Deus Indicat. Deo Ducente Nil Nocet

God is our leader. When God leads, nothing can harm

One hundred and thirty-six years after it was dissolved, the East India Company is being relaunched—this time with an Indian at the helm.  The EIC’s present business plan is a little less grandiose than its former mandate, but at least its present impresario has a certain respect for the brand and its history.

Mumbai-born Sanjiv Mehta is opening a luxury food shop this month in Mayfair, London, under the historic name – as he takes his first step towards restoring the company to its former glory.

With a nod to the past, the 2,000 sq ft premises will sell a range of teas and coffees, as well as other goods including chutneys, marmalades, mustards and chocolates.

Mr Mehta has been granted permission by the Treasury to use the name and original trademarks of the East India Company.

…The 48 year old, who has lived in London for 20 years, says the reasoning behind it all is that he could never hope to create such a recognisable brand from scratch.

‘I have not created this brand, history has created it,’ he said.

‘I am just the curator of it, a custodian.’

Mr Mehta added that he has suffered no criticism from compatriots for buying the company, saying: ‘People are rejoicing because an Indian has bought the EIC – it is a symbol of redemption.’

– Wilkes, David.  “The East India Company to resume trading – but this time under Indian control.” Daily Mail, 2 August 2010.

In Canada, the 340-year-old Hudson’s Bay Company occupies a similar iconic place in our commercial and historical landscape, but its myopic executives have been busy trying to bury that heritage, not capitalise on it.  Within my lifetime they have reduced the branding to merely “The Bay”, and now just “HBC”.  There is little connection between its rugged, pioneering past and its current bland retail housewares existence.

If (for example), HBC had maintained a significant hunting/camping/outdoor equipment line, would you be inclined to go down the street to Europe Bound or Mountain Equipment Co-Op?  Or would you rather buy the gear from the company that built its entire business around dotting the wild Canadian landscape with remote trading posts, keeping fur trappers and natives supplied with the necessities of life and commerce?

One cannot help but applaud the simple clarity and initiative of Mr. Mehta in resurrecting a well-known brand and wielding its 400-year history to keep moving the same sort of product it did so many years ago.  If only Canadian businessmen would take note.

Category: Amor Patriae, Industria
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One Response
  1. Nathan B. says:

    I forgot to comment on this the other day. About HBC–I agree! I’ve often thought: how did the world’s most historic company, a very large one, come down in the end to a boring suburban department store with too few staff and too little lighting? (To be fair, the flagship store downtown Vancouver is significantly better, as, I guess, a few in Toronto are, too). They should be playing up their history for all it is worth.