History of textile industry in India - The first Generation - Bombay Dying
History of textile industry in India - The first Generation - Bombay Dying
History of textile industry in India - The first Generation - Bombay Dying

History of textile industry in india – The first Generation

History of textile industry in india - The first Generation - bombay Dying

History of textile industry in India – The first Generation

History of textile industry in India – The first Generation – Bombay Dying

 

 

 

17/9/2021,

The first Generation Nowrosjee Nusserwanjee Wadia

30 August 1849 – 19 December 1899

It is against this record of Parsi deed and history that Bombay Dyeing’s founder enters the scene, to leave his
indelible stamp on one of India’s most ancient occupations: spinning yarn and weaving it into cloth. India
is one of the world’s first civilizations, and it is highly likely that early word of that civilization was spread by
the products of that venerable craft. Reference to cotton growing in India can be found in the country’s oldest
extant book, the Riga Veda, which some historians trace to the fourth millennium before Christ. In the fifth
century BC the Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Indians possess… a kind of plant which, instead
of fruit, produces wool[sic] of a finer and better quality than that of sheep; of this the Indians make their cloths.”
Herodotus’s error, confusing cotton with wool, gave rise to a myth which persisted in Europe well into the
17th century, supported by medieval woodcuts of the vegetable lamb: “a rough depiction of the Indian cotton
plant, from the top of which the boll has burst open to reveal the body of a miniature sheep with a heavy coat
of fleece. By the first Christian century, or even earlier, Indian cloth was reaching the east coast of Africa, borne
on Indian ships. As this export spread across Europe, it was highly esteemed for its fineness, which was compared
to a spider’s gossamer. “If a person puts such garments on his body,” wrote a European diarist in 1660, awe-
struck by the muslins of Dacca, “it is visible just as if he were naked.” 

If measured by history’s yardstick, Nowrosjee Wadia was something of a latecomer to his country’s textile
industry. Before his birth in 1849, its foundations had been laid: huge, steam-driven looms from England, each
capable of replacing hundreds of hand weavers patiently throwing the shuttle across the warp threads in the
immemorial way, had been landed on India’s shores. By 1817 these looms were clattering in the Bowreah Cotton
Mills outside Calcutta, the country’s first true textile mill. The venture, launched by Englishmen, failed.
Not surprisingly, the resourceful Parsis were quick to recognise and exploit India’s potential for machine-
made cloth. An early relative of Nowrosjee, Dadibhai Nusserwanji Wadia, had built Bombay’s first screw for
pressing cotton into bales. Other Parsis, the Merji brothers, brought to the city its first batch of cotton
from Berar 500 bullock cart loads. The first Parsi-owned steampowered cotton mill opened in Bombay in
1854. History has cast the name of its proprietor, Kavas Nanabhai Davar, into the shade of another, that of
Maneckji Nusserwanji Petit, who with a colleague started the Royal Mills (later the Dinshaw Petit Mills)
at Tardeo in 1855. Still honoured as the pioneer of India’s textile industry, Sir Dinshaw Petit was so successful in
his enterprise that within a few decades he was the wealthiest Parsi in India. He was also to play a crucial
role in the fortunes of Nowrosjee Wadia. ( History of textile industry in India )

The eldest son of Nusserwanjee Ardeshir and Jerbai Wadia, Nowrosjee as a young man showed some irre-
solution about his choice of career. It was implicitly understood that he would follow the course of his father
Nusserwanjee Ardeshir, who had already distinguished himself in textiles. Born in 1832, he was among the first
Indians to study mechanical engineering and while only 15 served the British Indian Marine Dockyard as an
apprentice fitter. At 27, he was sent to Manchester by D.M. Petit and Sons to select the machinery and engines
for that firm’s Victoria Mills in Bombay. ( History of textile industry in India )

On his return in 1863 he dispatched his two sons, Nowrosjee, then 14, and Sorabji, 13, to school in Liver-
pool and for factory training. Back in India in 1866, Nowrosjee, then 17, joined his father as an assistant
in the Petit Mills and was shortly appointed manager of the Albert Mills. This first exposure to cloth manufacture
did not seem to take. The young man went back to England to learn the art of papermaking.

Nothing was to come of this either. Back in Bombay once more, he applied for and received a post as an
engineer in the locomotive department of the Sind and Punjab Railway. But before he could accept it, fate took
a hand. The year was 1874. At the Petit Mills all looms had stopped due to a breakdown in the factory’s main
engine. While the mill’s engineers stood about blaming the disaster on accident and confessing their helplessness
to repair it, Sir Dinshaw Petit requested Nowrosjee Wadia to have a look. The choice was wise. Nowrosjee
laid the blame on negligence a diagnosis later confirmed by the British manufacturers. Assigned to restor-
ing the great engine to working order, he did so within a fortnight. Deeply impressed, Sir Dinshaw rewarded
the young man Nowrosjee was just 25 – by appointing him general manager of the mills, where he soon earned
a name for himself in the industry by introducing the manufacture of cotton threads and hosiery. It should be
noted that Nowrosjee Wadia had already designed and ordered built in England what was then the most power-
ful steam engine to be shipped to India, delivering 4,000 hp. No one but Sir Dinshaw and its creator believed
that such a mammoth engine would work, and at first the doubters seemed to be right. The engine overheated
in operation, even after being swaddled in cakes of ice.
Encouraged by his wife Jerbai, however, Nowrosjee persisted, and eventually subdued the engine’s tendency
to fever, after which, it is said, it served the mills faith- fully for many years.

 

Also Read :

https://postboxlive.com/history-of-cotton-textile-industry-in-india-bombay-dying-100-years/

At this time, in the seventh decade of the last century, India’s contribution to the world’s supply of machine-
made textiles was negligible. The domestic textile industry was still in its infancy, with some 100 mills,
most of them concentrated in the Bombay area, employing 100,000. Nearly all of India’s cotton was exported,
chiefly to England. There it was dyed and woven into cloth, and as finished cloth it returned to India, selling
at a price, despite the 26,000-mile sea voyage to Manchester and back, with which the local mills could
not compete. Some 80% of India’s population wore cloth either processed abroad or woven on domestic
hand looms. Even the cotton yarn spun in India had to be dyed abroad; not a single dyeing facility existed
that could handle the production of India’s power looms.
This last was a constant source of annoyance to Sir Dinshaw Petit, whose burgeoning textile operation
consumed more than 1,000 kgs of imported dyed yarn each day, a quantity limited not by the capacity of the
mill, which was avid for more, but by import restrictions, tariffs and high cost. The obvious solution was to dye its
own yarn one that occurred first to the fertile mind of the general manager, Nowrosjee Wadia. He proposed
it to Sir Dinshaw, who gave it not only his enthusiastic endorsement but his backing as well. On 23 August
1879, the Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co., Ltd. was born. ( History of textile industry in India )

The first 100 years had begun. For a company that was to grow into one of the undisputed leaders of India’s textile industry,

it was a modest birth. Bombay Dyeing opened for business in a small red-brick shed surveying a little garden of canna,
clematis and hibiscus blossoms and lantana shrubs. It stood on 18,394 sq mtrs of waste land, purchased for
Rs 5,000, that fronted the Arabian Sea along the Mahim shore. It was floated on a capital of only Rs 100,000,
a large share of which came from Sir Dinshaw Petit’s purse. There were only four directors and principal
shareholders: Sir Dinshaw (20 shares), Nowrosjee Wadia (18), and two Scotsmen, John S. Alston and William
Reid (25 each), who had been brought out to India from an inoperative dye works in the Vale of Leven, near
Glasgow. The directors voted themselves a starting wage of Rs 85 per month. As manager, William Reid received
an additional Rs 335 per month.
The yarn was dip-dyed by hand in three colours – turkey red, green and orange – and laid out in the sun to dry.
This slow and cumbersome process, little changed in 4,000 years, imposed a heavy burden on both production
and profits. Bombay Dyeing’s first general balance sheet, covering the period 23 August to 31 December
1879, tells the story. It reveals, for instance, that during its first four months the Company disbursed Rs 8,092
in “wages and sundry payments,” received Rs 3,083 At this time, in the seventh decade of the last century,
India’s contribution to the world’s supply of machinemade textiles was negligible. The domestic textile
industry was still in its infancy, with some 100 mills, most of them concentrated in the Bombay area,

employing 100,000. Nearly all of India’s cotton was exported, chiefly to England. There it was dyed and woven into
cloth, and as finished cloth it returned to India, selling at a price, despite the 26,000-mile sea voyage to
Manchester and back, with which the local mills could not compete. Some 80% of India’s population wore
cloth either processed abroad or woven on domestic hand looms. Even the cotton yarn spun in India had
to be dyed abroad; not a single dyeing facility existed that could handle the production of India’s power looms.
This last was a constant source of annoyance to Sir Dinshaw Petit, whose burgeoning textile operation
consumed more than 1,000 kgs of imported dyed yarn each day, a quantity limited not by the capacity of the
mill, which was avid for more, but by import restrictions, tariffs and high cost. The obvious solution was to dye its
own yarn one that occurred first to the fertile mind of the general manager, Nowrosjee Wadia. He proposed
it to Sir Dinshaw, who gave it not only his enthusiastic endorsement but his backing as well.

On 23 August 1879, the Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co., Ltd. was born. The first 100 years had begun.
For a company that was to grow into one of the undisputed leaders of India’s textile industry, it was a
modest birth. Bombay Dyeing opened for business in a small red-brick shed surveying a little garden of canna,
clematis and hibiscus blossoms and lantana shrubs. It stood on 18,394 sq mtrs of waste land, purchased for
Rs 5,000, that fronted the Arabian Sea along the Mahim shore. It was floated on a capital of only Rs 100,000,
a large share of which came from Sir Dinshaw Petit’s purse. There were only four directors and principal
shareholders: Sir Dinshaw (20 shares), Nowrosjee Wadia (18), and two Scotsmen, John S. Alston and William
Reid (25 each), who had been brought out to India from an inoperative dye works in the Vale of Leven, near
Glasgow. The directors voted themselves a starting wage of Rs 85 per month. As manager, William Reid received
an additional Rs 335 per month.
The yarn was dip-dyed by hand in three colours – turkey red, green and orange – and laid out in the sun to dry.
This slow and cumbersome process, little changed in 4,000 years, imposed a heavy burden on both production
and profits. Bombay Dyeing’s first general balance sheet, covering the period 23 August to 31 December
1879, tells the story. It reveals, for instance, that during its first four months the Company disbursed Rs 8,092
in “wages and sundry payments,” received Rs 3,083 suppliers for dyed yarn or else dyed their own. From a
peak daily production of some 12,000 kgs it fell to 2,727 kgs in 1921. Operations were suspended in June
1959; today yarn is dyed as one of the many processing operations within the New Bleach Works, completed in
1957 on the same grounds as the Textile Mills. The building itself survived into the 1970s, an unofficial
monument to its creator. Then it too disappeared, razed to permit construction of Twin Towers, the two
29-storey apartment buildings that rose just north of the Mahim site and that now house many of the
officers of Bombay Dyeing and their families.
In his 21 years at the helm, Nowrosjee Wadia set the course that was to guide the Company into the 20th
century and through three generations of heirs. A man of wide-ranging interests, he cut an imposing figure in
the Bombay of the 1890s and contributed in many different ways to the growth of the city. His services
were widely sought by the textile industry; before his death he had designed and erected more than a dozen
mills. As a member of the Bombay Municipal Corporation he introduced measures to improve the building
codes and the drainage system. He was erected a Fellow of Bombay University and received an appointment as
JP in 1886; in 1889 the government conferred upon him a CIE (Commander of the Indian Empire).
By no means the least of Nowrosjee Wadia’s contributions was his Parsi insistence on helping others in less
fortunate circumstance — something that a good Parsi would not call charity but duty. To his wife Jerbai he
left the sum of Rs 850,000, a sizeable portion of his fortune, to be spent on the needy poor.
In the welfare of the millhands, he was well ahead of the contemporary social conscience. Bombay Dyeing’s wage
scales led the industry – a fact made clear to the Bombay Millowners Association when, in 1893, it asked
Nowrosjee Wadia to submit a schedule for the industry at large. Mr. Wadia drafted one so generous in its terms
that the MOA voted it down.

 

 

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History of textile industry in India

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