Expert Speak

The Fall And Rise Of Entrepreneurship In Imperial India

India has a long history with entrepreneurship. Business and international trade was born as far back as in the Indus Valley Civilisation, and Indian entrepreneurs thrived unchallenged, all the way up until the colonial invaders arrived.

It was the Portuguese and the English who slowly entered the Indian markets with newer ways of doing business. The Industrial Revolution helped the British sell machine-made goods in competition with Indian handicrafts. They forced the indigenous entrepreneurs to become traders and they themselves took the role of entrepreneurs.

Underdeveloped means of transport and communication, unsafe movement of goods and people, a network of customs barriers, corrupt practices of the customs authorities, innumerable systems of currency, monopolisation of trade by the governors, and the taxation policy were factors that affected Local industry.

With the beginnings of secular education, spread of Western ideas and an understanding of Europe’s technological innovation, there was a breakthrough in the Indian entrepreneurial pattern. Dwarkanath Tagore formed India‘s first Joint Venture with a foreigner, William Carr: the Carr Tagore Company that put up the country’s first textile mill in 1854. Sir J.N Tata founded Jamshedpur steelworks. Foundations of jute mills, pharmaceutical industry were laid.

1870 onwards, India witnessed the rise and growth of middle-class consciousness which is reflected in the aspirations of becoming bureaucrats and professionals like lawyers, teachers and doctors trained in Western medicine, as the Entrepreneurship spirit remained low.

The infrastructural changes and more particularly the demands for indigenous products created during the Second World War, led to the perception of new opportunities. There was growth of entrepreneurship particularly in the small scale sector, with a number of skilled workers establishing small firms using older machines and investing capital from private sources.

Read Next: An Independent India, A Shackled Economy.

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