Friday, April 16, 2010

Mulji Jetha market - a Textile Bazaar in Mumbai

The Mulji Jetha market in Mumbai is the largest textile market in Asia. It is a hundred and thirty-six year old market and located near the Zaveri Bazaar, in Kalbadevi. It was built by a few Bhatia families who came to Bombay from Kathiawad and Saurashtra and has 954 shops under one roof. It is most unusual in its planning and spreads out into street-like aisles that are covered with a roof. It has some of the old, charming skylights that only a few buildings in Bombay have today. The shops are mostly wholesale outlets.

Included below is a google earth image of the Kalbadevi and Crawford market area. I thought this image is a good indication of just how large this market is in its physical extent. Seen in the left upper corner of the image, the market occupies a huge part of the Kalbadevi area encompassing several streets and equipped with 24 entrance gates. In the lower right corner of the image is seen the Crawford market, which is the oldest fruit and vegetable market in Mumbai.
Source : Google Earth

The textile market belongs to the Mulji Jetha Market association whose members are the shop owners. In conversation with the Secretary of the Market association, Mr.Rajesh Patel, I learn that there is a board of directors comprising of ten members. If there is a new entrant or trader who wants to buy a shop in the market, he seeks the approval of the Board. A premium is fixed over the price of the purchase which is paid to the Market association. For a sale price of Rs.50 lakhs for a shop, the premium may be about Rs.15 lakhs. These funds are utilised for the maintenance of the market. It has a security service for its many gates and more than 15 sweepers for keeping the premises clean. The type of traders include wholesalers and semi-wholesalers. The grey cloth comes from Bhiwandi and from Echal Karanjit in Maharashtra; suiting fabric is from Bhilwada; sarees are from Surat and cotton fabric comes from Ahmedabad.

In India, the story of the rise of Dhirubhai Ambani, from a small trader to a large business tycoon is well known. He began by setting up his own yarn dealership in a small 10ft x 10ft space in Mulji Jetha Market, for which it is said, he paid an exorbitant rent of Rupees 150 a month because it had a telephone. I include here some excerpts from an Inaugural address by his son, Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director of Reliance Industries at the launch of the Multicommodity Exchange :

“My father, Shri Dhirubhai Ambani, returned from Aden in February 1958. He started a small office in Masjid Bunder. It was then the nerve center for trading of spices. In the midst of the din and bustle of this market place, he had a small office. With two tables and a common care-of telephone. All in just 150 sq. ft. of space. From there he started trading in cardamom, dry ginger, turmeric, black pepper and other spices.”

“Then, in 1959-1960, came an opportunity to export textiles. Against exports, one could get a licence to import yarn. Dhirubhai Ambani used this opportunity to buy cloth in wholesale quantities from Mulji Jetha market and export it.”

“Yarn and textiles fancied him. He dreamed of having his own world-class textile manufacturing facility. This, over time, led to the Naroda textile unit. From Tamba Kata to largest Polyester producer and Mulji Jetha Market to Jamnagar, Reliance has come a long way. A journey founded on the dynamics of commodity markets.”

Why would a visit to such a textile market be of interest to anyone who is not in the textile business himself? I think what is interesting here is that the entire textile bazaar is dominated by Gujarati and Marwari owners. It is therefore also culturally different from other bazaars in Mumbai. In Mumbai, there were communities who came from different States in India to settle here. It is interesting to see in the Bazaars in Mumbai how each of these communities recreates as much as possible their own cultural milieu.

The people from Gujarat who own shops in the Mulji Jetha and Zaveri Bazaar area attract setting up of eateries that serve gujarati food. The arrangement inside their own shops usually consists of cotton mattresses covered with white linen placed on wooden or built-in platforms. These are how they like their places of business to be.

Below is an image from Patan, a town in Gujarat, which was once its capital. Patan is a place known for its hand-woven Patola sarees that can take 4-6 months to weave and are priced high. As noted in Wikipedia, Patan was a part of the Maratha state of Baroda from mid-eighteenth century until India's independence in 1947, when Baroda became part of Bombay state, which in 1960 was separated into Gujarat and Maharashtra. If you walk down the streets in Patan, the shops have a traditional look that you see replicated in the Mulji Jetha market in Mumbai.

How to reach there : It is walking distance from the Crawford market and can be reached either by train from the Victoria Terminus station, Masjid Bunder & Marine Lines station or by bus or taxi.

Other bazaars in Mumbai:
Fish market at Sasoon Docks
Antique market in Mumbai (at Chor Bazaar)
Dadar flower market
Street corner at Crawford market

Other posts about Mumbai:
Bollywood Posters
The Gateway and its small enterprises


radha said...

It seems a different world out there! Wholesale trading is a different game altogether. Nice account. Nice pictures.

Kiran said...

Yes, the wholesale markets are quite different, i guess. Its wholesale vendors interacting with retail vendors, both in the same line of trade.

ija said...

hai, im ija from malaysia.. may i know where can i get the cotton fabrics and the raw silk? TQ

Indian Bazaars said...

Ija: I have been getting questions from friends about where to buy bangles or pickle jars!! These are not questions I'm really good at answering, but I can try! In Mumbai, you can get good cotton fabric at FabIndia and raw silk at FabIndia (near Kala Ghoda) as well as Cottage Industries (near Gateway of India) These are retail stores and the prices are higher than elsewhere, but the collection is good.