The Dynamics of lndian Family Firms in Durban
This paper is hascd on a !'hi) thesis. One hundred and
twenty Indian family businesses were chosen from the Indian
central business district in Durhan. The traders were or vnrious
ethnic and cultural origins, namely Hindi, Gujerati, Tamil and
Telcgu, Hindus and Muslims. The nrcn of study, Durban, wns
chosen not only because or its convenience, hut hecause Indians
arc dominant in Durhan in terms of numhcrs, and the Indian
central business district represents the largest Indian trading area
in South J\f rica. This is d uc to the fact that most oft he i ndrnt ured
labourers were employed on the sugar estates illllllediately to the
north and south of Durban. The indentured Indians who left
agriculture for other occupations turned to their own people for
their markets in trade, hence their concentration in Durban. The
unwillingness on the part of the other provinces to share the
Indian population has contributed to the concentration or
Indians in Natal, and more particularly Durban, which,asa port
and latterly the major industrial and commercial centre of the
region, offered better employment opportunities lor the working
class Indian and better trade facilities fort he Indian businessman
than any other town in Natal.
In Durban, an imllligrant group, most of whom were indigent
labourers when they cnme, .ind who had hcen subjected toa
wide rn nge or discriminatory laws and practices, has csta blished a
large and successful bus111ess district, largely on the basis or
family firms. We ask, how was this possible, and what part has
the joint family played in this major economic development?
While the family firm might he one stage in the evolution of
tcrtia ry activity, it is beset with struct u ra I inadequacies which act
• [kparlmenl of i\11tl11opotogy, U11ivc1sity of Du, han-Wcstvillc
as constraints in its upward mobility. These constraints arc
inadc4uale space, job rcsqvalion and non-availability of loans.
Notwithstanding these complcxilics of the apartheid system. the
Indian business man in the Durban central business area has
done exlrcmcly well.
Early slalulory legislation aimed al rcslricling the dcvclop-
111cnl of Indian business and housing is loo voluniinous lo 4uolc
in full. The following arc some of lhc 111ajor slalulory legislation
which imposed rcslriclions on Indians.