Hinduja Ashok ( Hinduja Group)

Ashok Hinduja:

A staunch believer in astrology, he knows good stars help you come out of bad patches if you continue to do your duty. But that does not mean he is an idle man.

On the contrary, the youngest of the four Hinduja brothers is quite a workaholic. He began his lessons in business management while still at school and joined business immediately after his graduation from Bombay University.

He managed to impress his brother GP Hinduja within a couple of years with his efforts to help the then Iranian government combat the onion-potato crisis; a business that the group had never ventured into before.

AP, as he is known to his friends and associates, takes pleasure in describing the incident (which took place in mid-1970) for its importance in establishing business relationship between India and Iran.

The story goes like this:

AP got an instruction from his brother GP to ship 1,00,000 tonne of potatoes and onions to Iran as soon as possible. AP, without any prior knowledge or experience in the business, managed to buy the commodities by paying farmers a 20 per cent premium.

But, much to his horror, he found that the waiting period at the Iranian airports was over a month.

With the intervention of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he managed access to the roadlinks between India and Iran through Pakistan.

Thousands of Korean drivers drove the commodities in 23-tonne air-conditioned trucks. This was a landmark event in establishing the business relationship of India-Iran.

The Hinduja group (with $14 billion turnover) has been in India since 1914 as a closely held entity. Its first major acquisition came only 20 years ago when it bought out Ashok Leyland from its parent company British Leyland.

But, the group’s business in India did not grow at a rapid pace (with turnover at Rs 6,500 crore). Hinduja says a probable reason could be that the group worked at growing through hostile acquisitions.

We acquire companies which want us to acquire them. Besides, we want the majority control in the company,he says.

A reason why the group did not launch hostile bids when non-resident Indians, the likes of Swaraj Paul, invaded Indian companies in droves in 1980s. It also explains why he sent out a letter asking whether Hutchison Whampoa wants to sell its Indian assets. And, before he hears anything from Hutchison Whampoa on its stake sale, he does not want to talk on the issue.

There is enough room for growth for his existing businesses spanning banking and finance,transport, energy, information technology, media and communications.If I find good opportunity, I will pursue it, he says.

A vegetarian who does not even take tea or aerated water, Hinduja’s favourite pastime is his affiliation with the film industry.

An Amitabh Bachchan fan, (he actually financed a lot of Amitabh movies) he passed his addiction to his children. His two daughters are now associated with the industry. His biggest virtues, say his friends, is that he does not hesitate to speak out his heart.

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