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From BNP Paribas Archives: History of BNPA Paribas in India since 1860

Summary:
EABH Podcast features Marie Laperdrix, Head of Archives and History at BNP Paribas. Marie informs about how the French Bank has been steadily building and digitizing BNP Paribas archives. BNP Paribas group has emerged after a series of a mergers. The Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris merged with Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) in 1966 to become Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP). In 2000, BNP merged with Paribas to become BNP Paribas. The digital archives are really impressive. A dig into the archives took me to this history of how BNP came to India in 1860! In 1860 the Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris opened a branch in Calcutta. This was a pioneering move as, until then, rather than opening branches of their own abroad, the practice of French financial institutions had

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EABH Podcast features Marie Laperdrix, Head of Archives and History at BNP Paribas. Marie informs about how the French Bank has been steadily building and digitizing BNP Paribas archives.

BNP Paribas group has emerged after a series of a mergers. The Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris merged with Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) in 1966 to become Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP). In 2000, BNP merged with Paribas to become BNP Paribas.

The digital archives are really impressive. A dig into the archives took me to this history of how BNP came to India in 1860!

In 1860 the Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris opened a branch in Calcutta. This was a pioneering move as, until then, rather than opening branches of their own abroad, the practice of French financial institutions had been to work through a network of correspondent banks. At that time Calcutta was the capital of India and a major trade centre.

Why did the Comptoir set up in India? As part of the bank’s general strategy of taking an active role in financing international trade, with the emphasis here on meeting the needs of French clients importing raw materials, especially cotton. In similar vein, the French demand for wool led the Comptoir to set up in Australia in 1881.

A second branch opened in 1862 in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) as this major cotton and trading centre was experiencing a boom during the American Civil War. In 1903, due to the difficult political and economic climate, the Calcutta branch was closed.

The outbreak of the Second World War cut the Bombay branch’s ties to its Paris headquarters and it came under the control of the London office, which was in Allied territory. The branch managed to maintain profitability by financing cotton exports and engaging in precious metals trading.

The history of foreign banks in India has a history of its own. Absolutely worth exploring…

Amol Agrawal
I am currently pursuing my PhD in economics. I have work-ex of nearly 10 years with most of those years spent figuring economic research in Mumbai’s financial sector.

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