On 2nd August 1616, a Dutch merchant named Pieter Venden Broecke arrived on the shore of Surat looking for prospects of trade. He was well received by the local Mughal governor but failed to make any business agreement as the governor did not have the power to give license for a factory establishment. Broecke sailed back to his country leaving four of his men to dispose his goods. In 1617, two more Dutch ships arrived but both were wrecked near the port. In 1620, Broecke took another chance. He arrived again at Surat with a better planning this time. By this time, the Dutch had secured trade license and permission to establish a factory like that of the British in the city.
This was the era of prosperity for Surat. The port city was very populous with full of merchants. The Dutch had established a strong base in city’s international trade network. Goods were being brought up in the river Tapi by boats. Among the natives, besides Hindus and Muslims, the Parsis also constituted a considerable share.
For Dutch East India Company, one of the major items of trade was indigo. Surat was their chief factory in the whole of Indian Subcontinent. Their position was next to English.
In their factory, the Dutch had employed five Indian gentlemen including Mr. Faramji Pestonji Dotivala, a Parsi gentleman, to work in their bakery. In 1759, the Dutch East India Company’s had fallen substantially. Trade had largely moved to British Bombay with Surat playing a subordinate role.
When the Dutch finally left Surat, they handed over their bakery to Mr. Dotivala. And thus began a new chapter in the history of baking in India. Listen to the story of their struggle and prospect from the mouth of none other than Cyrus Dotivala, Pestonji’s 6thgeneration descendent.