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.

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.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.

In 1948, with the War over and Indian Independence achieved, the Comptoir reopened in Calcutta and then in 1958 set up a representative office in Delhi, now the national capital. In 1966, the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) and Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) merged to form Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), which thus became the leading French bank. The name was better suited to Indian customers, who could now at least pronounce the name of the bank!

During the 1990s, the foundations of a modern bank on a different scale were laid. New staff were brought in, the business portfolio revamped, and the bank reorganised. In 1995 BNP was said to be the most profitable foreign bank in India.

In 2000, when a merger between BNP and Paribas created the BNP Paribas Group in France, the Paribas offices in India were integrated into the BNP organisation. Today BNP Paribas employs close to 1,000 staff in India.

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