During the Indus Valley Civilisation, the economy depended majorly on trade and it was through intensive caravan trade that the Civilisation came into regular contact with faraway lands and expanded its culture.

While agriculture was the dominant occupation, the products of Indian industries enjoyed a worldwide reputation. The muslin of Dacca, the calicos of Bengal, the sarees of Varanasi (Banaras) and other cotton fabrics were known to the foreigners. Egyptian mummies dating back to 2000 B.C. were wrapped in Indian muslin! Under the Hindu Varna system, commercial activities became a monopoly of the Vaishya section.

The vast unified territory during the Mauryan era led to better trade. During the Gupta era, traders were forming associations to protect their interests. By the Mughal age, India had dominated the world commerce, with large quantities of gold and silver flowing into the country.

Surat merchant Virji Vora, one of the first Indian entrepreneurs, had enormous liquid capital and wide-spread mercantile operations. He would advance funds at exorbitant rates of interest to the English East India Company, and his position in the market seemed unassailable.

Read next: The Fall and Rise of Entrepreneurship in Imperial India

Sources:
Indian Entrepreneurship in Historical Perspective: A Re-Interpretation
Indian Entrepreneurial Culture: Bengal and Eastern India