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  1. Property
January 22, 2024

Shalini Hinduja on how Raffles London at The OWO breathes new life into British history

Spear's Awards 2023 winner: Shalini Hinduja collected the Entrepreneur of the Year award on behalf of G.P. Hinduja & Family

By Aisha Alli

Once the stomping ground of Winston Churchill, TE Lawrence (‘of Arabia’) and Ian Fleming, the Old War Office on Whitehall is a cornerstone of British history. Now it has been given a new lease of life by the Hinduja family, who purchased it in 2014 for £350 million. 

After a six-year renovation project, The OWO, as it’s now known, welcomed its first guests last summer. Housing the UK’s first Raffles Hotel in addition to 85 uniquely designed residences and nine restaurants, it sets a new standard for luxury in the city.

[See also: The OWO Residences by Raffles is about legacy, says Sanjay Hinduja]

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A century of entrepreneurship

‘We started with this amazing canvas of a building that was built in 1906 with phenomenal proportions and a beautiful external facade – features that are truly unique,’ Shalini Hinduja tells Spear’s. The daughter-in-law of Gopichand Hinduja, chairman of the Hinduja Group, has spearheaded the development – no easy feat, as the family (which has interests in the automotive industry, digital technology, chemicals, renewable energy, healthcare and other sectors) makes a first foray into hospitality. 

The Hinduja family’s entrepreneurship journey began in 1914 with Parmanand D Hinduja, a trader of spices and tea. By the 1970s the family was involved in technology, banking and finance. The company now has a global footprint across 100 countries and 200,000 employees.

‘An entrepreneur is someone who takes risks in business and is willing to go against the odds,’ Shalini remarks. ‘The acquisition of the Old War Office was exactly that, in light of where things are in terms of the economy.’ 

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Paying homage to history with a 21st-century vision

Pivotal to ensuring the project’s success was the creation of a vision that would respect the history of the building while also embracing modernity. ‘Our initial tagline was: “Honouring the history and forging the future.” We needed things to be functional and achieve some level of modernity while keeping that link with the history of the building.’

The hotel and residences (parts of which are Grade-II* listed) pay homage to history and tradition through the experiences and services available to guests and residents. Those entering The OWO Residences can make use of the ‘Spies Entrance’, which was once used for espionage purposes. Hotel guests can sleep in suites that were the offices of political figures such as Churchill and Profumo.

‘You want to retain those stories for people to experience,’ says Shalini. ‘Although the vision was set by my father-in-law and his brothers, it was necessary to carry that message to all stakeholders and make sure they understood our vision was to honour history.’ 

In this spirit, the Hinduja family looks to have carved a legacy in London, respecting the city’s history while also cementing its own place within it. 

Click here to register for interest in the Spear’s Awards 2024

G.P. Hinduja & Family, joint winners of the Entrepreneur of the Year award, were represented by Shalini Hinduja at the Spear’s Awards 2023

This feature is published in Spear’s Magazine Issue 90. Click here to subscribe

Cover: Cat Sims

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