Documents of the English and the Dutch East India Companies speak about Virji Vora, a Jain trader from Surat, the greatest in India in the 17th century. He was the Company’s most important credit supplier.

At time he along with some other principal merchants in Surat purchased entire cargoes valued at 5 to 10 lakhs of rupees.

In 1650, in alliance with Dutch broker Mohandas Parekh, Virji Vora purchased all the goods brought by the Dutch to Surat.

In 1625, the English had to purchase Rs. 10,000 worth of pepper from him as only he could supply the quantaum needed. The English were forced to pay the price he charged. When additional pepper reached Surat, the English tried to purchase it but Virji Vora outbid them.

Virji could dictate terms to European trading companies because of his network of agents. They were stationed in Baroda, Ahmedabad, Agra, Burhanpur, Golkonda, on the Coromandel coast, etc. He had men in the trade marts of the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Iran, Java, etc.

He owned ships as well. A Dutch Chaplain at Surat in 1664 called him the richest merchant in the world. His fortune was estimated at eight million rupees.

He even advanced sums to foreigners:
* Rs 20,000 in 1635
* Rs 2.3 lakh in 1636
* Rs 1 lakh in 1642

But as is so usual with Jains, he discharged his social responsibility with fervor. During the severe famine of 1630-32, he distributed grain and cooked food to the hungry and needy. He contributed lavishly to the socio-religious functions of his community.

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