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The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism

Mircea Raianu

ISBN 9780674984516

Publication date: 07/06/2021

An eye-opening portrait of global capitalism spanning 150 years, told through the history of the Tata corporation.

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, a multinational corporation that produces everything from salt to software. After getting their start in the cotton and opium trades, the Tatas, a Parsi family from Navsari, Gujarat, 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. It also faced challenges from restive workers fighting for their rights and political leaders who sought to curb its power.

In this sweeping history, Mircea Raianu 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.


  • Raianu’s book, the first by an academic historian mining the company’s archives, attempts to explain its rise and longevity without resorting to its own mythmaking…The account of how one conglomerate came to dominate India’s economy for much of the past 150 years makes timely reading for those reflecting on whether capitalism and corporate power in India is entering a new era.

    —Benjamin Parkin, Financial Times


  • 2020, Joint winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Prize


  • Mircea Raianu is a historian of global capitalism and modern South Asia. He is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press