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Title: From Lancashire to Bombay : commercial networks, technology diffusion, and business strategy in the Bombay textile industry
Author: Amdekar, Shachi Dilip
ISNI:       0000 0004 7426 4498
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis is an analysis of technology diffusion and the long-run institutional impact of the nature of that diffusion. It examines how a growing commercial trading relationship with Lancashire-based millwrights enabled textile industrialisation in late 19th century Bombay, and reflects upon the evolving character of Indian manufacturing and organisational behaviour within and beyond the colonial context, and into 21st century industrial strategy. Drawing upon primary archival material from sources in Britain and India (including historical company records, trade association records, transactional correspondence between Lancashire and Bombay, and administrative records of the India Office in Whitehall), and upon 27 elite interviews with prominent Mumbai-based businessmen and their families, a technological and cultural dependence by manufacturing elites upon the commercial agent is identified. The emplacement of colonial business norms and particularly the use of informal networks, in turn bolstered by a culture for clubbability, appears to influence the distinctly tight-knit, ‘gentlemanly’ character of Indian family business houses established during the late 19th and early 20th century. Applying a mixed-methods approach to technology theory and analysis, the data chapters are split into two parts, respectively concerning info rmation flows and knowledge flows from the UK to Western India. The former explores patterns in technological transactions and decisions governing the diffusion of textile technology that enabled industrial establishment. The latter focuses on the replication of managerial, cultural and business practices following and reflecting upon Bombay’s textile industrialisation; this establishes the observed presence of British ideals of gentlemanly business conduct within informal networks, familial and community ties. Overall, this research highlights how business history may be used as a lens to understand the process of technology diffusion and analyse the reinforcement of culturally-hybrid social norms in peripheral regions via technical or commercial links. In terms of developmental trajectory, moreover, this case study considers how given limited capacity for innovation or capital goods production, strategic supply-side decisions may garner early cumulative value by replicating industrial production, albeit with long-term institutional consequences. This research has implications for future understanding of the development of UK-Commonwealth trading relationships, and how these might foster structural transformation in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. While this thesis focuses on the diffusion of physical capital and technology-driven industry, such a narrative exploration of networks and business norms surrounding structural transformation might be pursued based on alternative factors of production including capital investment and flow, or else feasibly extend into other post-colonial regions.
Supervisor: Fennell, Shailaja Sponsor: ICA India ; Smuts Memorial Fund ; University of Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Institutional Economics ; Structural Transformation and Innovation ; Technology Diffusion ; Trade in Innovation and Capital Goods ; Technology Adoption by Indian Conglomerates ; Institutional Risk ; Informal Agency ; Clubbability and Network Theory in Organisational Behaviour