When Kailashmull Dugar, president of Rajasthan Association, says that a sense of adventure coupled with the willingness to adapt has made them some of the most successful traders and businessmen in the city, he is certainly talking out of experiences. He says, “The quintessential Rajasthani is good with accounts and is always willing to adapt. Probably that’s what makes them good businessmen.”
Today, they have a domineering business in every trade from textiles to jewellery and some have gone on to make a mark in the field of construction as well.
It was the lack of business opportunities back home that brought a small population of traders referred to as marwaris to the then Madras. The adventurous and enterprising marwaris came to the South seeking good fortune, encouraged by the environment that was congenial for business.
It didn’t take the community long to set up a strong base for business, when they first moved to the city in the 1800s.
One of the earliest names in business included Kaluram Rattanlal, a prominent trader, who was the first to set up base. The other early settlers who made a huge mark in trade were Bansilal Abirchand, who had established a strong base in Nagpur and brought the trade to Madras as well. In the same time, several other business flourished in the city; Agarchund Manmal and K C Chand Maghanmal were other popular traders in the city.
Dugar’s father set up one of the renowned financing institution — a novel business idea that focused on automotive. Prakashmull Automobile Finance, was a name to reckon with in the 30s. Dugar recollects, “My family had to return to our native place Jodhpur during the beginning of the Second World War, between 1939 and 1943. However, they returned and my association with the city is today 70 years old.”
After establishing a strong base in the city with their successful business set ups, the community’s commercial activities were more or less confined to North Chennai in Sowcarpet and George Town.
That changed as the business forayed into places like T Nagar and Saidapet. From general merchandise the businesses began to explore other categories like wholesale and retail, spreading a sprawl of business activities operated by the Rajasthanis. These came to be known as the forte of the community.
Sanjay Bhansali throws light on another aspect of the Rajasthani presence in the city.
“It is a very prosperous community here, making a mark in every aspect of trade and commerce. However, maybe the domineering presence is only not much in technology,” he says.
Being the first Rajasthani area commander, Chennai North Tamil Nadu Home Guards, Bhansali couldn’t have been more precise about deciphering the pervasive influence of the community.
However, Dugar adds that today the community emphasises on education as well, apart from the stress on self-employment. ‘“Maybe in the earlier generations there wasn’t much emphasis. But, today everyone wants to ensure that their children are well-educated,” he says.