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Marwari And Chettiar Merchant's, C. 1850s–1950s: Comparative Trajectories

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Chapter Summary

This essay examines the story of two prominent mercantile communities in the Indian subcontinent, the Marwaris and the Chettiars, often portrayed as 'counter-parts' of each other in the historical literature on South Asian business. Tracing the divergent trajectories that traders from both communities followed, this article studies the phases of their evolution and seeks to ascertain the reasons for the differing fortunes of Marwari and Chettiar capital. First, with the unification of currency systems, the formation of new financial institutions such as credit societies and the spread of modern banking practices and more efficient means of remittance, indigenous bankers lost ground. Further, the improvement of communications and the rise of industry led to a general movement into new areas of entrepreneurial activities.This article thus shows that a number of factors accounted for the success of the Marwaris in the industrial sphere and the failure of Chettiar capital.

Keywords: Chettiar; financial institutions; Marwari; mercantile communities; trajectories



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