported in the TOI, of the unknown truths of rich Gujarati businessmen:
1. Shri Virji Vora (1585-1670) – Foreigners called him the ‘Merchant Prince of Surat’. He had enormous liquid capital and a massive estate worth <!–[if !vml]–>Error! Filename not specified.<!–[endif]–> 8 million. East India Company considered Vora as one of its biggest rival.
2. Shri Abdul Ghafur (17th Century) -With 20 ships he owned a fleet larger than the East India Company and his business empire was bigger than that of the British Company. He had also great influence on the Mughal Court. He owned assets worth around <!–[if !vml]–>Error! Filename not specified.<!–[endif]–> 10 million.
3. Shri Sheth Jagdusha (1210-1275)- He was a devout Jain who built one of the first Mosques in Kutch with a view to attracting Arab and Turkish traders. He donated about <!–[if !vml]–>Error! Filename not specified.<!–[endif]–> 4 crore to the victims of three successive famines. He also helped the Kings of Gujarat, Sind, Marwar, Malwa, Kashi, Delhi and Kandhar by opening 150 community kitchens to feed 5 lac people. For these reasons, Kings and Emperors called him ‘Saviour of Mankind’.
4. Shri Nima Parekh (1677) – After Mumbai went on to become the financial capital of India, it was largely due to the efforts by British Rulers to get businessmen from Gujarat to settle down in Mumbai. As a first step, the British signed an Agreement with Nima Parekh, a business tycoon from Gujarat.
5. World’s first Naval Dockyard was built at Lothal, 75 Km from Ahmedabad. Lothal is a landmark in Indian maritime history. Even in those days, about 4000 years ago, Gujaratis traded with countries like Iraq, Persia, Egypt and other regions of the Middle-east.
6. Shri Shantidas Jhaveri ( 1580-1659) An Oswal Jain from Marwar, Shri Shantidas Jhaveri was the wealthiest and most influential Merchant in 17th Century Ahmedabad. He had great influence on the Mughal Court. He even funded Mughal emperors in the hour of needs.
7. Shri Ranchhodlal Chhotalal (1833-1886)- He was the one who put Ahmedabad on the global textile industry map. Founder of the State’s first textile mill, he took Gujarati entrepreneurial spirit to the next level. Besides laying the foundation of the textile industry in India in 1888,Ranchhodlal mooted the concept of connecting Ahmedabad to Dholera and Ghogha ports through the Sabarmati Water way.
8. Shri Kasturbhai Lalbhai (1894-1980)- At a time when the world was staring at the Great Depression of 1930s, Ahmedabad-based Arvind Group emerged as the shining example of turning adversity into an opportunity. The textile Baron Kasturbhai Lalbhai took advantage of the depressed machinery prices in England to import new machinery at 30p.c. lower prices and produce the best quality fabric at lower costs. Today, Arvind is India’s largest denim maker.
9. Shri Sheth Kesrising Hutheesing (1796-1845) – He was one of the richest Merchants in the history of Ahmedabad, and the most influential trader in 1800. He exported Opium mainly to China which had a huge market for the drug, both for medical and other uses. He also donated a part of his enormous wealth generously to social causes like Public Hospital in the city, building up Anandji Kalyanji Trustwhich is still counted as one of the largest philanthropic groups in the country.
Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee
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