A good look at the Indian business scene will leave you wondering about the sheer number of Marwaris in the community. Even the list of the recent start-up boomers will be dotted with members of the Marwari community all over.
DK Taknet, in association with International Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship (IIME), Jaipur, has published a coffee table book titled Marwari Heritage that explores the history of the community over the years. Being a Marwari himself was only one of the many reasons that Taknet decided to go ahead with this project. “While I have worked earlier on collecting data about the Marwari community in general, I realised that there was not enough data on the entrepreneurs in the community. So, I started research around five years ago on this topic,” he explains. The research team travelled over 350,000 km across the nation meeting both chairmen and service-class entrepreneurs to cover the community's rich history. With over 500 pages and over 800 photographs in the book, it reflects the timeline of the Marwari community’s contribution to the economy and business culture in the country.
Though best known for their miserly behaviour (hence the term kanjoos Marwari), Taknet says that the most interesting thing that he discovered during his research is stories of their philanthropy. He says, “Marwaris are probably the first philanthropists in the country. They practised CSR before the term became popular. They have contributed to the building of temples, dharamshalas in the Mughal era and also to many a welfare project.” Besides this, he also discovered the roles of many Marwaris in the freedom movement. Says Taknet, “Over 700 Marwaris were reportedly hanged during that era and nobody knows about it. People are mildly aware of the relationship between the Birlas and the Bajajs with Mahatma Gandhi. But, they usually assume it ends there.”
Having profiled a good number of industrialists across sectors for the book, Taknet highlights the contribution of the Marwari community. Among the ones he commends are GP Birla and BM Khaitan for their contribution to social welfare. Looking forward, he believes that the young guns are only going to build on the existing legacy. Taknet explains, “While the older generations used to spend less money on their lifestyle, the newer generations lean towards luxurious lifestyles. It is also worth noting that while the older generations usually restricted themselves to some sort of trading activity (such as cotton, jute or even tea), the newer ones have shifted to IT and broadened the spectrum for themselves.”
While change is good, he has also realised that some things never change, “They are still as conservative and staunch about their value systems as they used to be. However, moving outside their hometown and settling in other cities such as Ranchi, Calcutta or Guwahati ensures they mingle with other communities and expand their horizons culturally as well.”