A glimpse of the skyline of any large city in India gives a panoramic view of numerous stylish buildings. These are the highly regarded constructions of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. Ltd. These buildings house millions of families, top corporate headquarters as well as shopping complexes. Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. is the expression and vision of one great man, Shapoorji’s name is well known in India and other parts of the world for the finest architectural designs.
From the Hotel Taj Intercontinental in Bombay to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi, from the TELCO industrial complex in Pune to the Palace complex of His Majesty - The Sultan of Oman, the company's name inspires awe and respect. Shapoorji qualified for his Honours in Civil Engineering from U.K, and completed the Masters course in Business Management from The University of London in the mid 1920s. He was eager to join the family owned construction business, which was called Littlewood Pallonji & Co.
Littlewood Pallonji & Co. had won its first construction contract for building a reservoir at Malabar Hill, Mumbai in 1865. Since then, the company had grown fairly large when Shapoorji was ready to enter it. Shapoorji slowly expanded his inheritance by getting lucrative construction contracts in India and overseas, mainly Muscat. But he had a huge vision that extended beyond the construction business. Under Shapoorji's able leadership, the already prosperous construction business began to do even better.
Through the 1930s and the I940s, Shapoorji built some of Mumbai's greatest landmarks around the popular Fort area. The Hong Kong Bank, Grindlays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Reserve Bank of India buildings were all built by him. Many of these are today listed as heritage buildings. Shapoorji wanted to diversify his business, and slowly ventured into the real estate business. Interestingly, all his projects were concentrated in South Mumbai. In the 1930s, he developed Winderemere, a posh residential apartment in Colaba, where he had lived earlier before he shifted to Sterling Bay.
He followed it up with Sterling Apartments on Pedder Road in 1969. Shapoorji was a businessman and was persistently watching out for any lucrative business deal that came his way. He sensed an opportunity in the early 1930s, when he bought out solicitor F.E. Dinshaw's estate, thereby gaining a 12.5% stake in Tata Sons which Dinshaw had owned. At the time, the Tatas were emerging as the largest Indian business group in the pre-independence era. Also, the Tata group was going through a large and shaky transition in the early 1930 to late 1930s. Shapoorji realized that this was his opportunity and started approaching members of the Tata family and offered to buy out their shares of Tata Sons.
Uncertain of the value of their investment, many of them chose to sell out. JRD Tata tried to put a stop to it, but by then, Shapoorji had raised his stake to 16.5%. JRD's relationship with Shapoorji had got off to a bad start, but eventually they decided to reconcile their differences. This relationship was further strengthened when there was a marriage between the two families. Eventually, Shapoorji agreed to remain a passive investor, leaving the Tatas to manage the business. Shapoorji's core competence construction was not forgotten, and many of the Tata Groups construction contracts were awarded to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group.
Shapoorji's business was growing from strength to strength, emerging as one of the largest construction groups in Asia. Now, Shapoorji's son Shapoor is completely managing the business with his father's assistance. Shapoorji remains involved in the company, guiding and correcting wherever necessary. Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry has been rated as one of the wealthiest people in the world by Forbes Magazine, but is still media shy. This is reflected in the fact that he refused to divulge the size of his fabulous wealth to the Forbes Magazine.
Shapoorji's tremendous contribution to the India's skyline is unmatched. In a remarkable career, spanning over seven decades, Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. built almost every modern structure to grace the country. Shapoorji's vision of reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign construction companies has come true.