No wonder, then, that the Venetian merchants - the middlemen closest to the end customers and with the most visibility of the entire network - moved to take greater control of the network. In the late Middle Ages, the bankers, merchants, and ship owners of Venice controlled the trade into Europe. At the peak of its power, the Venetian Republic had a fleet of ships exceeding 3000 and controlled all trade from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. To assure security of the supply network the Venetian republic controlled territories on the Adriatic coast so that pirates could not attack their ships coming from the east. Using their financial power, the Venetian merchants guild began to dis-intermediate the middlemen in the entire supply chain. The simultaneous rise of strong Arab empires with central command first in Baghdad, and later in Cairo controlling a vast territory, aided this process of dis-intermediation as the caravans could traverse a much greater distance and were assured relatively more security in their travels. A key feature of the Venetian Business Network was the role of political power, as well as finance, in shaping desirable business outcomes and securing these outcomes for the key participants in these networks. Evidently the network had become a lot more formal in its form and functioning (or possibly more records are available to give us an impression that it had become more formal). It should not surprise us that consolidation of political power made the Business Network more effective and efficient at the same time. There are ample historic records as well as anecdotal writings - from Shakespear’s “The Merchant of Venice” to Horatio Brown's historical reviews - that make great reading about the Business Network centered around the Venetian merchants of the later Middle Ages.In the pre-Renaissance period, spice was still the commodity in demand and the margins were still extraordinarily high. Despite dis-intermediation of many middlemen - the land route with camel trains and shifting political fiefdoms was always the second best alternative to a sea route directly accessing the sources of supply. With this in mind, Christopher Columbus set out in search of the sea route to India and discovered America instead. However, another explorer Vasco da Gama did manage to open the sea route to India for Portuguese traders. The Business Network over the next two centuries came to be dominated by Spain and Portugal - trading with the new world of Americas as well as the old world of Asia. The key feature of the Business Network of this era was a complete merger of political and economic action in the name of the sovereign and rise of colonialism as a result. An exploitative Business Network of this nature with its one-sided value exchange could not last very long; at one time Vasco da Gama captured the local king's emissary, who had earlier afforded him a grand welcome during his much celebrated first visit to Calicut in May 1498 - called him a spy, ordered his lips and ears to be cut off and after sewing a pair of dog's ears to his head, sent him away. This network was gradually replaced by a more benevolent form of colonialism of the East India Company and its peers.The East India Company started trading in spices and gradually took control of almost the entire spice network. As it expanded its reach through political and business alliances and skirmishes, it established beachheads in trading centres around the world and extended the trade itself. Tea was cultivated in Ceylon and India for export to Europe; opium was cultivated in India for export to China and silk and silver were exported from China to Europe. With the advent of the industrial revolution, the Business Network became more diverse - covering greater areas and a larger number of commodities - as well as more efficient as faster steamships and railways replaced the sailboats and camel trains. Other, less dignified-trades, including those slaves and opium, became more lucrative and perhaps reduced the brain power invested in more legitimate trades such as industrial goods and raw commodities. While the pros and cons of the rule of the East India Company are well-debated in many elegant books, we will restrict our discussion to the business impact of the network created by the company. The key noteworthy feature of this Business Network was the use of alliances to establish the network, and use of technology to improve efficiencies in its results. Have you tried listing your organisation in a business directory - (I've heard it ticks a lot of marketing boxes)?