A Paper Tiger Called Swraj Paul

9 05 2008

“Human relations should not be confused with public relations” said Swraj Paul, during his lecture to MIT students. Coming from a PR hound like him, doesn’t it smack of  hypocrisy?

 

Mr. Paul’s annual jamboree in India is now a media event. Newspapers carry front page stories of NRI businessman Mr. Swraj Paul making big announcements for new projects and state chief ministers trying to upstage each other to get his investment. This year, it is the luxury bus project and the states involved are Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu In 2005, he announced six auto ancillary plants in MP and the news about MOU between Mr. Paul and the then Chief minister of Madhya Pradesh,  Babulal Goud was carried by the press.

 

Earlier, he had announced fashion and textile units in Tamil Nadu, during his meeting with Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 2005. In the past, he had announced his intentions to take over IISCO Steel Plant and build a gas-based fertilizer plant. Ultimately, nothing happened.

 

One would expect that someone who has been projected by media as this successful NRI industrialist who wears India on his sleeve, Mr. Paul would have a significant investment in India. The reality is he has a medium sized engineering company which goes by the name of Caparo Maruti Ltd with four plants supplying auto parts to Maruti, Tata Motors , Honda and others.  In 2005, these companies had sales of Rs 2500 million and investments much less. These plants employ about 1000 people. Caparo has recently made an investment of Rs 1200 million at Singur, West Bengal to produce components for Tata Nano. . 

 

His philanthropic acts too which are by no yardstick big (Rs. 2.5 million for tsunami or Rs.  50 million for a technical school in Jalandhar) get disproportionate coverage in media.

 

Mr. Paul in an interview to Rediff has defended himself saying ”Regarding investments in India, our company keeps looking at it, but not with the seriousness that it deserves if a project is to be set up. This is because the atmosphere is not right. There is far too much waste of time. We keep looking at it but no one is jumping to it.” What do you read into this statement? Mr. Paul is a big tycoon, he has pots of money and it is just that the Indian conditions are not right. That’s why he is investing a piddly amount in India .

 

The Caparo Group is by no means big by global standards, in fact it is smaller than many Indian companies.  The Caparo Group is a USD 1.3 Billion  ( approx Rs 5200 crore ) conglomerate  with  their main businesses in steel and metal conversion. The group has business operations in Europe, the US and India. It employs around 6000 people. Contrast this with Arcelor Mittal , whose revenues were USD 58 Billion in 2006 and employs 320,000 people. But an unsuspecting reader would get an impression from the Indian media that L N Mittal and Mr. Paul are in the same league.

 

Mr. Paul cultivates friends in high places. He was very close to the late Indira Gandhi. He has written a biography of hers and has dedicated a chapter on her in his own autobiography “Beyond Boundaries.” This relationship perhaps earned him a Padma Bhushan, way back in 1983. Jyoti Basu counts Mr. Paul as a ‘very good friend’. Mr. Paul returned the compliments by saying that Mr. Basu is an ‘institution’, ‘wealth of the country’ and ‘the greatest chief minister India ever had.’ etc

 

Mr. Paul’s proximity to the powers that be in the Labour Party gave him an entry into the House of Lords. Lord Paul claims he is very close to  Gordon Brown, the current British Prime Minister. 

 

During his annual visits to India, Mr. Paul courts the media and offers his sermons on sundry subjects like budgets or inflation or nuclear deal etc. I can understand a businessman like Mr. Paul seeking media ttaention. But what I can’t figure out is why the India media gives him the space that he doesn’t deserve. They should realize that Mr. Paul has neither the capacity nor the intention to make big bang investments in India. He merely uses Indian politicos and the media to boost his own image back in the UK.

 

It’s time to call his bluff.

 

 

– G. Mohan

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One response

9 05 2008
Santosh

Very well written. I think it should not be second , rather first take of India Media.

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