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October - November 2007

Business Forum

A Business Lord with the Vision of a Statesman

by Krishan Ralleigh

Lord Swraj Paul is no stranger to the readers of India Link International. He adorned the cover page of this magazine exactly eleven years ago. A decade is quite a long time in the business and political world. Lord Paul has been a role model to British Asians in business and political fields. The Caparo Group of companies has expanded in Central and Eastern Europe, Italy and, of course, India. Caparo T1 racing car was formally launched at the Goodwood circuit in June this year. Caparo Testing Technolgies (CTT) in collaboration with Material Measurements (MML) gave opportunity to young Indian technicians to work in the UK. The collaboration will also help MML with their manpower requirements and also establish CTT’s presence with Non Destructive and Metallurgical Testing business within India’s Aviation and Industrial markets.

Lord Paul’s influence has been crucial in strengthening Indo-British relations in the last decade. Tony Blair always felt great affinity with India; and Swraj Paul was always there to guide him through the intricate bends and corners of India’s politics.

I took along my colleague, David Whittington, with me to meet Lord Paul at the Caparo House in Baker Street. David is at present writing a book on leisure activities of Asian Achievers in Britain. He was keen to meet Lord Paul.

Swraj PaulAt the onset of the interview Lord Paul greeted us with his ever welcoming smile.

“You have been a confidante of Tony Blair in this decade of his government in the United Kingdom. What did India gain under his government? I asked.

“Labour party has always been supportive of India’s economic progress; and has always appreciated its democratic system. Tony Blair took this cordial relationship towards a more mature and friendly relationship. He always supported India’s role on the world stage”, said Lord Paul in a determined tone.

“How would you assess Gordon Brown as a person and as a prime minister?

“Well!” Said Lord Paul with a broad smile, “I think he is going to be the best prime minister Britain can ever have. I said this long back in 1997. Please read my Autobiography (pp55). Gordon Brown is very positive about every thing. He would prove to be the best prime minster for Britain.”

For the benefit of our readers: Lord Paul writing about Gordon Brown in his Autobiography (1997) said:

“Gordon is a man of vision whose intellectual abilities are supplemented with an ingredient essential for success at the Exchequer: he is performance oriented. What is more, he has three qualities that I have not often seen combined in any statesman – an extraordinary appetite for work, a constant desire to do what is right for the country and a willingness to learn. Gordon is both tough-minded and sensitive, a mix not easy to reconcile. My rspect for his personal integrity has only increased as I have got to know him better and to appreciate his character.”

Well. There can not be a better testimony for the new prime minister from a leader of the Asian community.

“Tony Blair’s achievements, somehow, were darkened by ‘Peerage for Cash’ scandal. Although no one was charged, there must have been some sort of underhand dealings. What are your views?

“It is one of those sad episodes which are generated by rumours and loose talks behind the scenes. Let us face it, every political party has to look for funds for its survival. You may call them donations or loans. In no way these sums of money affect the decision-making process of the Appointmens Commission which is an autonomous body consistng of respectable leaders from all parties. Unfortunately many people in our community clamour for the privileges of ‘Honours’. But the membership of the House of Lords is not a privilege. It is a job of great responsibility. People who are appointed have to devote time and participate in the legislative process.” said Lord Paul in a serious tone.

“What do you think of India’s economic progress in recent years? Is it real? I asked

“Yes”, said Lord Paul with bright eyes and broad smile, “It is the young generation of India which is causing it. It is neither the politicians nor the old generation of business dynasties. It is the young graduates from Institutes of Technologies, the I.T enthusiasts and the new quality of engineers and workers who are pushing India as the top economy. The spirit of the young permeates the country. It is the young who are enjoying the challenge. It is not the economic policies of the government of India or any state government. India, at present, is pulsating with the energies of the youth which will take India to the top economic table of the world.”

“But aren’t there any pitfalls”, I asked sceptically.

“Many”, said Lord Paul decisively. “You cannot become a great economic power when 30% of children still donot get primary education, 40% of the population still live below poverty line. Higher education is available only to 7% of the total population. In the United States and the UK it is 50%. We have to solve the problem of gender inequality in education and jobs.

Over and above, there is the need of building infra-structure as rapidly as possible. India is a vibrant democracy; but it has to focus on more economic liberalism. Corruption and bribery is another negative point. To be a competent world economy, India has to get rid of corruption at all levels.”

“What would be your message to Indo-British entrepreneur who is interested in investing in India”, I asked, hoping for a good business tip.

“India provides lot of good opportunities. It is still not an easy place. There are many pitfalls. You have to keep your eyes and ears open. India has all the potential of a great economic power. Do not go to India without a determined mind aiming for success. The good thing is that younger generation of India is far more efficient, educated and focussed than the previous generation. So you have the manpower to support you in your business success in India.”

“In the last five years”, revealed Lord Paul, “We have invested over Rs2000 crores in India; and we have an educated, skilled manpower of over 2500 working for us in India.”

There you are! What can be a more forceful testimony to India’s rapidly growing economic prowess?

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