DCM made shareholders aware: Paul

Sunday, November 30, 2003 (London):

NRI industrialist Lord Swaraj Paul said his controversial investment in DCM and Escorts during the pre-liberalisation era in the 1980s helped "awaken" shareholders to their rights.

"My investment in DCM and Escorts were probably the most controversial happening in Indian business history. The most serious move by them was to refuse to register the shares I purchased. In the end, I think the experience helped awaken the shareholders to their rights," he said.

The DCM takeover bid by the London-based steel tycoon in the early 80s was among the first such incident, which was widely opposed by top Indian industrialists that subsequently came to be known as the 'Bombay Club'.

Alien shores

In a trip down memory lane, the 72-year old Chairman of the transnational Coparo Group said starting in a new country, Britain, was never easy.

"If you are ethnic, you have got to be 120 per cent to be counted as 100 per cent. It is a challenge to any person who is ethnic, in any country," he said.

Paul, who is a Member of Britain's House of Lords and Chancellor of Wolverhampton University, said he never felt "mistreated because of my colour."

"Britain gains from diversity. All three political parties have accepted this. You will always have a minority whom you can call 'racist and ignorant'. I mean, I like to think they are ignorant because all these prejudices originate from ignorance," he said.

Paul, who initially landed in Britain for the treatment of his daughter Ambika who subsequently died and later made it his home, attributed his success to "hard work and integrity."

Paul's epitaph

Describing late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a friend, almost an elder sister, Paul said, "Whatever shortcomings she had, she was an outstanding leader during a difficult era."

He said India today had a place in the world because Indians were internationalists. "Because Indians have moved out of India, they have accomplished even more for India than for themselves. There is a better understanding of India. And I give that credit far more to Indians living abroad than people in India would like to give."

One of the richest men in Britain, Paul said he is always content. "Whether I had a penny or not, it has never bothered me. Nor have I been extravagant. I still live a very simple life. I don't think I spend much money on myself. Nor do I have any great interests that costs me any money."

As for his epitaph, the septuagenarian said, "Here was a man who enjoyed life, who enjoyed his work and who enjoyed being with people." (PTI)