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Born for Business: The Marwari People



Rajasthan state is located in the northwestern part of India and the name means as the ‘land of the kings.’ It is one of the popular travelers’ destinations that fall under Delhi and Taj Mahal tourist circuit. Medieval oligarchs built spectacular palaces and lavish forts, now metamorphosed into luxury hotels and museums. The contemporary village life, beautiful handicrafts, decorated camels and fine arts are also amazing attractions.

Marwar region is in the central and western regions of Rajasthan and is famous throughout India for its residents who are spread across India – the Marwaris, most successful and wealthiest business community in India. This unique, tiny community dominates the country’s economy and has pan India presence like no other ethnic group and occupy a pre-eminent position in Indian business. For instance, the top 10 Marwari companies have 6 percent capitalization of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and constitute a quarter of the Forbes Indian billionaires list.

In Sanskrit, the word Marwar refers to Maruwat, the root maru implies desert. Another meaning for the word Marwar in English is “the region of death” to impute the harsh desert climate that characterizes Rajasthan state. Marwaris are named after Marwar region. Some historians attribute to these harsh desert conditions influencing Marwari migration and prosperity. D. K. Taknet himself a Marwari and who has written on their heritage has mentioned that they are genetically disposed to accumulate wealth despite the desert conditions – to make money out of nothing. Though anthropologists and historians might disagree with the theory of genetic or environmental causal factors, the meme exists in the folklore to illuminate exotic Orient.

Thomas Timberg, a Harvard graduate has studied extensively the Marwaris; in fact, his doctoral dissertation was on this community. According to Timberg, Marwaris ability to adapt to varied circumstances and places, and being flexible are traits that contribute to their extraordinary success. He said at a recent panel discussion “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 is of the view that some of the Indian business communities do inculcate ‘Protestant ethic’ of hard work, thrift and rationality.

Even before the word ‘network’ entered the business lexicon, the overwhelming Marwari community’s success is attributed to networking. There is a difference between network-affiliation and network-achievement. The former is defined as a need to associate with a group and have the alacrity to help others in that group. The latter refers to entrepreneurs starting new enterprises. The Marwaris who have migrated to the east and central parts of India and made fortunes had benefited from excellent support network.

Marwaris are orthodox and are mild-mannered, soft-spoken and peaceful. They prefer to live in a joint family; vegetarians who enjoy an assortment of home-cooked dishes; they take vegetarianism seriously. To a certain extent they resemble the Mediterranean and European Jewish trading communities.

Pan India Presence

Despite having poor, hot desert conditions, they are industrious who refused to give in to poverty. Rather, they formed cooperative groups of skilful traders who left their wives and children in their native villages and ventured out to distant places to seek fortune. Fortune does favor the brave; they succeeded and made fortunes.

From an early age, children learn business because they are surrounded by business persons and watch closely their kin and friends, and imbibe survival skills by making and selling products. The elders are supportive to an individual in starting an enterprise. It is said the Marwaris started making earthen or mud pots and bartered these with cereals or money outside of Marwar, Rajasthan, and from then on diversified and never looked back. For hundreds of years the same attitude pervades in them to take risk and strike it on own. Establishing a business earns more respect than an university degree and entrepreneurship is strongly encouraged. Capital is readily available to an honest youth

Until the 12th century, the community depended on agriculture and cattle breeding. The Muslim occupation during this period forced them to shift to trade. From the time of Mughal empire they have emigrated to other Indian regions. The Mughal period was between 16-19th centuries and during the reign of Akbar (1542-1605) they have been employed in eastern Bengal state by Emperor Akbar to oversee food, ammunition and arms supplies. The community has a large presence in Calcutta, the capital of Bengal and expanded their businesses. Since then the Marwari entrepreneurs have been moving out of their home state Rajasthan to various parts of India

By 18th century the British firmly established their presence in Bengal: first, as a company and later as an empire. Calcutta was the major trading post for the British and Marwaris with their business skills made fortunes by becoming agents and brokers to the British. Some of the leading industrial houses founders started small here in Calcutta with major English firms. Most of the young Marwaris stayed community-run basas, or hostels. By late 19th century Marwaris dominated cotton and jute trade. They made huge profits speculating in jute, cotton and hessian during the World War I, which laid the platform for them to enter the many industrial careers.

To sell finished British goods in India, the foreign companies needed agents and offered good brokerage. Marwaris are quick to chase opportunities and take risks-seized the colonial trade, and moved where the action is – into ports as brokers and accumulated fabulous wealth. As the British traders evinced an interest in tea, jute, silver, gold and opium, the migrant traders quickly developed strong insights in these commodities and became indispensible for foreign companies, in turn, making enormous profits for themselves.

Source: Google

Joint Family Values

Each member of the Marwari community supportive of others and the community bonds are very strong. For instance, a businessperson might take an initiative to look after the well-being of unemployed or a needy person in his native village. As such, as a close-knit community they tend to preserve rituals and traditional values in distant lands. They have less ego issues and trained to do business and not to behave like royals.

For Marwari men and women’s lives revolve around the family. The harsh desert climate and absence of opportunities compelled enterprising young men to journey to other parts of the country. When they left, there was solid support of their fathers, uncles, and brothers back at home. Even if one failed, the security of joint family would cushion compared if only an individual was involved on stand-alone basis. Community as a support system is more visible among Marwaris and the strong social support that propels them towards entrepreneurship.

While the joint family infrastructure laid good foundations for taking risks, the community as whole quickly adapted to new cities and villages. In general, a Marwari shop or enterprise will accommodate young men by their established friends and relatives in the region before they are ready to strike on their own. It is the strong family ties that enable these businesses that binds and gives the freedom to take risks. For Marwaris family in ‘family-based business’ is important and sacrosanct. This is evident by the reverence the elders receive. It is not uncommon for a powerful CEO or industrialist to touch an elder relative’s feet as a sign of respect, even in the midst of a board meeting.

When a Marwari travelled on business, his wife and children were cared for in a joint family at home. Wherever he went in search of trade, he found shelter and good Marwari food in a basa, a sort of collective hostel run on a co-operative basis or as philanthropy by local Marwari merchants. Most of them do business and lend money within themselves. In case a Marwari needed money, he takes loan from another Marwari trader on the premise that it is payable on demand, even at midnight. The latter too reciprocate with a loan if requested. They tally and settle the interest at the end of the year. Community banks insure the goods in transit and traders collect dues on goods arrival. Nephews and son intern with other traders, where they earn wages through profit sharing, learn valuable business skills, and accrue capital to start their own enterprises after gaining necessary experience. Another feature that is attributed to their success of their enterprises and keeping their social identity is being able to blend well with the host culture they migrate to.

According to David McCelland, a social theorist observed that, the conservative, traditional communities have pivoted the production of industrial entrepreneurs. The core argument for this belief is that values and institutions that have roots in the joint family systems encouraged rather being barriers to fulfill the aspirations of the family members, even those with limited vision. The strong foundations of traditional values ingrained in the Marwari joint family system helped them become successful entrepreneurs.

Marwaris prefer to marry within their community as they are conservative and being a business community there are several factors that deter inter-caste marriages. However, in recent years the community is open to inter-caste marriages and choosing partners from outside the community. Some of the factors that are against inter-caste marriages are that the Marwaris follow a number of rituals which differ from others and there are compatibility issues as their culture is very different from other groups and castes. Due to their entrepreneurial spirit and being wealthy, the lack of equation can bring in difficulties. Thus, they might mingle with other groups but when at marriage they look within the community.

Certainly a unique community that over generations due favorable political and social conditions have prospered – seems by birth they have magic touch to make wealth!


About the Author

This article was written by Francis Eddu. contact.

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings



Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
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Women on Top in Tech – Pam Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99Designs



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Pam Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs, where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for acquisition, through growth marketing and traditional marketing levers, and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and finding “aha moments” that impact strategic direction. Pam brings a host of first-hand startup marketing experiences as an e-commerce entrepreneur herself and as the first marketing leader for many fast-growing startups. Prior to joining 99designs, she founded weeDECOR, an e-commerce company selling custom wall decals for kids’ rooms. She also worked as an executive marketing consultant at notable startups including True&Co, an e-commerce startup specializing in women’s lingerie. Earlier in her career, Pam served in various business and marketing positions with eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. A resident of San Francisco, Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Harvard Business School. Pam is a notable guest speaker for Venture Beat, The Next Web, Lean Startup, and Growth Hacking Forum, as well as an industry expert regularly quoted in Inc., CIO, Business News Daily, CMSwire, Smart Hustle, DIY Marketer, and various podcast and radio shows. You can follow her on Twitter at @pamwebber_sf.

What makes you do what you do?
My dad always told me make sure you choose a job you like because you’ll be doing it for a long time. I took that advice to heart and as I explored various roles over my career, I always stopped to check whether I was happy going to work every day – or at least most days :). That has guided me to the career I have in marketing today. I’m genuinely excited to go to work every day. I get to create, to analyze, to see the impact of my work. It’s very fulfilling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I had a penchant for numbers and it helped me stand out in my field. This penchant became even more powerful when the Internet and digital marketing started to explode. There was a great need for marketers whose skills could span both the creative and the analytic aspects of marketing. I capitalized on that growth by bringing unique insight to the companies I worked with, well-supported with thoughtful analysis.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup?
I’m not sure this is relevant to my situation as I had been a marketing leader in various start-ups and companies. I took on the role at 99designs because I was excited by the global reach of the brand and the opportunity the company had to own the online design space. I especially liked the team as I felt they were good at heart.

The challenge I’ve faced in my time at 99designs is how do I evolve the team quickly and nimbly to address new challenges. The work we do now, is very different than the work we did a year ago and even the year before that. There is a fine line between staying focused on the goal ahead and being able to move quickly should that goal shift.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industry or did you look for one or how did that work?
There is no one I’ve sought out or worked with over my entire career as my “mentee” needs have changed so much over the years. There are many people who have helped me along the way. For example, one of my peers at eBay, who was quite experienced and skilled in marketing strategy and creative execution, taught me what was in a marketing plan and how to evaluate marketing assets. As I have risen to leadership positions over the years, I often reach out to similarly experienced colleagues for advice on how they handle situations.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
I learned early in my career that it rarely hurts to ask for advice. So that is what I have done. Additionally, there are people that are known to be quite helpful and build a reputation for giving back to others in advisory work. Michael Dearing, of Harrison Metal and ex-eBay, is one of those people. I, as well as countless others, have asked him for advice and guidance through the years and he does his best to oblige. Finding mentorship is about intuiting who in your universe might be willing and whether you are up for asking for help.

That being said, generally, I have found, if you are eager to learn and be guided, people will respond to the outreach.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I generally look for a good attitude and inherent “smarts”. A good attitude can encompass anything from being willing to take on many different types of challenges to working well amongst differing personalities and perspectives. Smarts can be seen through how well someone’s done in their “passion areas” (i.e. areas where they have a keen interest in pursuing).

I try to hire those types of people because in smaller, fast-growing companies like many of the ones I’ve worked in, it’s more often than not about hiring flexible people as things move and change fast.

Once those people are on my team, I try to keep them challenged and engaged by making sure they have varying responsibilities. If I can’t give them growth in their current job or in the current company, I encourage them to seek growth opportunities elsewhere. I’d rather have one of my stars leave for a better growth opportunity than keep them in a role where they might grow stale.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity. When I am hiring, I am constantly thinking about how to balance the team with as broad a range as possible of skill sets, perspectives, etc. to ensure we can take on whatever is thrown at us, or whatever we want to go after.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I’m going to assume a great leader in my industry to mean a marketing leader in a technology company. I think a great leader in this industry is not afraid to learn new tricks no matter their age – it’s the growth mindset you may have heard about. I have a friend who inspires me to do this – she purchased the Apple Watch as soon as it was available, and was one of the first people I knew to use the Nest heating/cooling system. She’s not an early adopter by most definitions, but she adopts the growth mindset. This is the mindset I, too, have sought to adopt. In my field of marketing, it most recently has meant learning about Growth Marketing and how to apply this methodology to enhance growth. Independent of your industry, I think a growth mindset serves you well.

Advice for others?
I have been at 99designs for 3.5 years. During that time we’ve invested in elevating the skills and quality of our designer community, we’ve rebranded to reflect this higher level of quality, and have improved the satisfaction of our customers. Our next phase of growth will come from better matching clients to the right designer and expanding the ability to work with a designer one-on-one. We have the best platform to find, collaborate, and pay professional designers who deliver high quality design at an affordable price, and it’s only going to get better. I’m excited to deliver on that vision.

Pam Webber
Chief Marketing Officer of 99designs
Twitter: @pamwebber_sf

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