|Hong Kong Shanghai Bank buildin, Mumbai. Flickr|
Hongkong & Shanghai Bank founded originally in Shanghai, China to cater to the needs of China-based trade and commercial activities of the British businessmen based in HongKong and Shanghai in the 19th century, over a short period of time it a pre-eminent position as one of a few best Colonial banks in Asia. With the opening of the Suez Canal and ever-increasing cotton trade, Bombay became a boom town in the 1850s. Bombay's strategic location and heavy trade activities attracted the attention of many banks. H & S Bank opened its branch in Bombay in 1869; its first Indian branch being at Calcutta in 1867.
Both Bombay and HongKong were busy trading centres and shared a common colonial heritage through trading and business activities. The link between these two cities grew stronger when the British mercantile activities were at peak.
In the 19th century the greedy British business men supported by the British government were actively involved in opium trade with China and forced the Chinese to become major importers of opium from India. British Bob saw to it that as many Chinese were high on opium as possible. H & S Bank openly played a crucial role as a source of funding for the huge trade of opium into the Chinese markets in the ninetieth century. Ultimately, the Chinese government became furious and this led to
1858 Anglo-Chinese War.
Some Indian business families took advantage of opium export to China and were shamefully involved in this unethical opium trade and made a bundle. It was out and out an unscrupulous trading activity on the part of British India. So profitable and lucrative was this trade in financial terms, that by 1891, the income derived from opium export to China accounted for one-seventh of all budgetary income for the Government of India. Yet another forgotten chapter in Indian history is the Indian farmers were forced by the British to raise opium on their lands. In many cases, there was outright purchase of lands under duress from the British at a cheap rate. The British made profits at both ends in India and in China. The Hongkong & Shanghai Bank was never in the red in the colonial period and became the first bank to take advantage of the enormous profits involved in drug-peddling.