It was during the reigns of Francis that the first French expeditions took place in India. The French East India Company was formed under the stewardship of Cardinal Richelieu in 1642. It was remodeled under Jean Baptiste Colbert in 1664 and an expedition was sent to Madagascar in the same year.
In 1668, the first French factory was established in Surat when an expedition was sent under the command of Francois Caron. In the following year another French factory was set up at Masulipatnam. Chandernagore (now called Chandannagar) was established in 1673 after taken permission from Nawab Shaista Khan, the Mughal governor of Bengal. In 1674, the French captured Valikondapuram from the Sultan of Bijapur and thus established their hold over Pondicherry. By 1720, the French lost their factories at Surat, Masulipatam and Bantam to British.
The French were in constant conflict with the Dutch and English in India. In 1693, the Dutch seized the town of Pondicherry and fortified it considerably. However, the French regained Pondicherry in 1699 through the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. Starting from the early 18th century to the mid 18th century, the commercial motive of the French rulers dominated over political gains. Now their objectives were purely commercial. The French Company's trade increased ten times and was nearly half the size of the English Company, which was a big threat for the English. The French acquired Yanam, in the northeast of Pondicherry in 1723, Mahe on the Malabar Coast in 1725 and Karaikal, in the south of Pondicherry in 1739. From 1742 onwards, political motives again dominated over commercial gains and the factories were fortified for the purpose of defence.
By this time the well-known French Governor of Pondicherry Joseph Francois Dupleix had arrived in India with the ambition of a French Empire in India. The French interests clashed with the British ambitions and repeated clashes began. Under the leadership of Marquis de Bussy -Castelnau, Dupleix's army successfully controlled the area between Hyderabad and Cape Comorin. But with the arrival of Robert Clive, a daring British officer the French were chased out and Dupleix was recalled to France.
This failure did not act as a deterrent and French did not lose hope. They subsequently sent Tally Tollendal to regain the French losses. Initial success blindfolded the French and Lally went on to make strategic mistakes. They lost the Hyderabad region in the Battle of Wandiwash and Pondichery was seized in 1760. With this the French lost their hold over South India.
In 1765 Pondicherry was again returned to the French after a peace treaty with England in Europe. Jean Law de Lauriston, the then French governor rebuilt the town. For the next fifty years Pondicherry was under the French and British administration according to the peace and war treaties. After the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars in 1816, all the five establishments Pondicherry, Chandernagore, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam and the lodges at Machilipattnam, Kozhikode and Surat were returned to France. Over the next one hundred and thirty eight years successive governors improved infrastructure, industry, law and education. The French colonies in India remained separate from British India, without any interference.
After the independence of India in 1947, the French India possessions were ceded to the Union of India.