individual capacity rather than as part of a mercantile organisation, an
indication that the great merchant guilds of the medieval period were fast
    Besides, the dividing line between independent merchants and merchants
acting on behalf of the European companies was a very thin one. In several
cases, in fact, a merchant functioned in both capacities. But the company
records specifically mention several indigenous merchants as their rivals and
    Many of the native merchants, however, found that it was more profitable
and less risky to act on behalf of the companies rather than make voyages on
their own. In the organisational set-up of the companies, their function was
fourfold: purchasing cloth for the company and acting as a link between it
and the weavers; supervising weavers and minimising the company’s risks by
taking on bad debts; ensuring quality and timely delivery; and saving the
company the necessity of laying out vast sums of money by making the initial
advances themselves.
With regard to the mercantile groups and their activities, the Hindus as a
whole continued to dominate the commercial world of the Coromandal
overseas and coastal trading, wholesaling and retailing, brokerage, banking
and shroffing. Among Hindu merchants, the most important were Telugu
mercantile castes, viz. the komatis and balijas (belonging to the right hand-
faction-valankai), and beru chettis (left hand faction-idankai). Prominent
Hindu individual merchants were Kasi Viranna (Casa Verona), Malaya and
his brother Chinanna, Narasimha Rama Chetti, Ben Rama Chetti, Kesara
Chetti, Seshadri, Varadappa and Koneri Chetti.
    Muslim merchants of the Coromandal, indiscriminately referred to by the
Europeans as Moors, shared the domination of the overseas and coastal trade
of the Coromandal with the Hindu merchants. The so-called Moors consisted
of the Golconda Muslim merchants and the Chulia merchants of south
Coromandal, both of whom had diverse ethnic origins. Other major merchant
groups in the Coromandal were Gujaratis and Armenians, who seem to have
made Coromandal their home. Among the Muslim merchants, the most
important personalities were Mir Jumla, Khwaja Nizam, Mir Kamal-ud-din,
Mirza Muhammad, Khwaja Hassan Ali, Mir Qasar, and Khwaja Araby. A
number of them had close