Book review | Govindram Seksaria: The Untold Saga of an Empire-Builder by Minhaz Merchant

Author: Minhaz Merchant

No. of pages: 2&4

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography

Published by: Amaryllis Publishing

Published on: 30th October 2019

Format: Hardcover

My rating: ★★★★☆

This is a riveting account of the life and work of the Govindram Seksaria ‒ industrialist, philanthropist and a member of the New York Cotton Exchange ‒ and ties together several strands of a seminal period in Indian and World history. Seksaria, lived in a historically defining era, his life straddling epochal events: two world wars, the Great Depression in United States, India's freedom struggle against the British Raj, and the growth of Indian industry.
Seksaria, who was born in a family of small traders, never travelled abroad and spoke neither English nor Hindi ‒ only Marwari, and was at the time of his passing, at age 58, one India's wealthiest businessmen. He donated liberally to the freedom movement and built not only an industrial and trading empire but also hospitals and educational institutions as well. He pioneered girls' education in an era when few others did.

He commanded a large following among industrialists, politicians, traders and friends. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Mahatma Gandhi, at differ times, sought his sage advice. Throughout his extraordinary life in business and philanthropy, Seksaria never gave a press interview or delivered a public speech.

Minhaz Merchant's latest release chronicles the life for one of the biggest industrialist during pre-independence era - Govindram Seksaria. This biography details out the growth of Seksaria, and how he helped the cotton industry to boom in India. His immense help in the freedom movement and the Indian industry pioneered the way of upcoming Indian industrialists. Not only was he a successful businessman, he was a philanthropist as well. In this book you will get a glimpse into the life Seksaria - as a family man, an industrialist, a philanthropist, and a freedom fighter. 

The book does not follow a timeline, as in, it does not rehearse Seksaria's life events in a chronological order. Instead, except the first chapter (which revolves around his birth), the chapters are allotted in a way which focuses on the industries, or fronts, that Seksaria conquers one by one. The first few chapters are dedicated to Seksaria's master mind - how his intuition and risk-taking abilities helped him to reap results. He took in account America's economic recession and the war economy to make life-changing decisions on his business ventures. 

Merchant not only narrates the story of Seksaria's  growth as an industrialist, but also the rise and fall of the global economic reforms in the pre-independence era, that also played a major role in Seksaria's growth. The book traces Seksaria's mastery over the cotton and gold industry, and how he took complete advantage of it in respect to its rise and fall in value in respect to the global industry. 

The book also delivers us Seksaria's journey as wholesome man who devoted his life in the freedom movement and uplifting of women's education. He was the one to set up the first person to set up a girl's school in his ancestral village of Nawalgarh. He was so charitable that no poor person who would go to him asking for monetary resources would return empty handed. To qoute his grandson, 'Charity was the hallmark of his (Seksaria's) career. He was always giving to others in so many different ways. Since the time he started making money he was donating to charity. And the real charity in that period was done by him in the field of education.'

Not only was Seksaria charitable for the education movement in India, he also used his wealth to donate large sums to the Congress party for the freedom movement. He donated large sums to educational institutions and hospitals as well. His immense help and enthusiasm for the nation will forever be remembered, and author Minhaz Merchant has helped to spread the legend of Seth Govindram Seksaria who still remains largely unknown in history. 

Minhaz Merchant is the biographer of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the late industrialist Aditya Birla, and Larsen & Toubro Chairman, A.M. Naik. He founded the pioneering media firm Sterling Newspapers Pvt. Ltd. which was later acquired by the Indian Express group.

A widely published newspaper columnist and television commentator, Minhaz's book, The New Clash of Civilizations: How the Conte Between America, China, India and Islam Will Shape Our Century, was published to wide acclaim.

I received a copy of the book in exchange of an honest and unbiased review. 



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