India’s New Capitalists: Caste, Business, and Industry in a Modern Nation
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Who are the major new Indian business people? What is their social profile? Business in India was traditionally the preserve of certain ‘Bania’ communities clubbed under the Vaishya order. The term ‘Bania’, in fact, acquired a generic connotation and could refer to the village moneylender, shopkeeper, wholesaler, or large factory owner. More recently, India’s commercial ethos has changed massively with the entry of businessmen from the ranks of Brahmins, Khatris, and other castes with a predominantly scribal or administrative background. The past four or so decades have seen a further widening of the social base of Indian capital to include agrarian and allied service castes such as Kammas, Naidus, Reddys, Rajus, Gounders, Nadars, Ezhavas, Patidars, Marathas, and Ramgarhias. As a result, entrepreneurship and commerce in India are now no longer the exclusive bastion of the old mercantile castes. The social profile of Indian business has expanded beyond recognition. And, in order to do business effectively in contemporary South Asia, it is necessary to understand the culture, ethos, and ways of doing business among the region’s new trading communities. In tracing the modern-day evolution of business communities in India, this book is the first social history to document and understand India’s new entrepreneurial groups. Written accessibly, and combining analytical rigour with journalistic flair, it also contains fifteen individual case studies that embellish its general findings. ‘Business in India has grown today to being no longer limited to a few castes or families ... Damodaran’s book makes a seminal contribution to understanding the link between diverse entrepreneurial capital and the development of societies ...’—NANDAN NILEKANI ‘Damodaran presents a richly insightful analysis of the deepening of India’s business class in recent decades. The study of Indian business history has typically focused on the colonial period, and on the role played by traditional mercantile communities such as the Parsis and the Marwaris. While hagiographic works on entrepreneurs abound, India’s New Capitalists is the first serious study of Indian business in the period since Independence. Damodaran’s book is pioneering in a second respect as well: it explores the transformation of the Indian entrepreneurial class through the entry into it of large numbers of farmers-turned-capitalists.’ —RAMACHANDRA GUHA AND SUNIL KHILNANI
HARISH DAMODARAN is Senior Assistant Editor with The Hindu Business Line. A specialist in agri-business and commodities reportage, he has spent more than fifteen years understanding the worldview and functioning of Indian businessmen.
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