Kolkata: When Pawan Jhawar, 30, a little-known businessman from Kolkata, started a company last month by the name of Tata Sons Ltd in London, he wasn’t the first to use the Tata name in a UK-registered firm. A month earlier, Mohammad Irfan Yousaf, a Pakistani national, had started a company in the UK by the name of Tata Investments Ltd for “buying and selling of real estate".
Both went unnoticed until The Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday about Jhawar’s firm, following which Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tata group in Mumbai, said it would have no more of this. “Such a move is in blatant violation of all laws, including our intellectual property rights over the usage of the word Tata," a spokesperson for Tata Sons Ltd—the group’s holding firm—said in a note.
The group is considering legal options to deal with this intellectual property right infringement, the spokesperson added.
Back at Jhawar’s home in a middle-class neighbourhood near Howrah station—29 Hat Lane, the address given to the UK Companies House for registration—people said he was travelling. His relatives wouldn’t share his contacts or discuss his whereabouts. Asked what he did for a living, they declined to comment.
In early August, Jhawar registered his company at 219 Kensington High Street in London’s upscale Kensington neighbourhood with a paid-up capital of £1,000. The filings show Jhawar incorporated Tata Sons to function as an investment company, but his motives are unclear. Relatives, neighbours and former business associates couldn’t shed much light either.
A neighbour in Jhawar’s four-storey building said the family kept a low profile, and that although they have lived there for decades, it wasn’t clear what they were up to. “They are nice people," said this person, who did not disclose his identity. “But whatever they do, it’s difficult to believe somebody who lives here has started a company in London," he added.
A former business associate said Jhawar had previously invested in a laundry. In November 2015, he had helped set up Dhulaiwala Clean India Ltd and had joined its board as a director, said Vivek Kumar Agarwal, who claimed to be one of the co-founders of the company. Jhawar has, however, sold his investment and was no longer a director, according to Agarwal.
From his circumstances, it appears that Jhawar isn’t acting on his own, said a leading lawyer. “But he might have gone a bit too far," said the lawyer, asking not to be identified. The Tata group has its trademarks registered across the world, and it would surely move court to force Jhawar to change his company’s name, he added.
Companies House, the regulator in the UK, says on its website that a company may have to change its name if someone complains and it is determined that the name is too similar to one already registered. The Tata group has several companies registered in the UK. Its oldest, Tata Ltd, dates back to 1907.
Even so, Companies House has allowed several enterprises not owned or connected to the group to start firms using the Tata name.