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Factories in India

The first cotton mill in Bombay came up in 1854. In 1855, the first jute mill was started in Bengal. In north India, Elgin Mill was started in Kanpur and the first cotton mill was set up in Ahmedabad. In 1874, the first spinning and weaving mill of Madras was set up.

Indian Entrepreneurs

Dwarkanath Tagore made fortune in the China trade in Bengal and he set up six companies in the 1830s and 1840s. In Bombay, Parsis such as Dinshaw Petit and Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee Tata built huge industrial empires in India. Seth Hukumchand, a Marwari businessman, set up the first Indian jute mill in Calcutta in 1917.

Some merchants from Madras traded with Burma while other had links with the Middle East and East Africa.

Factory Workers and Industrial Growth in India

With the expansion of factories, the demand for workers increased in India. Most of the workers came from villages in search of work. The peasants travelled great distances in the hope of work in the mills. A jobber was employed by the mill owners. The jobber recruited workers from village and helped the peasants to settle in the city.

The Europeans were interested in the establishment of tea and coffee plantations by acquiring land at cheap rates. These were mostly primary products for export and not for sale in India.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, there was a change in the pattern of industrialisation because of Swadeshi movement. The nationalists boycotted foreign cloth and encouraged home-made goods or videshi goods. Industrial groups organised themselves to protect their collective interest.

The Manchester imports into India declined during the First World War period. Indian factories were called upon to supply war needs such as jute bags, cloth for army uniforms, tents and leather boots, horse and mule saddles, etc. So, new factories were set up. Over the years, industrial production boomed.

The economy of Britain shattered after the First World War, Manchester could not recapture its old position in the Indian market. Britain could not compete with the US, Germany and Japan.

Small Scale Industries

Small scale industries pre-dominated Indian economy. There were many small workshops and household units located in alleys and bylanes, invisible to the passer-by.

Handloom sector survived and expanded despite the problem faced due to cheap machine-made thread which wiped out spinning industry in the nineteenth century.

The handicrafts people were able to adopt new technology which helped them in improving production. The weavers started to use their looms with a fly shuttle. This increased productivity and reduced labour demand. This also helped several weavers to produce as well as compete with the mill sector.

The handicrafts people survived even during famine. Saris with woven borders, or the famous lungis and handkerchiefs of Madras could not be easily displaced by the mill production.

Weavers and other craftspeople continued to expand production but they did not prosper well. They lived a hard life, worked long hours and often the entire household including all the women and children worked at various stages of the production process.

Market for Goods

Indian weavers and craftsmen, traders and industrialists resisted colonial controls and tried to extend the market with their produce. The products produced by the Indians were advertised in a desirable manner to create new consumers. Advertisements played an important part in expanding the markets for products and in shaping a new consumer culture.

The clothes were labelled to make known to the consumer the place of manufacture and the name of the company. The label was also a mark of quality. Sometimes the labels also carried images and were very often beautifully illustrated and thus appealed to the people.

By the late nineteenth century, the manufactures started printing calendars to popularise their products. These calendars often had the images of gods. When Indian manufacturers advertised the nationalist message, it was clear and loud that by buying Indian goods, they showed their nationalist spirit. Advertisement became a vehicle of the nationalist message of Swadeshi movement in India.

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