East India Company, Reborn!


Written by Namrata Rao for The Financial Express

It was four years ago in 2010 that the East India Company made waves across the world. It had been bought by an Indian. Many were surprised. Not just by the fact that it now had an Indian owner, but that it was still in existence.

In June, the company grabbed headlines again: it issued limited-edition gold coins to honour cricketer Sachin Tendulkars illustrious career.

But how did a company that colonised half the world, including and especially India, transform itself into one that now retails the worlds finest gourmet foods and beverages, publishes books and has a bullion business Not to mention that an Indian calls the shots now.

Its a story right out of a fairytale. Its common knowledge that East India Company ceased to exist in 1874, hit hard by Indias first war of independence (or Sepoy Mutiny, as the Britishers called it) in 1857. Its army, navy, the treasury, factories, etc, were all transferred to the crown, to Queen Victoria.

It was only in the 1980s that a group of British merchants went back to the crown to the present Queen Elizabeth II and sought permission to trade using the companys name. They consequently took ownership of all the intellectual properties of the company, which were sitting idle with the crown or the British government. They traded in, among other things, tea and coffee. In the early 2000s, they approached London-based, India-born businessman Sanjiv Mehta to build a teabag business.

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