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The Hinduja Family Feud Puts Century-Old Business Empire In Jeopardy – dot newz

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Karam Hinduja in Geneva.

As a child in London, one of Karam Hinduja’s favorite pastimes was watching Bollywood movies with his grandfather Srichand Hinduja, the patriarch of a sprawling global business empire.

“He and I, without fail, once a week, whatever was new, whether it was good or bad,” Karam said in a recent interview in Geneva. “That’s a lot of how we bonded.”

Little did he know then that a quarter century later the two of them would be embroiled in a real-life family drama more gripping than any Bollywood plot. And unlike most of the tearjerkers they watched, this one may not have a happy ending. 

His grandfather, SP as the 85-year-old is known, now suffers from a form of dementia, and Karam, his sister, mother, aunt and grandmother are locked in a battle with the rest of the Hinduja family over pieces of the $18 billion British-Indian group. Karam’s side of the family is effectively asking for what was once unthinkable – the group’s assets to be broken up. SP’s three brothers, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok want the group to stick to its age-old motto that “everything belongs to everyone and nothing belongs to anyone.” 

As clashes pile up in courts in London and Switzerland and the SP side suggests misogyny may be driving actions against his daughters, there may be no going back. The increasingly bitter feud has raised the possibility of a messy unraveling of the 107-year-old group, putting at risk one of the world’s largest conglomerates. With dozens of companies –  including six publicly traded entities in India –  the closely held Hinduja Group employs more than 150,000 people in 38 countries in truck-making, banking, chemicals, power, media and healthcare.

“They seem to have reached a point of no return,” said Kavil Ramachandran, a family-business expert at the Indian School of Business. “It’s most unlikely to go back to the socialistic philosophy of everything for everybody.”

Founded by their father Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja in 1914 in the Sindh region of British India, the one-time commodities-trading firm was rapidly diversified by the brothers, with early success coming from distributing Bollywood films outside India. The group’s heady rise let them rub shoulders with the likes of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In London, they are Queen Elizabeth’s neighbors, sharing Carlton House Terrace –  four interconnected Georgian houses down the street from Buckingham Palace – where they hold their annual star-studded Diwali bash. SP and Gopichand, U.K. citizens, are among the wealthiest men in Britain.

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Carlton House Terrace in London. ​​​​​​

With a collective net worth of about $15 billion, the four brothers always presented a united front, with little to suggest that not all was well in the House of Hinduja. Until last year. That’s when a London judgment shed light on the conflict in the family. Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok were defending the validity of a letter signed in 2014 by the four brothers stating that assets held by one belong to all. That came as SP – represented by his daughter Vinoo – claimed sole ownership of Geneva-based Hinduja Bank.

SP wants the London court to rule that the letter has no “legal effect.” A decision on that is not due for a while yet, but if he succeeds, assets in his name could pass to his daughters Vinoo and Shanu on his death. Meanwhile, a court in the Swiss canton of Lucerne said the case between SP and his brothers is on hold, pending a decision on who will represent his interests.

Although the Swiss bank is a tiny part of the family’s overall assets, the case raises broader ownership questions. The three brothers frame it as a power grab by SP’s daughters, who they said are using their father’s weakened state to go against his long-held wishes. 

“SP had one mantra that nobody owns anything, everybody owns everything,” Radhamohun Gujadhur, an adviser to the brothers, said in an interview. “Anyone doing differently is speaking under their own illusions or to further a selfish private agenda. The group structure has withstood the challenges of Shanu and Vinoo Hinduja who disagree with their own father’s vision of the group.”

Shanu didn’t want to comment on the dispute while Vinoo declined requests for comment.  Ashok said he couldn’t comment on the record. Charles Stewart-Smith, a spokesman for the brothers, declined interview requests, referring to an earlier statement by them saying the efforts “go against our founder’s and family’s values.”

Another London lawsuit from 2018 shows how the feud could touch other family assets. That fight was over $1 billion in assets held at the Swiss bank by a company tied to Ashok Leyland Ltd., one of the group’s most high-profile listed companies and the world’s third-largest manufacturer of buses. 

Opaque holding structures –  through trusts and offshore entities –  make it difficult to determine ownership of the conglomerate’s companies. For instance, the brothers’ shares in IndusInd Bank Ltd. in Mumbai, among the largest privately-owned banks in India, are held in an entity registered in Mauritius. Even the brothers’ domiciles complicate matters. SP and Gopichand live in London, Prakash resides in Monaco, and Ashok in Mumbai. 

The group’s organization that worked for the brothers may not for third and fourth generation Hindujas now taking the reins.

“These old structures in the new world that they’re in are going to come apart,” said Nigel Nicholson, a professor at London Business School and author of ‘Family Wars.’ “The notion that one can maintain unity with woolly notions of common ownership without clear governance structures is tricky.”

For instance, SP’s 31-year-old grandson Karam, appointed the Swiss bank’s CEO last year, has a different take on the ownership of his firm. 

“SP is the founder and has always been the sole shareholder and continues to be of this institution,” he said. “In the absence of an overarching agreement, members of our family have individual shareholdings.” 

The brothers’ adviser disagrees.

“The Hinduja group doesn’t have any individual ownership and this includes the bank,” said Gujadhur.

Karam has renamed the bank SP Hinduja Banque Privee, although on the Hinduja Group website it is still called Hinduja Bank Switzerland. Housed in a modest building at the foot of Geneva’s old town, the bank headquarters has a simple blue door and a small brass plaque engraved with its new name. In the interview there, Karam said he can appreciate that the timing of the bank’s re-branding may seem provocative given the ongoing legal battle. But the board endorses the move and it reflects the legal status quo, he said.

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Shanu Hinduja attends the Rose Ball 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.

The bank is small by Swiss private banking standards, with about 1.7 billion Swiss francs ($1.8 billion) in client assets. Nevertheless it has become a lightning rod for the dispute, with Karam hinting that the fight has tinges of misogyny since the SP branch is dominated by women.

“It’s shocking; I simply cannot understand the animosity that exists toward the SP branch of the family,” the Columbia University graduate said. “It makes you wonder how even such wealthy and somewhat westernized and powerful individuals, what their views truly are, maybe, toward women. I don’t know. It’s all I can think of.”

Karam’s mother, Shanu, who is the Swiss bank’s chairwoman, said her ascension at the firm is “instructive,” showing her father’s opposition “to the sidelining of women.”

Traditional Indian family businesses often keep daughters out of key roles, but for the brothers’ adviser, Karam’s accusations of misogyny are flat-out wrong. The sisters Vinoo and Shanu are on the boards of several of the group’s companies, and “if there was any truth to those misogyny claims I don’t think they would have been named to those boards,” he said.

What really sparked the feud remains a mystery to those not in the inner circles of the family, but some warn about its implications for the group.

“The moment you start thinking of division, that this part you look after, that part I look after, it belongs to you, it belongs to me, it belongs to my other brother, then you cannot continue for too long,” Hinduja Group General Counsel Abhijit Mukhopadhyay said in a law firm podcast last year. 

The Hindujas aren’t new to controversy. In the 1980s, they were investigated on allegations they took bribes to help Swedish gun-maker Bofors secure an Indian contract. The case was later thrown out of court. In the early 2000s, they were entangled in the U.K.’s “cash-for-passports” scandal, having donated money for the Millenium Dome when SP was applying for British citizenship. More recently, Prakash has been investigated for suspected tax evasion by Geneva prosecutors, an allegation he denies.

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But the very public fight within the family may be the biggest existential threat the group has faced, and the feuding sides are digging in for battle.  

“Many of the questions at the heart of the family dispute are now a matter for the courts,” said Karam. “I don’t think people realize how tight-knit our SP branch is. The six of us, we’re very tight-knit. One of us gets cut and everyone knows about it.”

–With assistance from Maria Wood, Gem Atkinson, Jeremy Hodges, Patricia Suzara, Anto Antony and Suvashree Ghosh.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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China Poses Significant Challenge To India’s Strategic Goals: Air Chief – dot newz

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Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said the Indian Air Force needs to be rapidly modernized. (File)

New Delhi:

Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari said that China poses a significant long term challenge to India’s strategic goals. He said it should be made clear to the world that today’s India has the capability and will to respond at a level that the nation deems appropriate.

“China poses a significant and long-term challenge to India’s strategic goals. Both People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have enhanced their military capabilities in equipment and infrastructure. The Indian Air Force (IAF) needs to be rapidly modernized, expand its fleet and improve indigenous manufacturing capabilities,” the IAF chief said at a seminar conducted by the Centre for Air Power Studies.

The IAF needs to be rapidly modernized, expand its fleet and improve indigenous manufacturing capabilities, he urged.

The IAF chief said that China’s hegemonic and entrapping policies can provide opportunities for India to leverage in trade and military domains.

He also asserted that India has demonstrated its capabilities during a standoff on the northern border while simultaneously handling the national COVID-19 response.

“In the future, we could be attacked from all fronts, starting from economic strangulation to diplomatic isolation and military stand-offs to information blackouts, in the form of attack by a distributed denial of services. We will need to prepare for the full spectrum,” the Air Force chief cautioned.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Gen Rawat Was On “Very Safe” Mi-17V-5, Crash Confounds Experts – dot newz

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India owns a fairly large fleet of Mi-17V-5 helicopters that are often used to ferry VIPs.

New Delhi:

The Mi-17V-5 helicopters are extremely reliable and are the workhorses of the Air Force, several former army officers told NDTV after one of these choppers crashed in Tamil Nadu, with Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and several members of his family on board. The crash perplexed the experts, who said the flight from Sulur to Wellington did not involve complications.

Four people are dead and another four who survived, have been taken to a hospital. It is believed that there were 14 people on board, including the chopper’s crew and passengers.

The Indian Air Force has already ordered an inquiry into the crash.

The Mi-17V-5 is the latest twin-engine iteration of the Russian-made Mi-17 transport helicopter and is used regularly for high-altitude operations. One of the most advanced military transports that can be used in any topography and weather, it is one of the most powerful choppers used by Indian defence forces.

India owns a fairly large fleet of these helicopters that were purchased and inducted between 2013 and 2018.

Most experts NDTV spoke to described it as a “very reliable, safe, stable, and large” helicopter that is also used to ferry VIPs, including the President and the Prime Minister.

According to information available on the website of Rosoboronexport — the Russian arms supplier — the chopper is designed to “carry personnel, cargo and equipment inside the cargo cabin or on an external sling, drop tactical air assault forces and reconnaissance and sabotage groups, destroy ground targets and carry the wounded”.

“Its armament system includes unguided rockets (up to 80 S-8 80mm unguided aerial rockets), cannons (suspended pods with 23mm cannons and 250 rounds each) and small arms,” the website says.



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‘Smartphones, Scootys, Security’: Congress’ “Women’s Manifesto” Before UP Polls – dot newz

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UP will vote for a new government in 2022, with the Congress challenging the BJP

Lucknow:

Girls studying in Classes 10 to 12 in Uttar Pradesh schools will get smartphones and female graduate students will get scooters, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said Wednesday as part of a six-point “woman’s manifesto” ahead of an Assembly election in the state in a few months.

Ms Gandhi Vadra – who is leading her party’s campaign in the poll-bound state – read out a number of measures and schemes the Congress plans to implement should it win next year’s election, and demanded that all parties understand “the fact women have to bear with exploitation”.

Promises made by Ms Gandhi Vadra today include the offer of three free LPG cylinders for women – a significant offer given the skyrocketing prices of gas cylinders in the country, something for which the BJP (in power in UP and at the centre) has been severely criticised.

“I hope this women’s manifesto will put pressure on other political parties to also speak about similar issues. We want to release a women-specific manifesto so women have freedom of choice… I have seen that women ka bahut shoshan hota hai but they are fighting for their rights,” she said.

Ms Gandhi Vadra also highlighted the Congress’ promise to reserve 40 per cent of its election tickets for women; “this is not only on paper,” she said, giving late Indira Gandhi – India’s first woman prime minister – as an example of the Congress’ contribution to women in politics.

“Our attempt is to bring real women’s empowerment… at the grassroots level. Women’s empowerment is usually spoken about before elections and then mostly restricted to being on paper. We want to actually empower women on ground,” the Congress leader said.

“Parliament and legislative assemblies have an average of 14 per cent participation by women representatives. That needs to increase… we want that 40 per cent of all seats should be represented by women. This will increase their participation in policy-making,” she stressed.

Apart from smartphones, scooters and free gas cylinders, Ms Gandhi Vadra said women senior citizens and widows would get a monthly pension of Rs 1,000, and every new-born girl will get a fixed deposit in her name. All households with women will get a free internet connection.

Ms Gandhi Vadra also flagged the issue of women’s security – a serious subject given the worrying number of violent crimes against women reported from Uttar Pradesh.

“We want 25 per cent of the police to consist of women. All chowkis to have at least one woman officer and constable,” she said, reminding reporters that many crimes were unreported as the police is reluctant to file a case. “More women in the force will help the cause of women,” she said.

The Congress also promised Rs 10 lakh medical cover for women “for any kind of illness or disease”.

UP votes for a new government in a few months time.

The Assembly election here – for 403 seats – is widely seen as an indicator of how the ruling BJP might fare in the 2024 general election, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party will seek a third consecutive term in power.



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