India's New Capitalists

India's New Capitalists

India's New Capitalists: Caste, Business, and Industry in a Modern Nation (Permanent Black/Palgrave Macmillan 2008), looks at the changing social composition of the country's business class, particularly after Independence. Business in India was traditionally an occupational silo in the caste system, with businessmen predominantly 'Banias' recruited from the Vaishya or mercantile order within the classical Hindu chaturvarna (four-order) hierarchy. The 'Bania' over the ages even acquired a generic connotation, referring to any businessmen - be it the local village grocer and moneylender or the large factory owner and banker. That picture has, however, undergone significant transformation in more recent time, with the entry of entrepreneurs from diverse community backgrounds, including those with no established pedigree in trade or finance.
India's New Capitalists sought to trace three broad routes through which the journeys to the boardrooms have taken place. The first, 'Shop to Factory', is the familiar passage of the various Vaishya castes (Bania/Marwaris plus Parsis, Gujarati Lohanas and Bhatias, Sindhis, Nattukottai Chettiars and Muslim Memons, Khojas and Bohras) into industry. The second, 'Office to Factory', relates to the Brahmins, Punjabi Khatris, the Bengali bhadralok and similar scribal castes, who were historically and culturally conditioned to the different administrative and white-collar professions. The third, 'Field to Factory', is of the so-called or Shudra castes with roots primarily in farming and allied activities (Kammas, Reddys, Gounders, Patidars, Marathas, Jats, Nadars, Ezhavas, Ramgarhias, etc). In examining the three transition trajectories, especially the last two, India's New Capitalists has tried to capture the expansion in the social base of Indian capital 'beyond the Bania’, so to speak. At the same time, it has also highlighted regional variations and limits to this process of 'democratising' Indian capitalism.

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