History of Mumbai- Land and Real Estate (Chapter 2)

All, Realty, Project Management & Advisory

History of Mumbai - Land and Real Estate (Chapter II)

A stroll through the busy streets and teeming alleyways of Mumbai is like a tour of its vibrant cultural and social history. Around every corner and every bend, a tale lies hidden, waiting to be discovered.

To the keen observer, the city of Mumbai is a storybook, with lines inked in the links of sprawling railway tracks, and punctuated by monuments to its illustrious past.

SILA, our Real Estate platform, was built upon the foundation of developing meaningful relationships, not only in our interactions with stakeholders and collaborators but also with the land we call our home. Join us, as we travel backwards in time to trace the roots of our beloved City of Dreams. 

(This is Part 2 of the series A Brief History of Mumbai. Read Part 1 here)

 

The American Civil War and Establishment of Sassoon Docks

By 1850, Bombay had transformed into a major colonial mercantile and industrial city.

New developments, such as the establishment of the rail network in 1853 and increased employment opportunities attracted thousands of migrant workers.

Amongst the Baghdadi-Jewish migrants to the region was retired treasurer of Baghdad and licensee for British textiles in the Middle East, David Sassoon. Upon moving to the city, he sought and was granted, permission to continue his trade in Bombay.

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Stonewalled by the tight-knit Parsi community, who had established their turf at the jetties of Ballard Pier, Sassoon decided to design and build his own dock for trading. 

Built in 1875, Sassoon Docks was the first commercial wet dock in Western India. 

During this time, the American Civil War saw a massive cotton shortage on the continent. Sassoon, who had been trading in Chinese opium and silks, and had established connections with Lancashire, proposed that a supply be exported from India instead. 

With established trade routes between Bombay, China and America, and his very own port with a penetrative railway infrastructure, Sassoon proved to be a valuable asset to the Company. 

 

 

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However, Sassoon’s true relevance to the history of Bombay lies in his business acumen, which informed him that his true fortune lay in producing fabrics locally, rather than importing them from Lancashire. 

By the 1860s he had set up 17 textile mills in Bombay, employing 20,000 workers.

The Dock, which still stands today, is located in the Colaba area of South Mumbai and inspired the design of the Princes Dock in the Bombay Presidency decades later.

 

The Rise and Fall of the Textile Industry

At the dawn of the 20th Century, Bombay had transformed from a trading town to a booming manufacturing centre, with more than 50 textile mills to its name. 

With new employment opportunities, migrant workers flocked in from surrounding areas. By 1931 half of the city’s population was economically dependent on the textile industry.

 

 

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Residential, institutional and infrastructural development had advanced in the southern regions and were now focused towards the north to accommodate this influx of labour.

Acres of land around the mills were allotted to mill owners at lower rates to encourage the development of the textile industry. These areas soon became the heart of the transforming city, as the Bombay skyline morphed, becoming defined by tall industrial chimneys and massive mill structures.

With 130 mills located in the Girangaon area— a word that means “Village of Mills” —Bombay’s textile industry was one of the Century’s largest.

 

 

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However, as newer industries developed, the mills became unprofitable, and quickly fell into disrepair. 

The true end of the era came with the textile strike of 1982. 

Over 50 textile mills and approximately 250,000 workers went on strike. After a long struggle, the strike was called off with no concessions provided to the workers. 

Unfortunately, most industries had moved base out of Bombay by that time, and over 80 mills were shuttered, marking the end of Bombay’s textile industry. 

 

Modern Redevelopment

The redevelopment and urbanisation of textile mills began in the 1990s. 

Allowances were made for mill owners to sell a part of their land, and for the categorisation of the land to be changed from Industrial to Residential or Commercial. 

The city skyline began to transform once again.

As Bombay turned to Mumbai, tall industrial chimneys were overshadowed by high-rise luxury towers, and urban development saw the transformation of areas such as Lower Parel, once known for its large textile mills, into thriving business complexes.

Today, Lower Parel is a premier zip code, with a mix of both residential and commercial real estate, boasting large luxury towers and serviced apartments. 

 

 

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

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The commercial capital and multi-cultural hub of India, Mumbai’s real estate houses some of the largest global financial institutions, business houses and Bollywood’s finest actors and actresses.

Once an archipelago of seven islands, the city now sprawls over a vast expanse of land. With a coastline that is expanding as quickly as its economy and its population, reclamation and development activities in the city continue to this day.

The Mumbai Coastal Road Project is an ambitious infrastructural undertaking that is expected to transform the city once again, by directly linking South Mumbai with the North by means of an expansive, 8-lane, 22.2-km long freeway.

The reclamation project, which is currently underway along the western coast of the city, is proposed not only to build a road but also includes other amenities the likes of vast public spaces, jogging parks, car parking structures and more.

 

 

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With plans for an undersea tunnel and a road that promises to link Marine Lines in South Mumbai to Kandivali in the North, the project is expected to significantly decrease the average commute time in one of the world’s most congested cities.

With massive development projects, the likes of the Coastal Road in the works, the city of Mumbai is expected to grow and transform once again, shedding its past in exchange for a more promising future. 

Once a trading town, Mumbai today is one of the fastest-growing economies of the world and a global city in its own right.

 

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