The Dutch East India Company, officially the United East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie; VOC) was a megacorporation founded by a government-directed amalgamation of several rival Dutch trading companies (voorcompagnieën) in the early 17th century. It was established on March 20, 1602, as a chartered company to trade with Mughal India during the period of proto-industrialization, from which 50% of textiles and 80% of silks were imported, chiefly from its most developed region known as Bengal Subah. In addition, the company traded with Indianised Southeast Asian countries when the Dutch government granted it a 21-year monopoly on the Dutch spice trade. It has been often labelled a trading company (i. e. a company of merchants who buy and sell goods produced by other people) or sometimes a shipping company. However, VOC was in fact a proto-conglomerate company, diversifying into multiple commercial and industrial activities such as international trade (especially intra-Asian trade), shipbuilding, and both production and trade of East Indian spices, Formosan sugarcane, and South African wine. The Company was a transcontinental employer and an early pioneer of outward foreign direct investment. In the early 1600s, by widely issuing bonds and shares of stock to the general public,[a] VOC became the world's first formally listed public company. [b] In other words, it was the first corporation to be listed on an official stock exchange. [c] It was influential in the rise of corporate-led globalisation in the early modern period.
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