Ahmedabad Textile Mills Association

A Brief History of the Textile Industry in Ahmedabad (1859-1980s)

The origins of the Textile Mills Industry in Ahmedabad can be traced back to pre-independence India when the city and much of the country was under British rule. During this period, Ahmedabad experienced a remarkable growth in population, trade, and a resurgence in traditional cotton, silk, and gold production. Capitalizing on this favourable environment, Ranchhodlal Chhotalal laid the foundation of Ahmedabad’s first textile plant in 1859, a time when Gujarat was still a part of the Bombay Presidency. Despite initial setbacks due to a mishap in the delivery of ordered machinery from England, Chhotalal’s unyielding spirit prevailed, leading to the establishment of the first mill in Ahmedabad.

Despite the prevailing unfavourable conditions that were inherent to the city; such as the city’s dry and arid climate, limited port facilities, lack of a railway network, and the modest quality of local cotton, the availability of local financial capital along with an entrepreneurial spirit, played a decisive role in setting up mills in Ahmedabad. In 1891, by which time a few other mills were established, Ranchhodlal Chhotalal further championed the cause by founding the Ahmedabad Millowners Association, aimed at safeguarding employee interests. The city’s economic progress received an additional boost following World War I, as the cessation of British empire imports provided Ahmedabad’s mills with the opportunity to better cater to India’s requirements.

By the time Gujarat attained independence in 1960, Ahmedabad boasted an impressive tally of over 80 to 90 mills, earning it the moniker “Manchester of India”. Alongside the flourishing textile industry, the influence of wealthy capitalists left an indelible mark on Ahmedabad’s modern architecture. These industrialists, who ranked among the city’s wealthiest individuals, channelled their affluence and influence into supporting the establishment of educational institutions, scientific research endeavours, and cultural promotion initiatives. They were amongst the country’s biggest institution builders that changed the city of Ahmedabad forever. The collective spirit of emerging independence, the magnanimity of textile wealth, and the principles of self-reliance and community collaboration converged during what architect B.V Doshi aptly dubs “The Golden Age” spanning the 1950s to the 1970s.