The sedimentary organic carbon maximum on the continental slope off western India is widely believed to be due to the preferential preservation of deposited organic matter at water depths where the intense oxygen minimum intersects the sea floor. This region is considered to constitute one of the modern analogues for the environment of formation of organic-rich sedimentary facies that are common in the geological record. We critically examine the hypothesis that the oxygen minimum in the eastern Arabian Sea is the site of enhanced organic matter accumulation and preservation using analyses of suites of samples with wide geographical coverage along this margin. Organic carbon and nitrogen reach maximum concentrations between 200 and 1600 m depth, whereas the lowest dissolved oxygen contents in the oxygen minimum lie between 200 and 800 m depth. The Corganic/N ratios and the δ13Corganic values show that the organic matter is overwhelmingly marine, and Rock-Eval pyrolysis data demonstrate that the hydrogen indices of the sediments are similar in the sediments accumulating within and outside the oxygen minimum. Thus, the organic carbon maximum extends over a larger depth range than the oxygen minimum (as is also evident on some other slopes), and there is no evidence for preferential preservation of the organic matter within the oxygen minimum. The distribution of organic matter on the western Indian continental margin is controlled by (1) variations in supply (decreasing westward away from the centers of coastal upwelling and also decreasing with increasing water depth), (2) dilution by other sedimentary components, and (3) the texture of the sediments (coarser-grained sediments having lower carbon contents), which is controlled in turn by sediment supply and reworking. The evidence available suggests that the organic carbon maximum on this slope is not related to the position of the oxygen minimum and, consequently, that oxygen minima cannot be used to explain the distribution of organic carbon at intermediate palaeodepths in the geological record.