[Yojana Archive] Swadeshi Entrepreneurship

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Inception of the idea

  • The idea of ‘economic swadeshi’ emerged by the second half of the 19th century.
  • Thanks to the writings of R C Dutt, Dadabhai Naoroji, and M G Ranade, the new western-educated middle class was well aware of the colonial economic exploitation.
  • Gopal Hari Deshmukh was one of the firsts to advocate economic swadeshi in 1849.
  • But the credit for translating it to a call to action goes to the ‘college faction’ of the Arya Samajists in Punjab.

Pre-Swadeshi movement

  • A group of middle-class, western-educated Punjabis– prominent among them were Lala Lajpat  Rai, Lala Harkishan Lal, and Sir Dayal Singh Majithia came together to found the Punjab National Bank (1894). This was the first major Indian-owned bank.
  • Lala Harkishan Lal, who soon emerged as the moving force behind this venture, went on to found a series of joint-stock companies.
  • In Bombay, a Parsi lawyer Ardeshir Burjorji Sorabji Godrej (1868-1936) came to realise the importance of indigenous manufacturing. After failing in a series of ventures, he tasted business success with mechanised locks and founded Godrej & Boyce in 1897.
  • Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861-1944), a pioneering chemist, founder of Bengal Chemicals (India’s first pharmaceuticals company), and a devoted nationalist spent his entire life in promoting education and scientific research.

Swadeshi Enterprises

The announcement of the Partition of Bengal (1905) unleashed a surge of nationalism and rekindled the Bengali entrepreneurial spirit.

(1) Textiles

  • Bengal’s leading landlords, businessmen, and political leaders came together to launch the most high-profile swadeshi venture – Banga Luxmi Cotton Mill (1906).
  • Two years later, Mohinimohan Chakraborti, landlord and retired Deputy Magistrate, launched a smaller Mohini Mill in East Bengal to challenge the monopoly of the only British cotton mill in Bengal.
  • The biggest beneficiary of the boycott of Manchester cloths turned out to be Bombay and Ahmedabad, where 39 mills came up between 1904 and 1910 to cater to swadeshi demands.

(2) Promotion on Science and Tech

  • One of the great contributions of the swadeshi period was the promotion of science. Meritorious students were sent to Japan, Germany, and the USA for technical education.
  • Some of them came back to set up successful businesses like Calcutta Chemicals, Calcutta Potteries, and Bengal Waterproof.
  • The National Education Movement (1905-1938) helped set up colleges and schools, and one of the institutions associated with it metamorphosed into Jadavpur University.
  • In Madras, firebrand nationalist leader V O Chidambaram Pillai launched his Swadeshi Steam  Navigation Company from Tuticorin (1906), to challenge the British monopolies but had a short life.

(3) Emergence of modern banking

  • Indian Bank: In Madras, a group of eminent citizens and businessmen came together under the leadership of a lawyer (later on, High Court judge), V Krishnaswamy Iyer, to set up the Indian Bank in 1907.
  • Canara Bank: Among the other smaller ventures in the Madras Presidency were the Canara Banking Corporation of Udupi (later Corporation Bank) and the Canara Hindu Permanent Fund (later Canara Bank).
  • Central Bank of India: Similar groups in Bombay founded two major banks – the Bank of India (1907) and the Central Bank of India (1911, the first Chairman was Sir Pherozeshah Mehta).
  • Bank of Baroda: In Baroda, Maharaja Sayajirao II led the way to set up the first major bank in a princely state – Bank of Baroda (1908). 
  • Punjab and Sindh Bank: Business elites in Punjab set up the Punjab and Sind Bank in the same year.

Swadeshi and decline of consumerism

  • Boycott of foreign goods and the use of India-made products– the trend that started in Bengal in  1905, spread to the rest of the country with Mahatma Gandhi and his advocacy of khadi.
  • With rising nationalism, there was a definite change in consumer culture too.
  • Irrespective of whether they were actively participating in political movements or not, people wanted to use India-made/local products as a badge of their patriotism.

Establishment of National Planning Commission

  • In 1938, Congress President Subhas Chandra Bose set up a National Planning Commission under the chairmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • This Commission had prominent industrialists  like Purushottamdas Thakurdas, Walchand Hirachand, A D Shroff, and Ambalal Sarabhai as  members, along with technocrat M Visvesvaraya and scientist Meghnad Saha.
  • In 1944-45, eight leading industrialists – J R D Tata, G D Birla, Ardeshir Dalal, Lala Shri Ram, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, A D Shroff, Purushottamdas Thakurdas, and John Matthai came out with a blueprint for independent India’s economic development.

The Bombay Plan

  • This ‘Bombay Plan’ outlined the strategy for doubling of the agricultural output and five- fold increase in the industrial sector within 15 years.
  • They accepted that without State support this would not be possible.
  • Though it was never officially accepted but the post-independence economic planning did follow the same path of State interventions and a mixed economy with large-scale public sector.

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