Review: The Sindhis–Selling Anything, Anywhere  

Partab Ramchand | Updated on: Aug 29, 2022

The Sindhi story is one of riches to rags to riches punctuated by the twin notions of hard work and enterprise 

This book is the 13th in Penguin’s multi-volume series, `The Story of Indian Business.’ In it the author examines the social and cultural infrastructure that sustains the Sindhi business and its trade networks. He also locates Sindhi business within the dynamics of the contemporary Indian diaspora and features several success stories both from India and abroad. The book emphasises the commercial inventiveness, spatial mobility and adaptability of the Sindhis—qualities crucial to building successful cosmopolitan businesses.

The business skills of the Sindhis have been well documented for years. They are respected and even feared in any field of endeavour they adopt.

As Gurcharan Das in his introduction to the book puts it succinctly, “The secret sauce of Sindhi business is made from the following four ingredients—the compulsion to strike out on one’s own, the will to succeed, surviving hard knocks and bouncing back after things go wrong, the readiness to travel anywhere and develop new markets and the knack of building a symbiotic web of family members and fellow Sindhis in distance places and tapping into this network when required.’’

The success of the Sindhis has not come overnight but is a result of having to overcome the horrors of Partition followed by hard work, enterprise and the willingness to change to any new surroundings. Wherever the Sindhi has gone anywhere in the world to set up his business he has not only made a success of it but has also adapted to the food, culture and customs of that country.

Hard work and dynamism

The bold and adventurous nature of the Sindhis has taken them to every nook and corner of the world. They have earned a name for their hard work and dynamism in every continent and even in places which are barely known.

They are driven by ambition, eager to earn loads of money and give their family the best of everything and to this end the Sindhis have never been shy of tackling new initiatives, branching out into new businesses hitherto unexplored by the community and making a success of it.

In many cases the children have expanded the business their father has built and the concern has gone from strength to strength, expansion in every way being the name of the game.

There have been success stories involving the Sindhis going back well over a century and more as the author notes but if one has to pinpoint from where to appreciate the achievements of the community it has to be Partition which is a defining event of contemporary Sindhi history and identity.

Back then in Sindh the Hindus were a prosperous minority. Partition uprooted them forcibly and dispossessed them of their livelihood and assets. Fleeing across the border with their meagre belongings they settled down in various places in India doing whatever work they could obtain. But the innate business acumen was always there and from humble beginnings they branched out to bigger things not only in India but everywhere round the world.

Fundamentally, the Sindhi story is one of riches to rags to riches punctuated by the twin notions of hard work and enterprise, generally making it on their own steam with little outside help from the State or anyone else.

The Sindhi enterprise is best summed up by the items they sold initially all over the country. These were made in Ulhasnagar a town near Bombay where several families settled down in the period immediately following partition. The items were packed with the label “Made in USA” which did not mean America but Ulhasnagar Sindhi Association!

Falzon traces the growth of the well-known worldwide Sindhi business firms of Chanrai, Chellarams, Choitram, Moorjanis and Harilelas—as well as the phenomenal success story of the Hinduja brothers—and how they adapted to local conditions when laws were changed in those countries which affected outsiders.

The Sindhis either adapted by taking in locals as their partners as required or went elsewhere to try out their fortunes. Thanks to their business acumen they invariably succeeded while making these compromises or changes. With their flexible approach they have also managed to keep in touch with changing trends and the need to alter the line of their businesses whenever required.

Shrewd business sense

Sindhis have generally been welcomed anywhere for their shrewd business sense, their willingness to adapt and change and with their expertise in setting up many successful ventures they have been able to boost the economy of the nation.

From textiles to electronics, from real estate to the hospitality industry, from the mail order business to film production, Sindhis have made their mark in every field. In several cases they have turned out to be highly influential, merging smoothly with the high and mighty, the rich and famous of that country.

If the Sindhi has the image of ostentatious living, who enjoys the best things in life, it is not far from the truth. But Sindhis have also been in the forefront when it comes to philanthropy, setting up charities or building hospitals. Some of the leading hospitals in the country bear Sindhi names.

To sum it up, Falzon’s is an accurate account of the journey of the Sindhis towards business excellence and the ability to “sell anything, anywhere.’’

(The reviewer is a senior journalist and author of several books)

Check out the book on Amazon

The Sindhis: Selling anything anywhere.  
Author: Mark – Anthony Falzon
Publisher: Penguin
Price: ₹299
Pages: 256

Published on August 29, 2022
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