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Why Coimbatore is called Manchester of South India?

by MAYILSWAMY KRISHNASAMY on March 21, 2024  in Textile

Coimbatore alias ‘Kovai’, is the second largest city next to Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It is housed on the banks of the river ‘Noyyal’ and is surrounded by the Western Ghats. 

The early history of Manchester City

A few centuries ago, Coimbatore was considered a prominent trade route. Initially, the city mediated the trade between the eastern and western coasts of southern India. Later, it began mediating the peninsular India and the coastal lines of Rome. From farming tools to textiles, spices to jewelry, people exported numerous goods to Rome. Notably, the aristocrats and women of Rome were fond of the Kovai textiles.

How did the cotton industry in Coimbatore get sowed?

Roughly, around the 14th century, the Kovai region fell under the great Vijayanagar Empire. In that period, the Telugu farmers found the black soil of this Kongunad region ideal for growing cotton. So, hundreds of farmers flocked together to this region and began sowing the cotton seeds. Following this cultivation, the weavers of the Vijayanagar empire began establishing weaving centers in Coimbatore’s Sukravarpet area. This is how the cotton turbans evolved which are now the favorites of most North Indians. 

The revival of the Coimbatore textile industry

In the mid-18th century, the European Industrial Revolution began and it hit hard the Indian textile industry. It was the time the Mysore Kingdom, led by Tipu Sultan, held this region after the Vijayanagar Empire. In the course of the late 18th century, the British East India Company conquered the whole of the kingdom and annexed this region to the Madras Presidency. 

In the early 19th century, after being accorded as a municipality under the chairmanship of Robert Stanes, the textile industry in this region began reviving. Though plague and famine devastated nearly for decades, the chairman made efforts and sought help from the Nilgiris estate owners and Madras-based European bankers and founded the Coimbatore Spinning and Weaving Mills in the 1880s with advanced spinning and weaving machinery. Kovai’s cotton industry was thus regenerated and soon became the epitome of the country as to how to fabricate a cotton dress and apparel.

The emergence of textile mills in this region

Following the footprints, and witnessing the huge demand for cotton fabrics, a lot of manufacturing units and spinning mills were established. Some of the major ones include the  C.S. & W. Mills, Mall Mills, Kaleeswara Mills, Ranga Vilas Mills, Radhakrishna Mills, Cambodia Mills, Vasantha Mills, Gnanambikai Mills, Sharadha Mills, Rajalakshmi Mills, Pioneer Mills, Dhanalakshmi Mills, Thirumurthi Mills and Palani Andavar Mills. Indeed, all these companies were flourishing and in fact, found competing the cheaper Japanese textiles.   

However, it was only a few pioneers who sustained and protected the industry through the Great War of Independence. Special thanks to the efforts of G.K. Devarajulu and G.R. Govindarajulu from the PSG family and K. Venkatesalu for having earned this region the title “Manchester of South India”. 

The world-renowned khadi cotton from Coimbatore

The virtue of Khadar Ayyamuthu, the grandson of the distinguished gentleman cum cotton supplier to C.S. & W. Mills, was the backbone behind establishing the Khadi society in Tamil Nadu. He is one of the great freedom fighters from this Kovai region who has a special place in the heart of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi. After decades, the "Kovai Cora Cotton" obtained its prestigious GI (Geographical Indication) tag from the Government of India.

Coimbatore FineCraft and the 21st century! 

Today, we’re amid many buzzes, like ‘industry 4.0’, ‘digital transformation’, ‘branding’, ‘online shopping’, ‘sustainability’, ‘organic’, etc. With no surprise, the industrialists and textile mill owners have been upgrading themselves and the Coimbatore textile mills as a progressive society. For example, take Sree Kumaran & Co, Rathnam Tex at Coimbatore which has been long in the industry producing 100% pure cotton fabrics without compromising the reliability and quality. They offer their eco-friendly, organic, and trendy women's clothing under the brand name ‘Happy Bunny’!