The sitter is believed to be one of the wealthy Parsee merchant elite of early 19th Century Bombay. Many such merchants and ship owners had arrived in the city and made their fortunes in connection with the East India Company. The port of Bombay can be seen through the window, hinting at the source of the sitter's wealth and status.
The Parsees had fled from Persia to India in the early Middle Ages, and maintained a close-knit community based on their Zoroastrian religion. Whilst guarding their unique community, they were quick to adapt to British rule and British customs during the Raj, suggested in the present portrait by the sitter's adoption of elements of British dress such as the starched white collar layered beneath his otherwise opulent robes.
Parsee merchants profited from the thriving cotton trade with China in the early 19th Century, and perhaps the sitter dealt in the fine cotton of which his inner robe is woven. Or he may have been the tea trade, symbolised by the teacup on the tray to his right.