S.P. Hinduja, British-Indian billionaire with a global business empire, dies at 87

Banner of company website following the death of S.P. Hinduja. PHOTO: @hindujagroup.com

Srichand Parmanand Hinduja, 87, born in November 1935, passed away May 17, 2023, in London. Considered the head of one of Britain’s richest families, ‘SP’ as he was popularly called, built the Hinduja Group which grew from his father’s jute and textile shop in Mumbai that expanded business to Iran, and progressively into a global powerhouse with holdings ranging from former Gulf Oil, Ashok Leyland, to exclusive properties in London.

“Today, the Hinduja Group has become one of the largest diversified groups in the world spanning all the continents. The Group employs over 200,000 people and has offices in many key cities of the world and all the major cities in India,” the company website notes.

The Hinduja family posted a ‘Shradhanjali’ on the company website, saying “You leave behind memories to cherish and values to guide. You shall remain the source of our inspiration and be missed forever.” No specific reason for his death was given, but according to The Washington Post, S.P. Hinduja had health conditions related to dementia. News reports quoted the statement from a Hinduja family spokesperson which read, “Gopichand, Prakash, Ashok and the whole Hinduja family with a heavy heart regret to announce the passing away of our family patriarch, and chairman of Hinduja Group, Mr S P Hinduja today.”

Numerous high-profile personalities from business, politics and the private sector paid homage on the Web to the eldest of four brothers who ran the business estimated at more than $15 billion, and listed as among the top ten richest families in Britain.

“The Forbes List most recently placed the value of the Hinduja family business network at about $15.2 billion, which includes health care, energy and banking in Switzerland and India. Among its flagship acquisitions in the United States was the 1984 purchase of part of the former Gulf Oil conglomerate from Chevron, and a 2012 deal for Houghton International, a maker of metalworking fluids and other chemicals,” The Washington Post reported.

“He built alliances in Britain with prime ministers, ambassadors and commercial envoys. He also was invited occasionally to banquets hosted by Queen Elizabeth II as a neighborly gesture. (Mr. Hinduja, a vegetarian, brought his own food made to his strict specifications.),” noted the obituary in The Washington Post.

“The Hinduja family topped the British “rich list” in 2022 with an estimated wealth of 28.4 billion pounds, or about $35 billion,” The Post said, quoting the figure from the Sunday Times.

S.P. Hinduja graduated from R.D. National College in Mumbai. “He joined his father’s business in Iran, helping gain the sole license to import Bollywood films and dub them into Farsi,” The Post noted. It described an anecdote when after their father’s death in 1971, S.P. Hinduja and his brothers managed to organize convoys of South Korean and other drivers to bring in   potatoes and onions because Pakistan would not allow Indians, during a food shortage in Iran, gaining the Shah’s admiration, but also indicating the agile and creative nature of the family enterprise.

This philosophy is spelt out on the company website – “The Hinduja Family has always adapted to free-market reforms, moving quickly in new markets that have opened and capitalizing on new economic opportunities. As a result, Hinduja Group is now strategically positioned to contribute to old economy sectors, such as Banking & Finance, Transport and Energy, as well as the new economy sectors of Technology, Media and Renewables.”

The Economic Times ran social media posts by numerous personalities who had high praise for S.P. Hinduja and recalled their interactions with him over the years.  Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon said, “We met often at Davos n later met when we bought a Hinduja plant in Hyderabad. Om Shanthi.”

Maharashtra Minister for Forests, Cultural Affairs & Fisheries called it, “an immense loss to the Indian industrial diaspora.”

“The visionary Shri. S. P. Hinduja will always remain alive in our hearts and memories. He will continue to be my inspiration, and the way he transformed his family-managed into a successful corporate empire will be my guiding light in the years to come,” tweeted Taarun Wasan, managing director at Wasan Toyota.

The company website also notes the philanthropic engagements of the conglomerate. “In the past 100+ years, the Group has expanded and diversified its businesses with significant social and charitable contributions, under the present leadership of Chairman, Srichand Hinduja and ably supported by his brothers, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok Hinduja,” it says.

The business model followed under SP’s leadership is spelt out as well.

“Firm believers in traditional family values, the Hindujas have all along striven to inculcate the family concept in their business enterprises while following the core philosophy of the Founder,” it says below the photos of the four brothers.

The principles spelled out for running the enterprise are as follows:

“Every member of the Group is encouraged to practice the Vedic principles of work: ‘Service with devotion’ and ‘willingness to see fulfilment of one’s self-interest in the active promotion of the interest of the collective’.

Mutual trust, respect, cohesion and co-operation are emphasized as key organizational guidelines. At the same time, sound modern management practices are given primacy within individual companies of the Group and also at the corporate level.

Professionals are allocated independent charge of diversified activities. There is a high premium on healthy internal competition. Executives and Employees are appreciated and incentivized for performance excellence.

The Group, throughout its history, has demonstrated a strong commitment to creating better understanding between the people and the governments of the world. Building amity and co-operation between their host country and their mother country, India, has been an article of faith for the Hindujas.

The history of the company is outlined on the website, starting from SP’s father: “The foundation of the Hinduja Group was laid by Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, a self-made young entrepreneur from the fabled town of Shikarpur (then in undivided India). An entrepreneur, committed philanthropist and a visionary, Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja (P. D. Hinduja) entered the international arena with an office in Iran (the first outside India) in 1919. The twin pillars of the business were Merchant Banking and Trade. The Group remained headquartered in Iran till 1979. It then moved to Europe.”

S.P. Hinduja was married to Madhu Srichand Hinduja who died in January. He leaves behind his three brothers and two daughters.

(This article also includes extracts from The Washington Post Syndicated Service)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here