Lord Swraj Paul is one of the most well-known Indian-origin entrepreneur based in Britain. Lord Paul is the founder of Caparo—the UK-based steel and engineering multinational. Born in 1931 in Jalandhar, and educated at the Punjab University, Lord Paul later obtained a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.
Lord Paul started his business in Britain in 1968. After acquiring one steel unit, he went on to acquire more units and founded the Caparo Group in 1978. Caparo developed into one of the leading producers of welded steel tubes and spiral-welded pipes in Britain. In 1996, Lord Paul stepped down from the management of the Caparo Group and handed over the reins to his three sons.
His philanthropic activities are mainly through the Ambika Paul Foundation which promotes education, culture and health around the world. The Foundation leads in research dedicated to understanding how infants think and learn, and designs interventions to help children with developmental diabilities such as autism and specific language impairment.
In 2007, Lord Paul donated $500,000 to the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, for developing an infant Lab Suite in memory of his daughter Ambika. In January 2005, Lord Paul donated Rs. 1 crore as aid for relief and rehabilitation of victims of the tsunami disaster and education of the children orphaned by the tragedy in India. In a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, he wrote: “All the generations of the Paul family love India, are committed to its progress, and this commitment will continue”.
In July 2005, Lord Paul gave a gift to the place of his birth, Jalandhar. Paul’s Caparo Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Punjab Technical University (PTU) to establish a school for manufacturing and materials technology on the outskirts of Jalandhar. Caparo contributed Rs. 5 crore for the project, while PTU provided 10 acres of land and contributed Rs. 1 crore. In October 2005, Lord Paul donated Rs. 10 lakh each for relief efforts in quake-affected Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. In a letter to then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Lord Paul said he was saddened by the “loss of life caused by the earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir, especially those of the armed forces and border security forces.”
Other projects include funding the Mongwati School Sports Stadium at Charkhi Dadri, Haryana; working with the Royal Society for Arts to sponsor the Ambika Paul Learning Centre at the new Academy School in Tipton, UK, and sponsoring the Ambika P3 Centre at the University of Westminster, a major new creative and educational venture for the University and the wider community.
Lord Swraj Paul has received various awards and honours in the course of his eventful life. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983 and the Bharat Gaurav award by the Indian Merchant’s Chamber. He was appointed Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords in 2008 and Privy Councilor in 2009. He is Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton and Chancellor of the University of Westminster. He is also a member of the Foreign Policy Centre Advisory Council, a member of the UK-India Business Council Advisory Board, and a member of the British Olympic Association Advisory Board.
Lord Paul was a member of the London Development Agency from 2000-2008 and chairman of the Olympic Delivery Committee from 2005-2008. The Committee has been entrusted with the key taks of acquiring land and provide infrastructure for the London Olympics 2012.
In April 2006, Lord Paul was chose for UK’s Eastern Eye Community Award 2006 for promoting social and educational policies and charitable causes. Receiving the award in the presence of over 1,000 distinguished guests at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Central London, Lord Paul dedicated it to his late daughter Ambika and his wife Aruna. “At the age of 75, you don’t expect an award. As I came to this country because of my daughter’s illness, can I dedicate this award to her. Secondly, I would like to dedicate it to my wife. We have been married for 50 years,” Lord Paul said.
The citation also referred to his donation of £1 million to the London Zoo to prevent it from closure and several other charitable causes through his Ambika Paul Charitable Foundation.
—This piece has been taken from the book, The Idea of Giving, published by the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians.