Nagrik Dialogue

Leadership Knows No Boundaries

Padma Bhushan Lord Swraj Paul
Doyen of Business & Emperor of Philanthropy

By Deepak Dwivedi

A decent man, a good human being, a large heart, a magnanimous disposition, a piercing intellect, a great orator, an even best communicator, a business stalwart and a pillar for his community.

A father teaches you to speak but a father figure teaches you to talk. A father teaches you to walk but a father figure teaches you to march on. A father gives you a name but a father figure gives an unparalleled identity of Indians in London.

Rise of a business stalwart

The father of Lord Swraj Paul, Mr Payare Lal ran a small foundry, making steel buckets and farming equipment in Jalandhar. It is among this industrious and hardworking family environment, the deep roots of persona of Lord Swraj Paul were cast. His early schooling started in Jalandhar and the home he grew up later on became the famous Apeejay School.

Lord Swraj Paul went to the United States to study mechanical engineering, obtaining BSc, MSc and MechE degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before moving to United States for education, he completed his high school education at Labbu Ram Doaba School and college education from Forman Christian College in Lahore, and Doaba College in Jalandhar.

Having completed his Engineering and higher studies from the United States, he returned to India to provide shoulder to the family business which was founded by his father and was known as Apeejay Group. The group was earlier managed by his two older brothers Mr Stya Paul and Mr Jit Paul. Having learned the basics of tradecraft he relocated to the United Kingdom in 1966 and founded Natural Gas Tubes, a steel production unit.

Starting with a humble beginning, Lord Paul is now among the richest persons in Britain. Since 1960s he has lived in Portland Place, in central London. The family now own a dozen flats in the block, each one worth close to a million pounds. He also has a 250-acre country estate, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. What started as a single steel unit later grew up to become an empire out of sheer hardwork and dedication. Starting with one steel unit, Mr Paul went on to acquire more. This led to his founding the Caparo Group in 1968, which became one of the UK’s largest steel conversion and distribution businesses, manufacturing an extensive range of structural steels, precision tube, spirally welded tube, special bar qualities, industrial wires, cold rolled strip and spring steel strip. The Caparo Group at one point of time provided employment to over 10,000 people across North America, Europe, India and, the Middle East. He later stepped down from the management of the Caparo Group in 1996.

Emperor of philanthropy

Lord Swraj Paul was born to Mr Payare Lal and Mrs Mongwat in 1931 at Jalandhar, Punjab Province of undivided India. An Indian born British national who never forgot his Indian roots; a billionaire who never forgot what it is to be penniless; a family man who made everyone he met his family; a  person who believes in giving rather than taking. A gentleman to the core and a philanthropist by heart, Lord Swraj Paul is a person extraordinaire. Excelling in all walks of life he was appointed a life peer by Conservative Prime Minister John Major in 1996, and sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher with the title Baron Paul, of Marylebone, in the City of Westminster. In December 2008 he was appointed deputy speaker of the Lords; in October 2009 he was appointed to the Privy Council.

Lord Paul has held many public positions. A charitable foundation, named in memory of his daughter Ambika Paul Foundation, engages into charitable endeavors. He is also an honorary patron of the Zoological Society of London and has funded major projects at the Regent’s Park site, including the Ambika Paul children’s zoo named after his daughter. The Foundation has also established the Ambika Paul School of Technology in Jalandhar, India.

Lord Paul held the Pro-Chancellorship of Thames Valley University in 1997, and Chancellorship in 1998. He has also been the Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton since 1998. He has also sat on MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Visiting Committee between 1998 and 2001, when he established the Ambika Paul Mezzanine and Study Space, and the Swraj Paul Scholarship fund for undergraduate and graduate students. In 2010 the student union centre of University of Wolverhampton was renamed “The Ambika Paul Student Union Centre”, following his donation towards its refurbishment. In 2015 he gave, through his family foundation, £1 million, the largest single donation in the university’s history. Lord Paul was Chancellor of University of Westminster from 2006 to 2014; his foundation donated £300,000. to establish the Ambika P3 event and exhibition space. Lord Paul is also a member of the President’s Cabinet for Chapman University in Orange, California.

Everyone’s favourite politician

Because of active and positive participation in domestic cum international politics and the relationships he painstakingly nurtured over a period of time, he was anointed to the post of deputy speaker of the House of Lords, one of twelve people in that post. Later, he was sworn of the Privy Council on 15 October 2009. Because of his active and keen interest in international relations, he was appointed as an ambassador for British business from 1998 –2010. He was also a member of the Foreign Policy Centre Advisory Council. He also has contested for the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with an agenda to reduce the gap between the West and the East.

Lord Paul was Co-Chairman of the Indo-British Roundtable from 2000–2005. He was also a member of Panel 2000, an appointment by the Prime Minister to re-brand Britain. He is also known to be also close to the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah Brown. Lord Paul was chairman and trustee of ‘Their World’ and chairman ‘Their World Projects Ltd’ (formerly ‘Piggy Bank Kids’) from 2002 to 2015; the charity was founded by Mrs Sarah Brown.

Swraj Paul a man with an invaluable abilty to connect with people from different sections of society. Lord Swraj Paul’s vision and progressive thinking have been a catalyst in shaping Indo-Britain relationship.

Towards improvement in sports, he was actively involved with the London Olympics from its inception as a member of the board responsible for the 2005 submission of the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. He travelled to Singapore as part of the bidding team that successfully persuaded the International Olympic Committee to award the games to London for 2012. Later, he chaired the Olympic Delivery Committee, part of the London Development Agency, which created and delivered the extraordinary infrastructure for mega event on time and within budget.

Quintessential honour

In 1983, Lord Paul was awarded the Padma Bhushan, by the Prime Minister of India, and the Bharat Gaurav award by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber.  He was also awarded “International Indian of Decade” for his outstanding achievements in the fields of industry, education and philanthropy at the 20th anniversary of the publication of India Link International, a monthly magazine on 15 November 2013. In 2014, Lord Paul was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Black Country Asian Business Association for his “outstanding achievements in the fields of industry, education and philanthropy”. Again in 2014, he received a further Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his work in promoting India-UK educational ties from the Global Skill Tree consortium, an India Based think tank, promoting India as a global hub of international education through its “Great Place to Study – India” initiative. In March 2019, he was awarded the Midlands Business Awards 2019 Lifetime Contribution to Business Award. In April 2019, he was awarded the Legendary Leaders of the Decade in Public Life & Community Service, Women Economic Forum. In April 2019, Lord Paul was awarded the Bharat Shiromani Award, Life Time Achievement Award.

Notwithstanding the above, the other notable achievements of Lord Swraj Paul are:

• The “International Icon of the Decade Award” in July 2014 by the World Consulting Research Corporation at its Global Indian Excellence Summit in London, in recognition of “his outstanding achievements in the fields of manufacturing, education and philanthropy”.

• The IOD Golden Peacock Award for Lifetime Achievement in Business Leadership and the Global Punjabi Society Lifetime Achievement Award in April 2018. International Iconic Leader Award for Lifetime Achievement, at the UK & Asia Business Awards ceremony in May 2018 in London.

• The Mahatma Gandhi Honour in October 2018 by the NRI Institute in celebration of their 30th anniversary.

• The Mother Teresa International Award, and WCRC International “Legendary Business Icon 2019 for Global Excellence & Leadership” in Jan 2019.

Swraj Paul is a journalist’s delight, a genial giant always surrounded by friends.

Champion of Karma

The Lord Paul came to England in 1966 for treatment of his leukaemia-stricken two year old daughter, Ambika. Shattered by her prolonged illness and later death, he buried himself in work and there began his spectacular business career in Britain.

Lord Swraj Paul stepped down from the management of Caparo in 1996, handing over his empire to his three sons. Though he is one of the richest persons in the U.K., in his personal life Lord Paul practices relative simplicity. Known for his proximity to former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Paul, a member of the House of Lords, is considered an influential figure in India-UK relations to the point that he is at times dubbed India’s “higher commissioner” in London. British Prime Minister Brown once said at an event “This is a time for people to remember but it’s also a time to celebrate the great relationships between the Paul family and the people who are here today and of course the tremendous links that now exist as a result of their contribution between Britain and India.” 

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