Srichand Hinduja, an influential figure in the business world, spearheaded a remarkable business empire that originated as a modest trading venture in India and Iran during the mid-20th century. Over time, this enterprise expanded into a vast global network, encompassing diverse sectors such as automobile manufacturing, information technology, and oil.
Despite his significant accomplishments in the business realm, Hinduja's name in the UK often brings to mind a passport controversy involving Peter Mandelson, a key figure in the New Labour movement, who resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet due to the incident. However, Hinduja, who passed away at the age of 87, was more than just a business magnate. As the eldest of the renowned "fab four" brothers from India, he possessed an exceptional ability to forge connections, hosting extravagant gatherings for influential individuals and establishing contacts ranging from George Bush to Michael Jackson. Notably, he was also a deeply religious man, abstaining from alcohol and meat, and prior to his battle with dementia, he would diligently offer prayers at a Hindu temple at least once a day.
Born in 1935 in the Sindh province, which is now part of Pakistan, Hinduja's family eventually settled in Tehran, Iran, where his father, Parmanand, had established a business in the dried goods trade. The Hinduja brothers expanded their interests in Iran, distributing Indian films dubbed in Farsi and supplying uniforms to the armed forces. They developed a close relationship with the Shah and profited from the surge in oil prices during the 1974 oil crisis. Shortly before the 1979 Revolution, they left the country, with Hinduja moving to London alongside his brother Gopichand, while Prakash relocated to Geneva and Ashok to Mumbai.
From their business headquarters in New Zealand House on London's Haymarket, Hinduja, often referred to as SP, diversified the family's assets beyond traditional commodity trading. In 1987, they made their first significant investment in a public company by acquiring a majority stake in the automotive manufacturer Ashok Leyland. This marked the beginning of a series of investments spanning various sectors, including telecommunications and power. According to The Sunday Times Rich List (see P9), as of last year, the Hindujas were Britain's wealthiest family, with a fortune of £28 billion. Their holdings included interests in companies such as Hinduja Global Solutions, IndusInd Bank, and Gulf Oil International. The Hinduja Group employed approximately 200,000 individuals worldwide, and the family also owned a residence near Buckingham Palace in London.
As the head of one of Britain's most prominent business dynasties, Hinduja cultivated relationships with influential figures from both the Conservative and New Labour parties. He gained the favour of Conservative heavyweights like former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, and John Major, and later developed close ties with New Labour. Encouraged by Mandelson, who served as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time, Hinduja provided financial support to salvage the government's struggling Millennium Dome project. However, Mandelson faced accusations of aiding Hinduja in obtaining British citizenship, leading to his resignation in 2001. Subsequent investigations cleared Mandelson of any wrongdoing.
For decades, the Hinduja brothers were renowned for their close bond, often appearing together in public, even dressed in similar attire. In a 1994 interview with the Financial Times, Srichand expressed the family's belief in collective ownership, stating that they did not adhere to the concept of wills. "All the children belong to everyone. Everyone works out of duty." Hinduja faced personal tragedy when his son Dharam tragically passed away in 1992 due to severe burns.
“Today we lost the Chairman of the Hinduja Group, Mr Srichand Hinduja on the left. A huge loss to the family, community, India and the United Kingdom. A giant amongst the giants. Worked hard to bring the UK and India closer to one another. May he rest in peace in heaven,” Lord Rami Ranger tweeted.
Speaking to Asian Voice, Lord Dolar Popat said, “As a community, we mourn the loss of a visionary titan, Srichand Hinduja. His remarkable achievements and unwavering dedication to business have left a mark on the world. As the patriarch of the Hinduja Group conglomerate, his leadership propelled industries like banking, oil, and healthcare to new heights. Srichand was a true role model, inspiring countless individuals, particularly in the business community. Beyond his business endeavours, Srichand's humility, dignity, and commitment to philanthropy set him apart. He understood the importance of giving back and tirelessly promoted India's rich culture globally. His contributions touched many lives and will be remembered with gratitude. During this time of grief, our hearts go out to the entire Hinduja family. May they find comfort in the many memories they shared. In this difficult time, we remember that the soul embarks on a journey to a higher world. May Srichand's soul rest in eternal peace.”
Lord Rami Ranger CBE told us, “ It is the end of an era with the passing of an Indian icon Shri SP Hinduja. He has left a permanent legacy to inspire millions. He was the richest Indian in the UK and yet the most humble. He always had an infectious smile and humility that won the hearts of everyone he came across. As the Chairman of the Hinduja Group, his role was crucial in bringing the UK and India closer together. The Hinduja Group's investment in the UK has brought enormous pride to the Indian diaspora worldwide. The UK, India, family and friends have lost an irreplaceable gem. He will always be remembered with the utmost love and respect.”