Maniram Dewan, the prime minister of the last Ahom King, Purandhar Singha, was the first Indian to grow tea on a commercial basis in Assam. He was followed by Rosheswar Barua, who established six tea estates. Many other Indian planters followed.
From Far away Rajasthan, came the Marwaris who found fortunes in tea cultivation. In 1819, Navrangrai, the father of Harbilash Agrawal, migrated from Churu and settled in Tezpur. A few years later he was joined by a stream of traders. They braved immense hardship, but battled on and built their businesses from scratch from Tezpur.
The Marwaris travelled across rough terrain, often on foot. There were no transport facilities and a popular fable in Hindi(Indias national language) to highlight the entrepreneurship Zeal & perseverance was "Jahan na pahunche belgadi, vahan pahunche Marwari" (the Marwari can even reach a place which is inaccessible to a bullock cart). Many Marwaris succumbed to illness and lack of medical care. They had to rely on their own intelligence and skill to develop plantations, clearing the jungles and identifying the soil best suited to tea. So expert did they become that very soon European and other Indian planters began to seek their advice, Later buying out British plantations. Their role in the development of Assam was quite significant and unparalleled.
Tea estates were owned by privately held British companies as late as 1980, and are now owned by large Indian tea houses or by private owners.