- From the late 18th century, the British in India began exporting opium to China and took tea from China to England.
- Many Indians became junior players in this trade; providing finance, procuring supplies and shipping consignment.
- Having earned through this trade, some of these businessmen decided to develop industrial enterprises in India.
- In Bengal, Dwarkanath Tagore made his fortune in the China trade.
- In Bombay, Parsis like JDinshaw Petit and Jamsetji Nusserwanjee Tata built huge industrial empires in India.
- Seth Hukumchand, a Marwari businessman who set up the first Indian jute mill in Calcutta, also traded with China.
- The father as well as grandfather of G.D. Birla was also famous industrialist.
- Some merchants from Madras traded with Burma while others had links with Middle East and East Africa.