Meet Virendra Singh Chauhan: The Mystery Man Who Owns a Single Share in Tata Group”

Meet Virendra Singh Chauhan: The Mystery Man Who Owns a Single Share in Tata Group"

Meet Virendra Singh Chauhan: The Mystery Man Who Owns a Single Share in Tata Group"

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A peculiar mystery emerged when Tata Sons’ list of shareholders was revealed a few years ago. A man named Virendra Singh Chauhan owned a solitary share in Tata Sons, the parent company of the Tata Group.

Tata Sons, the principal investment holding company of Tata Companies, with 66% of its equity share capital held by philanthropic trusts supporting education, health, livelihood generation, and art and culture. However, one share of this multibillion-dollar corporation is owned by a royal family from Gujarat. 

As of March 2023, Maharawal Virendrasinhji Chauhan is listed as owning this single share. He was the king of the small princely state of Chota Udaipur in Gujarat and passed away in 2005. His heirs still lay claim to the share.

In the 1980s, Virendrasinhji was allotted twelve or thirteen shares in Tata Sons due to his close relationship with JRD Tata, as detailed by his son Jai Pratap. Although Jai Pratap isn’t certain of the exact number or specifics of the transaction, he believes it was likely part of an internal reorganization—a common practice in unlisted companies—where shares became available and a trusted individual was needed to take charge of them.

According to Jai Pratap, in 1998, Virendrasinhji was establishing a garment manufacturing business in Bengaluru and decided to sell his Tata Sons shares to raise necessary funds. Despite this, he wisely chose to retain one share, preserving the rare privilege of being a Tata Sons shareholder.

The Legacy of Maharawal Virendrasinhji Natwarsinhji Chauhan

Virendra Singh Chauhan’s real name was Maharawal Virendrasinhji Natwarsinhji Chauhan. The princely state of Chota Udaipur was governed by Prithviraj Chauhan’s descendants, with rulers known as maharawals, who were patrons of the arts and architecture. 

In 1946, when Maharawal Natwarsinhji unexpectedly passed away in Lisbon, the title was inherited by his 11-year-old son, Virendrasinhji. Virendrasinhji was only a minor during the turbulent period of 1947 when Chota Udaipur was integrated into independent India along with other princely states. 

After attending Daly College, Indore, which was established for the princelings of Central India, he acquired a keen business acumen. In 1962, he was referred to as an “industrialist” and was listed as a director of National Ekco, a Tata company founded to manufacture radios, at just 25 years old. Coincidentally, Ratan Tata, who was still an apprentice at Tata Steel, was also 25 years old at the time.

Over time, Virendrasinhji rose to the position of director of several businesses, serving on boards alongside notable businessmen and industrialists. It was the era of likes, such as Hasham Premji (father of Azim Premji), SS Kirloskar, BM Ghia, MS Talaulicar, Navroz B. Vakil, and the Maharaja of Baroda. Importantly, he joined the Tata Mills board of directors in his early 30s, under the direction of Ratan Tata’s father, Naval Tata.

Virendrasinhji’s roles as a socialite, bon vivant, lover of horses, billiards, racing, cricket, and membership in numerous clubs in Mumbai and London contributed to his prominence as a company director. He received a privy purse worth Rs 212,000 annually, a significant amount at a time when the average yearly salary for a managing director was Rs 42,000. Up until the 1971 repeal of princely privileges, he was also listed in The Royalty, Peerage, and Aristocracy of the World.

Virendrasinhji was given ‘twelve or thirteen’ shares in Tata Sons by JRD Tata in the 1980s, as per his son Jai Pratap Sinhji. While the specifics of the transaction remain unclear, it was likely part of an internal process where shares became available, and a trustworthy person was needed to take control of them. Virendrasinhji was chosen for this task, highlighting the Tatas’ trust in him. Owning these shares was a matter of prestige and a testament to the deep relationship between Virendrasinhji and the Tata family.

In summary, Maharawal Virendrasinhji Natwarsinhji Chauhan’s legacy as a Tata Sons shareholder is a fascinating chapter in the history of the Tata Group. It reflects on the deep personal and professional connections that have shaped one of India’s most iconic business empires.