Sunday, April 11, 2010

REVIEW: Back to the Future

Back to the Future: Roots of Commodity Trade in India
Jignesh Shah ,Biswajeet Rath
Takshashila Academia of Economic Research
Rs 999
Pp 144, 160 col illustrations

This book is the first study on the antiquity of commodity trade in India. Contrary to popular belief in the industry, commodity trade in India goes back centuries. This work explores ancient Indian history and the information it provides on commodity trade, contemporary prices, market places, traders and trade routes, measurement systems, and state regulation of such trade.

The study takes into account ancient Indian literature, archaeological evidence, and inscriptions that record commodity trade and price regulation for the entire period of Indian history, particularly from the 6th century BCE onwards.This book also refers to numerous secondary sources on trade practices in ancient and early medieval India, and utilizes cartographic tools for plotting the spread of commodities and their trade in various parts of ancient and medieval India.

In trade we trust Financial Express
“As nomadic man settled in land to cultivate crops and graze his cattle, some began to engage in specific occupations as carpenters, barbers, tailors, ironsmiths, goldsmiths, washermen and many more. Thus began the exchange of different goods and services among the producers of diverse farm crops and livestock products and the varied service providers. The barter trade evolved as a result and soon emerged the bazaars or markets. Civilisation began to develop around the market towns and as civilisations spread across the world, ships began to sail over the sea carrying goods and merchants.”

In the first millennium, India contributed 33% of the world GDP and was the world’s largest economy. The country was also one of the world’s biggest exporter of goods such as textiles, steel and iron products, and spices until the 11th century. At the onset of the 17th century, more than half of the world’s exports were from India and China. These are among the interesting facets of history brought out by Back to the Future: Roots of Commodity Trade in India, by Jignesh Shah, chairman and CEO of the $ 1.84-billion Financial Technologies Group (he also launched Multi Commodity Exchange in 2003) and Biswajeet Rath, assistant vice- president (editorial) of Takshashila Academia of Economic Research, relied upon to trace the evolution of commodity trade in the country.

Trading on the past Business Standard
Jignesh Shah, managing director of the Multi Commodity Exchange, India’s largest commodity exchange, is the best-known face of India’s modern commodity futures trading fraternity. Articulate and just media-friendly enough to warrant a mostly favourable press, Shah’s story holds a Narayana Murthy-type of attraction — humble background, ambitious, pioneering, tech-savvy, simple, hard working et al.

In these days of instant fame and desktop publishing, it would have been all too easy for Shah to commission a book on his life story thus far or produce a treatise on his thoughts, as some of his contemporaries in other businesses have done. To his credit, he has resisted these temptations, choosing instead to jointly produce this semi-coffee table offering that traces the evolution of commodity trade in India.

It’s a neat touch: A pioneer of modern financial markets in India authors a history of the subject. Shah has not chosen the historian’s role, so there’s no original over-arching theory on India’s commodity trade to be found here. Instead he’s co-written a linear narrative based on “archeological, literary, and inscriptional sources (circa 7000 BCE to 1800 CE)”, as the subtitle explains, plus academic discourses on the subject.

India Infiline
Commodity trade is one of the oldest trades and its history can be traced back to the roots of ancient civilizations. In the 1400s, India was a nation blessed with wealth. Commodities such as wheat and rice, and cotton for cloth were grown in India, as in other parts of Asia and Europe. Around the same time, Vasco da Gama in his search for new trade routes discovered India with its rich abundance in spices and other commodities, and introduced an important trading nation to the rest of the world.

In the first millennium, India enjoyed around 33% of the world GDP and was also the world’s largest economy. We were also the world’s foremost exporter of goods such as textiles, steel and iron products, and spices until the 11th century. At the onset of the 17th century, more than half of the world’s exports were from India and China. Being the largest trading nation, ports and markets abounded all over the country.

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