Forty-four years after he came to Britain, NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has recalled how he broke the jealously guarded old boy's network to become one of the leading businessmen in this country.
Lord Paul, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, reminisced his experience as a struggling industrialist in Britain in late 1960s and the difficulties he had to overcome in getting a firm foothold in the British industry.
Asked how difficult it was for him to deal with the protectionist environment, he said that initially it was not easy but finally what mattered was perseverance and skill.
In an interview to arabicknowledge@wharton, the journal of the Wharton Business School, Lord Paul recounted an episode on how he was made to wait for over two years for an order from a British company which he eventually bought over.
"I chased one company for two years for an order. Every year, they promised me (business). Even then, I used to sit on the bench, not even a comfortable chair, waiting for an appointment, and they purposely made me wait," he said.
"As luck would have it, two years later, I ended up acquiring the group that owned that company. When I went to visit the (managing director), he said to me, 'I know we thoroughly misbehaved. If you want me to resign, I'll do so'," the 79-year-old British peer recalled.
"I said, 'No, you stay right there .... (But) as long as you're working in my group, don't be so ridiculous to anybody.' He turned out to be a very good manager," he said.
In Britain since 1966, Lord Paul recalled how British industrialists, who were not doing too well at the time, looked at him with scepticism when he broached his idea of setting up a small steel plant.
"But I found (what) was lacking in Britain in industry at that time: A consistency in quality and on-time delivery.
"I saw the gap and said, 'I am going to make sure that I deliver something that is consistent with what I promised. I don't want to build a Rolls Royce, but whatever I want to build, it must be consistent.' Second, on-time delivery was rare," Lord Paul, the first Asian to be appointed Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, said.
The founder of the one billion-euro Caparo Group recounted his initial days when he told his customer to try him out as a second source.
"Why don't you try me as a second source? You give them 90 per cent of your order; all I am looking for is 10 per cent," Lord Paul remembered.
"Once you are able to step in, performance matters," he pointed out.