The Hinduja Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate, whose activities include import-export, motor vehicles, foundries, healthcare, banking, media, etc. According to estimates, the company employees over 70,000 people worldwide, and has its presence in 40 countries, and all major cities of the world. According to estimates, in 2017, Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja were described as the wealthiest men in Britain with an estimated wealth of £16.2 billion. However, the four brothers- Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok are now fighting over the assets of the company.
Srichand Hinduja is the chairman of the conglomerate, being the patriarch of the family. Gopichand Hinduja, who is the co-chairman, is also settled in London. Prakash Hinduja manages the finances of the conglomerate from Geneva, and is the European head of the company. Meanwhile, Ashok Hinduja overlooks operations in India. Founded in 1914 by Parmananda Deepchandh Hinduja, the company was initially based out of Karachi and Mumbai, until in 1919, when the headquarters were shifted to Iran. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 forced the company’s headquarters out of Iran, into Europe.
The multinational conglomerate has eversince grown from strength to strength, along with a fair share of controversies, of course. Interestingly, the brothers were also embroiled in the Bofors scam, where they allegedly received commissions. Yet, they have never shied away historically to put up a united front. They dress alike, eat alike and look alike.
Now, however, the brothers are fighting over a 2014 letter, which says that the assets held by one brother, belong to all the others, and that the holder of such assets shall appoint the other brothers as executors. As such, there is no demarcation of any of the assets belonging to one of the brothers. For example, Srichand Hinduja, under whose sole name lies the Hinduja Bank, is bound to divide the assets of the bank among the other three brothers according to the 2014 document. Therefore, over the major assets, the three younger brothers are of the opinion, there cannot be individual shareholding.
It is due to Hinduja Bank, and the 2014 document, that the dispute has snowballed into a major controversy. In a ruling delivered on Tuesday by a London judge, it was said that the three other brothers, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok, tried to use the letter to take control of Hinduja Bank, whose sole custody lies with Srichand Hinduja. As a result of this attempted execution of the 2014 document, Srichand Hinduja now fears losing his sole control over the bank, and other assets which he might have under his direct and unilateral control. Srichand and his daughter, Vinoo want the court to rule that the letter should have “no legal effect” and cannot be used as a will, the judge said.
What is essentially being seen is that the three younger brothers are seeking a share in all of the company’s assets, and that no portions of the company should go into the hands of particular brothers. All of the assets should belong to all the brothers, they argue. Srichand Hinduja, however, does not agree, and wants a clear division of assets. The three brothers, Prakash, Gopichand and Ashok claim to be standing up for “dearly held family values”, particularly the concept of “everything belongs to everyone, nothing belongs to anyone.”
The Hinduja family is one of the richest in the world, with Bloomberg Billionaires Index quoting the family fortune at USD 11.2 billion. Moneycontrol quotes their fortune at USD 15.6 billion. Whether the three younger brothers emerge victors, or whether Srichand Hinduja’s claims stand, is yet to be seen. What is clear however, is that wearing the same kind of suits, with the same colour, and having the same frames for spectacles, is not what unites a family. Certainly not a multibillion dollar family like the Hindujas.