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History and Conditions: Asia
once the most prominent (and probably the wealthiest) native Indian merchant
Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy was born into a poor family in Bombay, on July 15, 1783. Raised in Navsari, he moved back to Bombay upon the death of his parents in 1799, and was apprenticed to a maternal uncle.
Jejeebhoy began his business career by collecting and selling empty bottles in Bombay. Despite the relatively meager money he made in this fashion, by 1814 he was able to purchase his first ship, the Good Success, and soon added six more to his growing fleet. By 1818, he had made enough money to establish the firm of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy & Co., which soon established itself as a major exporter of cotton, opium, and other goods. By the time of his death Jejeebhoy was the most prominent (and probably the wealthiest) native Indian merchant.
In addition to his prominence as a merchant, Jejeebhoy also enjoyed prominence as a philanthropist. His philanthropic endeavors began in earnest in 1822, when he personally remitted the debts of all the poor in Bombay's civil jail. Over the course of his lifetime he endowed numerous charitable endeavors, including the Parsi Benevolent Institution (the first indigenous educational institution in western India), the J.J. Hospital, and the J.J. School of Art.
In 1842, Jejeebhoy became the first Indian to be knighted by Queen Victoria. In 1857, he became the first Indian to receive a hereditary baronetcy. In 1859, the citizens of Bombay took up donations to erect a marble statue in his honor at the Royal Asiatic Society's Library.
Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy died in Bombay on April 14, 1859.
This page was last updated on March 02, 2017.