Watch out, East India Company is returning to India

The only difference is that unlike the company's first peregrinations into the Indian sub-continent from 1600 onwards, this time the company will be owned by an entrepreneur of Indian origin.

"Surely, we have no political ambitions, but this is the world's most successful brand, and we'll open stores in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in the first quarter of 2011," Mehta told PTI today, a day before the formal opening of the store here.

The 'East India Company' store on Conduit Street, off Regent Street in London's West End, has already aroused considerable interest among shoppers, even before the high-end food store is formally launched.

Mehta has ambitious plans for the company's expansion across the world. The store measures around 2,200 square feet, and reminds many of the Company Bahadur's heritage – its coat of arms hangs on the wall while ancient Indian coins are placed across sales counters.

Imbued with a sense of history, Mehta, 49, explained how history dictated the designing and formatting the 21st century incarnation of the East India Company, which ruled over India until 1875, when it was dissolved.

"A lot of thought has gone into each and every facet of the store – from colours, crest, logo, fonts, food range, quality and replication of images associated with the company.

"The company originally started with food, and we are treading the same path again," Mehta said. He added: "If the East India Company had remained a commercial enterprise and had continued to function until this day, what shape would it have taken? That is the question I ask myself and that is what dictated my vision for the company".

Mehta has secured replication rights from museums of various artefacts associated with the company, such as the Queen's table placed in the Victoria & Albert Museum, chandeliers, etc.

He acquired the company in 2005 and has since invested 15 million US dollars. The store on Conduit Street will sell 350 high-end products, including over 100 varieties of tea, chocolate boxes, biscuits and mustard.

High-end, carefully sourced items for sale include marmalade mixed with gold leaves. Mehta has a family background in gems and jewellery, and migrated to Britain in 1989.
He studied at the Sydenham College, Mumbai and gemmology in Los Angeles, and maintains close links with India through his business interests.

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