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Throwback to 1914: The Indian Man Who Built An Empire in Hawaii

100 years ago, an Indian emigre landed in Honolulu and started a family that's now one of the island's most prominent clans.
Gulab Watumull, the son of Jhamandas Watumull, the founder of the family business.
Gulab Watumull, the son of Jhamandas Watumull, the founder of the family business. Photo credited to Camera Hawaii.Courtesy SAADA

In 1914, Jhamanda Watumull emigrated from Hyderabad, India to Honolulu, Hawaii, by way of Manila. A former textile mill worker, he opened a retail store with a business partner called "Dharamdas & Watumull." Eventually renamed the "East India Store," the business sold raw silk goods and "aloha shirts," and quickly grew into a major department store with multiple locations.

By 1957, the Watumull family's properties included ten stores, a Waikiki apartment house, and assorted commercial developments. In 1973, the number of stores expanded to twenty-nine. Over the last 100 years the Watumull family has made its mark through business, but just as importantly, through its philanthropy, supporting the arts, education, and a myriad of other causes.

Gulab Watumull, the son of Jhamandas Watumull, the founder of the family business. Photo credited to Camera Hawaii.Courtesy SAADA

Photo and caption courtesy of the South Asian American Digital Archive.