Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Marwari in the Social Sector

No, 'marwari' is not a social sector jargon (for all those who haven't come across this term earlier). The marwari are an ethnic group of India originated from Rajasthan envied for their business and money-making skills.

Marwaris once were known for their philanthropic nature which has undergone significant changes over the years. There were times when charity or philanthropy was an integral part of a marwari business.

Ritu Birla in her book Stages of Capital: Law, Culture, and Market Governance in Late Colonial India writes about charitable donations by marwaris in the colonial times. Dharamshalas (Community hotels?), pathshalas (schools), gaushalas (cow sheds), community hospitals and community kitchen were and still is quite a common form marwari philanthropy.

In her book she also writes about dharmada khatas (dharma accounts), commonly maintained by marwari businesses. A percentage of retail sales was set aside for a charity fund which was accounted for in the dharmada khata. This for me is the oldest form of cause-marketing existent in India. Many marwari retailers still follow this tradition and maintain a gau daan (cow donation) box at cash counters.

Today, the whole concept concept of philanthropy among marwaris has been disintegrated from their business and their way of life. As the new generation of marwaris are stepping out of the entrepreneurial world they are getting more and more disconnected with the traditional philanthropic values of the community. The marwari entrepreneurial upbringing could be an asset for an NGO to solve some social problems.

Becoming a chartered accountant, starting a business, making high yielding investments are top 3 on a marwari priority list. 'Designing' balance sheets and helping people 'save' taxes are jobs that most marwaris look up to. A career in the social sector is almost alien to this community.

Its is still quite unusual in my family (read: extended family) to accept the fact that I work in the social sector. Some doubt (and even ask) if I am paid for what I do. At one point in time my parents were concerned that I might not get a suitable girl to marry if I work in this sector. Thankfully I've been able to lay rest to this concern!

It was the Spring of 2009 when I landed myself in the social sector. It was not an informed decision but more of an experiment which I don't regret.

I am a marwari in the social sector. Perhaps an investment opportunity with high returns in the future.

1 comment:

  1. What you're doing is commendable. Marwaris are born with a 'Giving' attitude, And you're blessed If you got an opportunity to do it full time. Keep up the good work.