The name 'The British East India Company' needs no introduction to the world of business, commerce and industry. It was the most successful business ever and has a more colourful and adventurous history than any company in history.
It was founded initially on 31st December 1600, when a group of London coffee merchants were granted a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I. Over the next 250 years it became the most powerful commercial enterprise ever seen in the world of business and industry.
On 31st December 1600 the company had 125 shareholders and a joint capital of £72,000 (a considerable amount in those days). It was given a Royal Charter to trade in the East Indies; however it made little impression on the Dutch control of the spice trades in the East Indies (what is today known as Indonesia).
The company?s traders were frequently engaged in hostilities with their Dutch counterparts in the Indian Ocean, and realising the futility of waging trade wars in remote Dutch controlled Indonesia, they decided to explore their options for gaining a foothold in mainland India, with official sanctions of both countries.
In 1615 Sir Thomas Roe was instructed by King James I to visit the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who ruled over 70% of the Indian subcontinent. The meeting was a success and a commercial treaty was made which gave The British East India Company exclusive rights to trade to and from India and England. Emperor Jahangir sent a letter to the King through Sir Thomas Roe.
Even with the patronage of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, the company had many enemies in India. The Portuguese had already established their bases in Goa and Bombay and the French were well established in Pondicherry, Mahe, Karikal and Chandernager. The Portuguese were allies of England but the French were bitter enemies and there were frequent skirmishes between them for control of Colonial Possessions. These skirmishes eventually escalated to war. On Indian soil, the war was fought between company troops and French forces.