Apeejay is one of India's oldest and largest business conglomerates. The Group's businesses are spread over Tea (Plantations & FMCG brands); Shipping; Hospitality; Real Estate (Commercial & Business Centres); Retail brands (Bookstores & Tea Rooms) ; Marine Cluster ; Logistics Parks and Knowledge Parks.
An evolution of the Apeejay brand and values since inception more than a 100 years ago:-
Mr. Pyare Lal, a young patriot responding to the Nation's call for self-sufficiency, set up a small unit in Jalandhar to manufacture steel goods for the domestic agricultural market in 1910. His untiring efforts saw the firm “Amin Chand Pyare Lal” grow and by World War II, become profitable enough to employ 100 people.
The small unit in Jalandhar rapidly expanded into an enterprise, fuelled by a fierce pioneering spirit. It was destined to achieve many breakthroughs in post-independence India. The Group was amongst the first importers of steel into India and herein were its interests in freight costs and shipping.
In 1948, the Group expanded to shipping. Surrendra Overseas Limited, now known as Apeejay Shipping, was the first Indian company to enter into the shipping business after a long lapse of time.
Mr. Stya Paul, Mr. Jit Paul, Mr. Swraj Paul and Mr. Surrendra Paul continued to build on the business under the able stewardship of Mr. Jit Paul after the demise of their father Mr. Pyare Lal and setup the Group’s headquarters in Calcutta in 1951.
Challenged by the bottleneck created by the scarcity of steel and steel goods in the 1950s, the Group successfully explored non-traditional sources like the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland East Germany and China and effected large-scale imports into India.
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This included products for construction and infrastructure building, an essential requirement for a young nation. The Group's visionary step of importing rails from East Europe opened up a new, competitive source for railway supplies, so far being monopolized by West European countries. International trading activities grew rapidly and the Group's trading operations expanded in diverse international markets to include steel, finished steel products, coal and machinery. The Group set up the country's most advanced steel mill in the eastern capital of Calcutta and was among the first to manufacture stainless steel in India. All this was achieved without any foreign collaboration -another first for India.
Soon, it emerged as the third largest exporter of steel after Hindustan Steel Limited and Tisco, pioneering exports to markets like UK and Japan. The Shipping enterprise grew rapidly; the vessels became larger and more specialized carrying the company's new initials - APJ - emblazoned in red and white, out of Calcutta and Bombay to the Far East, Europe and North America. APJ was the perfect tribute to the industrious ancestors and founders as well as remembering the place from where this illustrious journey began in 1910 - A for Mr. Amin Chand (Mr. Pyare Lal's father); P for Mr. Pyare Lal and J for Jalandhar.
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The Group ventured into hotels, real estate, construction and pharmaceuticals in 1960s acquiring a controlling interest in British companies such as Martin Harris &Walter Bushnell, leading manufacturers of antibiotics, anti- malarial and anti-angina drugs of their time. By November 1967, the first hotel had opened for business in the fashionable Park Street of Calcutta. The Group established Schools taking forward its fresh approach to Education that nurtured children to become well rounded citizens.
Mr. Surrendra Paul became the Chairman of the Group in 1982. The Group acquired tea estates in Upper Assam, North East India and within less than a decade, the tea enterprise had created new jobs, better pay and more facilities for its workers. The greater exports and higher tax revenues substantially contributed to the economy of the state of Assam. Ms Priya Paul joined the business in 1988 working with her father Mr Surrendra Paul, a global minded businessman with a clear vision and decisiveness who had the ability to make things happen. His leadership saw a period of consolidation of existing businesses and expanding into newer ventures till his sudden and unfortunate demise in 1990. Surrendra was added to APJ to honour its dynamic Chairman, Mrs. Shirin Paul, his wife took over as Group Chairperson and Mr Jit Paul became the Group Advisor, both steering the Group together through trying times.
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Mr Surrendra Paul’s younger daughter Ms Priti Paul and his son Mr Karan Paul joined the business in 1990 and 1992 respectively. With the third generation of the Paul Family at the helm, the Group burst forth with new ideas and business diversification. The Financial Services division was created with incorporation of Apeejay Finance Group in 1993 and Apeejay Securities Private Limited in 1995; the Real Estate division created Plug –n-Play offices Apeejay Business Centers in 1998, the Hospitality division began the expansion of The Park Hotels in 1999, the Shipping division saw expansion with additions to its Fleet and also in the same year, retail activities were initiated and expanded country wide with Oxford Bookstores.
With a sense of shared ownership and a deep belief in the joint family business, Priya, Priti and Karan Paul worked as a team involved in overseeing Apeejay Surrendra ’s growth and management. The Group embarked on consolidation of the Corporate Structure with objective of ensuring highest standards of corporate practice, corporate ethics and corporate governance. Corporate Strategy, Corporate Affairs, Treasury; Human Resource Development; Information Technology, Corporate Communications was centralized in Apeejay Surrendra Management Services Private Limited. Incorporated in 2000 this entity owns the Apeejay Surrendra brand licensed for use by Group companies.
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Mr. Karan Paul took over as Group Chairman in 2004 and set the Group’s vision towards Centennial in 2010 and beyond – “To be one of India’s largest and most profitable privately owned family business”. In 2005 the Group's Tea division acquired Typhoo, UK's third largest and an over 100-year-old iconic British tea brand. It was India’s second largest global FMCG acquisition and the 7th biggest corporate takeover by an Indian company at the time and forward integrated its Tea Plantation business. Apeejay Securities Private Limited incorporated in 1995 was hived off to Indian giant ILFS Investmart.in 2006, Apeejay Finance Group incorporated in 1993 was sold to Global giant Société Générale in 2007 marking Group exit from Financial Services with only its Insurance Brokerage company, Apeejay Insurance Broking Services Private Limited, incorporated in 2004 retained. The Group extended its traditional focus on quality education by extending its vision towards establishing Knowledge Parks in the Eastern States of India.
The Group also diversified into new business ventures of Marine Cluster and Logistics Parks which effected backward and forward integration of its Shipping Business. 2007 saw the Shipping division enter a JV with Bharti Shipyard Limited diversifying into a new business venture of Marine Cluster, now fully owned by Group (effective 2015), and shortly thereafter into a second JV with Eredene Capital PLC heading off diversification into Logistics Parks now fully owned by Group (effective 2015). In the same year, the Group’s hospitality division entered into a partnership with Credit Suisse. This period also saw the formation of the Group Management committee (GMC) , Apeejay Surrendra Group’s highest strategy body to review the businesses ; take strategic decisions on mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and capitalization of the same as well as on enhancement of brand equity.
Group’s Centennial, 2010, was celebrated with a 100 Community Initiatives as a commemoration of the 100 years of Products and Services. A detailed report of the 100 initiatives can be downloaded from the Microsite- please click here 100 for 100.
For a quick read please click here Centenary Celebrations
Today, Apeejay Surrendra Group employs over 43000 people in rapidly expanding operations in Tea, Hospitality, Shipping, Retail & Real Estate and new business ventures, Marine Cluster, Logistics and Knowledge Parks. The Family values that have nurtured the Group continue to guide the third generation of the Paul Family as they jointly, as a team, oversee its growth and wellbeing.