The Times of India was founded on 3 November 1838 as The Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce in Bombay. Published every Saturday and Wednesday, The Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce was launched as a semi-weekly edition by Raobahadur Narayan Dinanath Velkar, a Maharashtrian Reformist. It contained news from Britain and the world, as well as the Indian Subcontinent. The daily editions of the paper were started from 1850.
In 1860, Robert Knight (1825–1892) the then editor bought out the Indian shareholders and merged with the rival Bombay Standard, and started India's first news agency. It wired Times dispatches to papers across the country and became the Indian agent for Reuters news service. In 1861, he changed the name from the Bombay Times and Standard to The Times of India. Knight fought for a press free of prior restraint or intimidation, frequently resisting the attempts by governments, business interests, and cultural spokesmen and led the paper to national prominence. . In the 19th century, this newspaper company employed more than 800 people and had a sizeable circulation in India and Europe.
Subsequently, The Times of India saw its ownership change several times until 1892, when Thomas Bennett and Frank Morris Coleman (who drowned in the sinking of the SS Persia (1900) in 1915) acquired the newspaper through a new company they had formed Bennet, Coleman & Co. Ltd.
In 1946, they sold the company to sugar magnate Ramkrishna Dalmya, of the then-famous industrial family, Dalmiyas, for Rs 20 million. In 1948, Dalmiya had to sell the newspaper to his son-in-law Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain (of the Kunal Jain group from Bijnore, Uttar Pradesh) to pay off a debt that he owed to an insurance company.
In the early 1960s, Jain was imprisoned on charges of selling newsprint on the black market, and the Government of India took over the newspaper replacing half of the directors and appointing Bombay High Court judge as the Chairman.
The Times of India has its markets in major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy, Puducherry, Patna, Pune, Calicut, Kochi, Lucknow, Nagpur, Nashik, Panaji, Mysore, Hubli, Mangalore, Bhubaneswar, Visakhapatnam, Chandigarh, Raipur, Ranchi, Guwahati, Trivandrum, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Bhopal and Varanasi
On 3 July 1998, Ashok Kumar Jain, then Chairman of Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., parent company of The Times of India was arrested in his Mumbai residence after 18 months of legal wrangling with Enforcement Directorate for alleged violations of illegal transfer of funds to a tune of 1.25 million USD to an overseas account. Shortly after arrest Ashok Jain complained of chest pain and got admitted to hospital and later would leave to USA where he passed away in 1999. Also, the Times of India was accused of distorting facts pertaining to the case,even giving Ashok's indictment by the Enforcement Directorate the tint of a larger conspiracy against the Jain community in general.
On 26 June 1975, the day after a state of emergency was declared in India, the Bombay edition of The Times of India carried an entry in its obituary column that read "D.E.M O'Cracy beloved husband of T.Ruth, father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justica expired on 26 June". The move was a critique of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's 21-month state of emergency, which is now widely known as "the Emergency" and seen by many as a roundly authoritarian era of Indian government.
In 1998, the summary dismissal of then editor H.K. Dua was attributed to his pursuit of an independent editorial policy that did not suit the interests of the promoters of the group. A complaint was filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties in this matter with Press Council of India. The PCI censured The Times of India.H.K. Dua later claimed that his dismissal was retaliation for his refusal to comply with Ashok Jain's request to help him out of his FERA violation case by ED, using his editorial position to build up public support besides lobbying with politicians.
On 6 July 2012, The Times of India published an article which reported that Mauritius foreign minister Arvin Boolell, who was on an official visit to India during this period, had stated that Mauritius was willing to cede its Outer island, that is the Agaléga Islands, to India in exchange for the maintenance of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between India and Mauritius. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mauritius later denied the claims of handing over the Agaléga Islands to India. He also denied that he had named the Agaléga Islands in his conversation with the journalist of The Times of India and pointed out that the TOI had "a hidden agenda" as it was not the first time that TOI had done this. The Minister claims that he talked to the reporter who wrote the article and that the reporter had "apologized", following the publication of this article. The High Commission of Mauritius in India issued a statement and explained that "this information is erroneous, false and malicious": "Never was the issue of Agaléga raised either on a stand-alone basis or as part of the double-tax avoidance agreement between India and Mauritius". He explained that the Mauritian Minister had granted several interviews to the Indian press and he at no time discussed the issue of Agaléga. The TOI published another article on 6 July 2012 with the title "Minister clarifies Mauritius island offer" and mentioned that it had knowledge about an earlier proposal about the Agaléga Islands and had therefore put a question on the two islands to which the minister had responded. However the TOI did not mention that the offer of Agaléga islands was denied by the Government of Mauritius.
In late 2006, Times Group acquired Vijayanand Printers Limited (VPL). VPL used to publish two Kannada newspapers, Vijay Karnataka and Usha Kiran, and an English daily, Vijay Times. Vijay Karnataka was the leader in the Kannada newspaper segment then.