New Delhi: From musty establishments in the dusty lanes of Kolkata's Burra Bazaar to towering office blocks in the financial nerve center of the country, Mumbai, the Marwari community plays a crucial role in turning the wheels of the country's economy as innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Their extraordinary success forms the primary subject for Thomas A Timberg in his book 'The Marwaris: From Jagat Seth to the Birlas'.
Speaking at a recent panel discussion here with author Gurcharan Das, Mr Timberg attempted to answer the fundamental question that cropped up: What makes the Marwaris so successful as a business community?
"One of the reasons they are so successful, I think, is because of their ability to adapt to situations. A flexibility of mind is surely an important trait responsible for their extraordinary success" he said.
"The answer also probably lies in the fact the commercial communities in general, and Marwaris in particular, have successfully implemented attitudes, skills and support systems," he added.
Elaborating further, Gurcharan Das enumerated a few characteristic traits which he attributed to the community.
"Their entrepreneurial instinct, credibility as businessmen and their community spirit are big factors in their success," he said.
He also highlighted their risk-taking ability.
"The business world rewards those who take risks. The incredible achievements of the Marwaris have often been credited to their extraordinary risk-taking ability."
Mr Das discussed the pitfalls of the socialist era and how that led to stagnation in the growth of the market and saw a downturn in the fortunes of business communities as a whole.
"Competition is the school in which companies learn to perfect their skills. By closing the economy and discouraging competition, socialism made Indian business houses complacent and insensitive to customer needs. They lost the incentive to improve their products and acquire marketing skills."
In his book, Mr Timberg chronicles the journey of a community that, from the desert sands of Rajasthan, slowly spread out to all the corners of the country, and eventually achieved phenomenal success in their trade.
Touching on this aspect, Mr Das writes in his foreword to the book, "With their enormous appetite for risk, the Marwaris controlled much of India's inland trade by the end of the First World War. Gradually they turned to industry after the war, and by 1970 they controlled much of the nation's private industrial assets, and by 2011 the Marwaris accounted for a quarter of the Indians on the Forbes list of billionaires."
The book is part of a series edited by Gurcharan Das about Indian businesses. The previous books include 'Arthashastra', 'East India Company' and 'Money in Ancient India' among others.