Mircea RaianuJan 27, 2022
The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism
Harvard University Press 2021
Nearly a century old, the grand façade of Bombay House is hard to miss in the historic business district of Mumbai. This is the iconic global headquarters of the Tata Group. Founded in 1868, the Tatas – India’s largest business conglomerate – have been a persistent and dominant presence in the economic and business life of the country. Their businesses range from salt to software, tea to automobiles, and hotels to telecommunications. Originally from Navsari, Gujarat, the Tata family are Parsis, members of a tiny ethno-religious community of Indian Zoroastrians. After getting their start in the cotton and opium trades, the Tatas ascended to commanding heights in the Indian economy by the time of independence in 1947. Over the course of its 150-year history, Tata spun textiles, forged steel, generated hydroelectric power, and took to the skies. The Tatas became notable for their extensive philanthropy and for their unique business model, with trusts owning majority shares in the business. They also faced challenges – from restive workers fighting for their rights and from political leaders who sought to curb the corporation's power.
Mircea Raianu’s Tata: The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism (Harvard University Press, 2021) tells an eye-opening portrait of global capitalism spanning 150 years, through the history of the Tata corporation. Raianu’s sweeping history tracks the fortunes of a family-run business that was born during the high noon of the British Empire and went on to capture the world’s attention with the headline-making acquisition of luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover. The growth of Tata was a complex process shaped by world historical forces: the eclipse of imperial free trade, the intertwined rise of nationalism and the developmental state, and finally the return of globalization and market liberalization. Today Tata is the leading light of one of the world’s major economies, selling steel, chemicals, food, financial services, and nearly everything else, while operating philanthropic institutions that channel expert knowledge in fields such as engineering and medicine.
Based on painstaking research in the company’s archive, Tata elucidates how a titan of industry was created and what lessons its story may hold for the future of global capitalism.
Mircea Raianu is an assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland. He specializes in the history of modern South Asia, with research and teaching interests in capitalism and economic life broadly constructed.
Shatrunjay Mall is a PhD candidate at the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He works on transnational Asian history, and his dissertation explores intellectual, political, and cultural intersections and affinities that emerged between Indian anti-colonialism and imperial Japan in the twentieth century.