Asian giants 2018

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ASIAN GIANTS

INSPIRING TO ASPIRE SPRING 2018

ISSUE TWO

INTERVIEWS WITH ICONS

£7.50

DEFYING ODDS, DARING TO SUCCEED Real life stories of contemporary icons


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CONTENTS SPRING 2018

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4 CB PATEL Leaving behind a lasting legacy

25 TONY MATHARU Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Opinion Maker

4 THE ASIAN GIANTS TEAM Awe inspiring stories

29 HARNOOP ATKAR Care home of choice

5 SADIQ AMAN KHAN From council estate to City Hall

32 POONAM GUPTA Entrepreneurial genius

9 ATUL PATAK People – bedrock of the business

36 PARESH RAJA Offering tailor-made solutions

12 AVNISH GOYAL Combining family values & care

39 PAAVAN POPAT From humble beginnings

15 SURINDER ARORA Premium player in hospitality & property

42 NAINITA DESAI Scoring her way to the top

19 NAGA MUNCHETTY One of the very best

45 SHANE THAKRAR A fast growing business

22 SELVA PANKAJ Leadership in education

48 BINOY MEGHRAJ Shouldering an illustrious legacy

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WELCOME SPRING 2018

Leaving behind a lasting legacy Having been in the media world for over four decades, I have had the great pleasure and privilege to have known several successful British Asians from diverse walks of life – women and men whose contribution to society has been truly exceptional. I do not use the word ‘successful’ lightly nor do I, by any means, refer to it to mean monetary gain because their achievements far surpass any comparison with material wealth. I am also delighted that we are now witnessing a younger generation of British Asians pick up the baton and run the race with the same intensity that their forebears did. As you will read in these pages more often than not the key ingredients to the success of these exemplary women and men are passion, patience, perseverance and determination, and not necessarily brilliance of any sort. They have all had their share of battles – some won, some lost – but giving up was never an option even when the stakes were high. What

might seem like a lost cause to some, is to them a stepping stone to greater heights. The fear of failure is not part of their entrepreneurial mindset rather, ensuring that lessons from failure are never wasted is the secret behind their next big victory. They don’t leave things to chance rather they have honed the skill to roll the dice intelligently. Many of them started life’s journey with very little financial capital and often from a position of disadvantage. In the media, art and culture, for instance, there were very few Asian role models to emulate but thankfully that is now changing. But what they all had in common was a dream and the steely determination to make that dream come true. A dream that has in many ways set the standard for the future in their chosen fields. A dream which they were convinced beyond doubt would change the world for the better. Whether it is creating wealth, generating jobs, shaping lives or giving generously to philanthropy, their legacy will take the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Awe-inspiring stories Listening to the stories of the towering personalities featured in this edition of Asian Giants magazine was an incredible experience. They were honest, humble, witty and extremely generous in sharing their experience with us. Their narrative was impromptu and we have done our best to preserve its originality. So, what you will read in this magazine is an undiluted version of what they shared with us. You will be hard pressed to find much of the material, if not all of it, in the public domain. We look forward to featuring more such Asian Giants in the next edition. THE ASIAN GIANTS TEAM

PUBLISHER/EDITOR

“Wealth in various forms is achieved by people who work with a positive mind. Only the idle person says that these are possible only with the help of God and fate. Ignore fate and work hard. Despite your efforts, if you do not achieve do not blame yourself. Analyse the situation and take necessary action to succeed in future.”

SUBHASHITA (WISE SAYINGS) BY POET KRISHNA MISHRA, 11TH CENTURY AD (COURTESY: DR. M.N. NANDAKUMARA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE BHAVAN)

THE TEAM ASIAN GIANTS PUBLISHER/ EDITOR: CB PATEL CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: L. GEORGE ADVERTISING MANAGER: KISHOR PARMAR HEAD OF SALES & MARKETING: ROVIN GEORGE CONCEPT, INTERVIEWS & CONTENT: CECIL SOANS EDITORIAL EXEC.: RESHMA TRILOCHUN ART DIRECTOR: LISA DUKE GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: HARISH DAHYA & AJAY KUMAR

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ASIAN BUSINESS PUBLICATIONS LTD MANAGING EDITOR: KOKILA PATEL DEPUTY EDITOR: URJA PATEL

ASIAN BUSINESS PUBLICATION LTD

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: RUPANJANA DUTTA

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ASIAN GIANT SADIQ AMAN KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON SINCE 2016

GROWING UP

From council estate to City Hall Sadiq Khan grew up in a south London council estate where life wasn’t easy. He says, “I grew up in the 70s and 80s and unfortunately it was not uncommon for people to use the ‘P’ word. But people of all backgrounds stuck together – black, Asian and white. Much progress has been made since then and we should thank our parents’ generation for the sacrifices they made and battles they had.”

Like most Asians he aspired to become a doctor or dentist but his maths teacher saw that he enjoyed arguing and suggested that he become a lawyer. Says Sadiq, “It was a good piece of advice because I went on to become a successful lawyer and thoroughly enjoyed it. I suppose when you have six brothers and a sister, to be able to argue and negotiate is a good skill to have and I won most of the time! Also, when you are the smallest in the family, if you can’t win by fighting you win by arguing!” He says, “Like many parents across the capital, my mum and dad worked their socks off and taught me and my brothers and sister the importance of hard work. As soon as I was old enough to work, I got a paper round and a Saturday job.” That work ethic, he says, has never left him and he still works tirelessly doing whatever he can to improve the lives of Londoners and give back to the city that has given so much to him.

ISLAMIC VALUES Sadiq Khan’s parents raised their children as Muslims. He says, “In accordance with the teachings of Islam we were taught to differentiate between right and wrong, treat elders with respect, show respect for non-Muslim people, have a strong work ethic and give to charity. We were taught to be Londoners, British and English first. Those were the Islamic values that were instilled in us. The golden thread that runs through all great religions is: treat others just as you want to be treated. And that is a really important tenet of Islam.” Sadiq considers himself to be a Mayor who happens to be a Muslim, and not a Muslim who happens to be a Mayor. He says, “I try to be a Mayor for everyone. It is important for me to go to gurdwaras, churches, temples and mosques, and treat everyone with the same respect. It is equally important for me to celebrate Diwali in the Square, Eid in the Square, Chanukah in the Square and Christmas in the Square.”

WHY HE CHOSE LABOUR Says Sadiq, “When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s we could see the harsh consequences of Conservative policies. Teachers took industrial action due to lack of investment in schools and poor teaching conditions. My father’s bus

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ASIAN GIANT SADIQ AMAN KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON SINCE 2016

garage threatened to close and my friends were being routinely stopped and searched. People were generally unhappy with the government’s policies. So the obvious thing to do was to be part of a constructive opposition to the Conservative government and that meant joining the Labour party under Neil Kinnock’s leadership.”

BRITISH ASIAN CONTRIBUTION TO LONDON London is home to some of the largest, and most diverse Asian communities in the world that contribute a huge amount to the city’s success socially, culturally and economically, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the business community. Since becoming Mayor, he says, he has really seen the best of Asian culture, and the way it reaches out to all communities, especially at events like Eid, Diwali, Vaisakhi, Chanukah, Christmas and Mela where Londoners from all backgrounds come together to celebrate. He adds, “Diversity is London’s greatest asset and I’m so honoured to be the Mayor of our great capital city where we don’t just tolerate each other’s differences, we respect and celebrate them.”

on jobs, growth and living standards. Ministers are fast running out of time to turn the negotiations around and a hard Brexit is still a very real risk and the worst possible scenario.” He continues, “I released these impact assessments because the British people and our businesses have a right to know the likely impact of the various options the government is considering on their lives and personal finances. The analysis shows why the government should now change its approach and negotiate a deal that enables us to remain in both the single market and the customs union.” He says that he will continue to do everything he can to fight London’s corner in the negotiations. Sadiq visited India and Pakistan last year where he told businesses, investors and students that despite Brexit, London will always be open to the world and open for businesses in South Asia. He added, “Understandably, businesses are concerned about Brexit and what this will mean for how Britain will interact with the rest of the world. The Brexit vote shouldn’t be interpreted as London turning its back on the rest of the world or pulling up the drawbridge. I want to assure entrepreneurs, politicians, students and businesses in South Asia that London will still be one of the most welcoming, entrepreneurial, innovative and outward-looking cities anywhere on the planet.”

I WANT LONDONERS TO GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO FULFIL THEIR POTENTIAL; THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL LONDONERS NOT JUST TO SURVIVE, BUT TO THRIVE. THIS IS MY VISION FOR LONDON AND THE LEGACY I HOPE TO LEAVE

THE BREXIT CONUNDRUM According to Sadiq if the Government continues to mishandle the negotiations, the country could be heading for a decade of lower growth and lower employment. He says the independent analysis that he commissioned earlier this year revealed the potential economic risks and human costs at stake in the Brexit negotiations. He adds, “The analysis concluded that the harder the Brexit we end up with, the bigger the potential impact

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LOVE FOR THEATRE AND THE ARTS Despite the changes in his own life, Sadiq is still deeply rooted in his community. He says proudly, “Tooting is my home and will always be my home. My brother still runs the local boxing club and my family lives close by.” In his spare time, he loves going to the theatre with his wife and

daughters. Some of his favourite London attractions are local theatres, and they are, the Tara Theatre in Earlsfield, where he volunteered when he was younger, Theatre Peckham, the original stomping ground of actor John Boyega and Polka Theatre, the children’s theatre in Wimbledon. Sadiq and his family also love going for a curry in one of the many brilliant curry houses in Tooting.

SADIQ KHAN’S LEGACY FOR LONDON Sadiq Khan’s desire is for every single Londoner to get the opportunities that London gave to him and his family. He says, “I want Londoners to get the opportunity to fulfil their potential; the opportunities for all Londoners not just to survive, but to thrive. This is my vision for London and the legacy I hope to leave.” He adds, “To achieve this, I’m focusing my time and efforts as Mayor on a number of core issues such as building thousands of new genuinely affordable homes, delivering a modern and affordable transport network, tackling air pollution, supporting the creative industries, arts and culture, helping new sectors of our economy thrive, ensuring Londoners have the skills they need to succeed and encouraging greater social integration.” In conclusion he says, “With hard work, we can build a safer, fairer, healthier and more inclusive city for everybody.”


LIKE MANY PARENTS ACROSS THE CAPITAL, MY MUM AND DAD WORKED THEIR SOCKS OFF AND TAUGHT ME AND MY BROTHERS AND SISTER THE IMPORTANCE OF HARD WORK. AS SOON AS I WAS OLD ENOUGH TO WORK, I GOT A PAPER ROUND AND A SATURDAY JOB.

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ASIAN GIANT ATUL PATHAK, MANAGING DIRECTOR, APPT CORPORATION

People – bedrock of the business

Atul Pathak started his first McDonald’s franchise in 2003 in Southall. Today, his company Appt Corporation has 31 McDonald’s restaurants located across London and Berkshire, employs 3000 staff and serves 24 million customers annually. He says, “What matters foremost to me are my team and my customers and the difference I can make to their lives. They are the bedrock of my business.”

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ASIAN GIANT ATUL PATHAK, MANAGING DIRECTOR, APPT CORPORATION

Atul with his team at one of his franchise

PASSIONATE ABOUT MCDONALD’S Atul is proud of the McDonald’s brand and passionate about the food they serve. He says, “I am flattered to work with an iconic brand like McDonald’s, which is one of the world’s best businesses to work with. Over the years our menu and customer service has evolved leaps and bounds. We offer a range of options from salads, to wraps, to coffee, to fruit bags, and McDonald’s has worked to reduce salt and fat. Our food is nutritious, excellent value for money and ethically sourced. McDonald’s follow stringent guidelines when choosing franchisees and suppliers so customers can always rest assured of the best quality.”

THE JOURNEY FROM BIHAR Dapper, friendly and of slim build, his exterior belies a giant of a man who started life in the then impoverished Indian state of Bihar and went on to stamp a mark in the world of business. Originally from Indian Punjab, Atul’s family moved to Bihar where his father worked in the coal mines and his mother was a teacher. Says Atul, “Growing up in the 70s, violence was rampant in Bihar. Young men roamed the streets with knives, and alcohol and drugs were freely available. My parents were strict disciplinarians and made sure that we did not stray from the straight and narrow. They also sacrificed much so that my two brothers and I could

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each have a good education.” Academically Atul was the brightest of the three sons and his parents wanted him to pursue a career in medicine. So, they sent him to Chandigarh, Punjab to pursue a degree. Having moved away from his parents he began to revel in his new-found freedom. He quips, “I made ‘full use’ of my freedom, or rather, I misused it and my grades started to go down ‘south’.” Eventually he completed his degree and graduated in economics, geography and English. “But my grades were not good enough to make it to medical school. My parents were disappointed. At that time I sometimes felt like a rudderless ship not knowing what to do with my life,” he adds.

to visit her parents and ask them for their daughter’s hand. “Her father was a bigbuilt, menacing looking man and I knew that this was not going to go my way,” recalls Atul. After several unsuccessful attempts to convince her parents, Atul and his wife went away to get married in Delhi where he found a job as a barman at Hotel Taj Mahal, a five-star hotel. He was 19 and his would-be-wife, 18.

I AM FLATTERED TO WORK WITH AN ICONIC JOURNEY TO THE UK BRAND LIKE MCDONALD’S There was WHICH IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S continuous pressure BEST BUSINESSES TO WORK WITH. on him to find OVER THE YEARS OUR MENU a ‘dignified job’ befitting the family’s AND CUSTOMER SERVICE HAS status, so Atul and EVOLVED LEAPS his wife decided to AND BOUNDS. leave India. In 1982 he

WIFE-TO-BE While at university Atul met his wifeto-be, Pinki, and they planned to get married. The two came from disparate backgrounds both culturally and financially. She was a Sikh and he was a Hindu brahmin. Her parents were well off but Atul’s background was a modest one. Mustering enough courage Atul decided

went to the Middle East and then to Germany before arriving in the UK in 1984. “In those days finding a job in Germany was hard because they didn’t accept foreigners easily. I was turned away from most places with a ‘raus, raus’ (out, out). But London was surprisingly welcoming and first of all we stayed with my aunt in Heston but only for a short while”. Atul’s first job in the UK was in a cash and carry in Southall. Says Atul, “It was hard, physically demanding work. It involved offloading never ending


ASIAN GIANT ATUL PATHAK, MANAGING DIRECTOR, APPT CORPORATION

a nine-month training programme which equipped him with the knowledge and practical skills to run and manage a restaurant. From then on there has been no looking back for Atul on his journey to becoming a highly successful franchise business in the UK.

HUMBLE IN SUCCESS But Atul refuses to take the credit for his success. He says, “I am flattered and fortunate to have a highly ethical and supportive partner like McDonald’s, which is one of the world’s best brands to work with. Secondly, I give credit to my team. I am very blessed to have a very hard working and dedicated team. Without them I wouldn’t be here and we would not have been as successful as we are.”

GIVING BACK TO COMMUNITY

extremely heavy sacks of potatoes and onions from lorries. The owner of the cash and carry looked at my slight build with contempt and asked me to leave. Not one to take ‘no’ for an answer I suggested that I work for free for a week and if he was satisfied, he could hire me on a full-time basis. Four days later I was hired and he paid me for the whole week. I used to work from 9am to 10pm and was paid £10 a day. But I am grateful to him and we still keep in touch with his family to this day.” Atul’s first job in hospitality in the UK was at the Vanderbilt in London. That was on the 18th of June 1984. He has fond memories of working there.

THE MCDONALD’S JOURNEY Atul always harboured a passion for becoming an entrepreneur and that was one of his reasons for coming to the UK. Since childhood he had grown up with values and ethics which were grounded in the motto of helping others and supporting the community and this was to become a huge part of his business philosophy. Before becoming a McDonald’s franchisee Atul worked on a number of business ventures. His first opportunity to become a McDonald’s franchisee came some years later in 2002. The selection process was a meticulous one and after being selected he underwent

Atul is passionate about giving back to the community and is involved in many charitable activities. Since 2006 Atul has been supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), which provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation at hospitals across the UK, enabling families to stay close to their child and maintain a degree of normal family life. Atul’s restaurants donate a percentage of their sales to the charity each year. In the last 10 years Atul and his business has donated and raised nearly £1million. As a McDonald’s franchisee his company, Appt, also organises an annual deep clean of the surrounding area to his restaurants to collect the litter, and clean up the graffiti that is sometimes found in and around town centres. These campaigns are supported by local police officers, councillors and MP. Atul also sponsors many local football teams including the Met Police Barnet Football Club to show support for the great work the Metropolitan Police do for the local communities across London, providing the team with free kits last year.

He also mentors budding entrepreneurs from the LSE and Kings College London. Says Atul, “Once students have completed their studies and want advice on how to start a business, raise finance or make a business plan, I am willing to help and give them my time. When I was growing up I did not have that support but now I can share my knowledge and experience.” But perhaps Atul is proudest of his own Community Awards which this year will celebrate their fifth year. Every year Atul writes to the councillors, Mayors and Members of Parliament for all of the communities his restaurants serve with the aim of finding nominations of local charities and community champions who would benefit from a meaningful cash award as well as the offer of professional help over the year. There is also an awards ceremony which is held at the House of Commons and is attended by the local MPs, government ministers and local dignitaries. So far, he has helped over forty small groups that are the backbone of the voluntary sector.

DREAMS AND DECISIONS According to Atul for a business to succeed it is important to find solutions to problems quickly. He says indecisiveness can prove costly. “Not all decisions are going to be right, but you got to think on your feet all the time.” Like most successful entrepreneurs, Atul too feels that having a dream is the beginning of success. He emphasises the importance of work hard and integrity and says that there are no shortcuts in business. Atul says, “The way to the top can be arduous and long-drawn out. On my journey to where I am today I have cleaned floors, ferried sacks of potatoes on my shoulders and have done hard work. All of that has been a learning process. Today if my father was alive, I would hope he would be very proud of me.”

Future plans ‘I will carry on doing what I am doing now, and have no plans to start another business or reinvent the wheel. I love working with McDonald’s and will always look to grow my McDonald’s business. Most importantly I love my team. My youngest team member is sixteen and the oldest seventy-three. All of them mean a great deal to me, and they keep my passion for the business burning,’ says Atul. SPRING 2018 I ASIAN GIANTS

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ASIAN GIANT AVNISH GOYAL, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, HALLMARK CARE HOMES

ombining ily values & care Celebrating 20 years of excellence in care, Hallmark Care Homes is a family-run provider of multi-award winning care homes. Family values form the foundations on which all of its care homes are built.

Above: Avnish with his wife Anita Goyal

INSPIRED TO CARE Avnish Goyal’s inspiration to start Hallmark Care Homes came from his relatives who had a care home in South Wales. Watching the care home team looking after vulnerable residents, he felt drawn towards branching into care homes from a property portfolio which he had successfully built up over previous years with his two older brothers Vidya and Ram. “I felt it would make me grow as a person and help me make a difference to society by creating employment and providing quality care in the community,” says Avnish.

ACCOLADES Nearly twenty one years later Hallmark has increased its portfolio to seventeen high quality care homes in England and Wales, all built to the highest standards in the care sector. Hallmark Care Homes have won several awards over the years not just for their design, which they have won for five consecutive years, but also for the high quality of care they provide in their luxury care homes. “We are leading the way and setting the standard in terms of innovation and care quality initiatives,” says Avnish with pride.

QUALITY CARE The homes have cinemas, hairdressing salons, spa treatment rooms, cafes, as well as wonderfully designed lounges and dining rooms. Residents also have easy access to tastefully landscaped gardens. Crediting his staff for the success of his care homes, he says, “We really believe that our people are our greatest asset and we have many initiatives including Empowerment Days four times a year for our teams with an average of 150 people attending each event. It culminates in a fire-walk where the team members face their fears and get to walk over burning hot coals.” Hallmark has launched a new dementia strategy called “Together” which is designed to train staff to deliver high quality relationship- centred care to residents. Avnish and his brother Ram are actively involved in the strategic direction of Hallmark along with the oldest brother Vidya who also manages their property portfolio.

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ASIAN GIANT AVNISH GOYAL, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, HALLMARK CARE HOMES

FUTURE PLANS Says Avnish, “I want to continue to develop quality homes by acquiring the best new sites as well as build the best care homes in the country. I am also planning to implement new technological systems that will improve the experience of the residents in our care homes. We are looking at developing assisted living communities so that we can provide care options for more people.”

PUNJAB: WHERE THE JOURNEY BEGAN Avnish was born in the town of Moga in the state of Punjab in India. Consisting of five girls and three boys, the family migrated to the UK in 1970 with just their personal possessions. Avnish was four years old then. He says about his parents, “My mum was very inspirational as I grew up and we were taught at an early age that education would set us free. My mum worked in a factory and my dad

MUM IS MY BIGGEST ROLE MODEL. FROM HER, I HAVE LEARNT THE FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE, AS WELL AS A STRONG WORK ETHIC. worked as a bus conductor in the early days until we bought our first business, a corner shop, in 1977.”

A HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM Avnish’s wife Anita was introduced to him by a mutual friend, who he is truly indebted to. He says, “We went on a date and before long we were true soulmates.” Anita regularly accompanies Avnish to the homes to meet the team. She is also an avid supporter of the Empowerment Days and is deeply involved in the company’s events and

initiatives. Much of her time is spent managing both the Hemraj Goyal Foundation, a charitable cause in memory of his father, and the personal development seminars which have now become very popular and have been attended by over a thousand delegates.

VALUES Avnish places great importance on family. He says, “Our family values are built around integrity, honour and respect. These are central and core to the running of our business too. These values feature high in our corporate charter and we recognise the contribution that every person can make.”

THE HEMRAJ GOYAL FOUNDATION Philanthropy is a key part of Avnish’s life. He says, “Through different life experiences, I have come to realise how important it is for me to make a difference to those less fortunate and to get the whole extended family, especially the next generation, involved.” He set up the Hemraj Goyal Foundation in memory of his late father. Over the last seven years, the Foundation has supported a number of worthwhile causes which, he says, has been fun and humbling at the same time. In 2017 the Foundation donated £175,000 to worthwhile causes. In addition to this, together with Anita, Avnish runs development seminars that aim to empower people to make positive changes to their lives.

OTHER CHARITABLE CAUSES At Hallmark, Avnish is a key advocate for charitable giving. In 2018 Hallmark’s team will be involved in fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Care Workers Charity. The proceeds will be match funded by Hallmark. Avnish is also involved in Hemraj Goyal Foundation’s

annual homeless bag drop which is organised by the youth team during New Year’s day. During this event, the team delivers vital items to those in need on the streets in the City. Anita and Avnish also take time to visit several projects that HGF has funded in India and meet charity partners.

MOTHER: A ROLE MODEL Talking about role models, Avnish says he has had several over the years, both in small and large ways. He says that throughout his career he has learnt different things from different people. He adds, “My mum is my biggest role model. From her, I have learnt the foundations of good customer service, as well as a strong work ethic.” Two other role models who have made an impact on him are Hallmark’s former non-executive director Martyn Ward, who taught him a great deal about business leadership, and American life coach Anthony Robbins, who has inspired him to strive to have it all - health, wealth and happiness.

PUTTING HIS FEET UP Says Avnish, “I spend my free time with Anita watching a good box set, currently we are watching The Crown. I also enjoy spending time with my family, going for walks, eating out and socialising with friends.”

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS Avnish’s recipe for success is, “Find something that you are passionate about, make sure that you know your reasons for being in the business, apart from money. Make good friends, as they will support you on the journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and share your dreams with the right people who will support you in achieving them. Be flexible and dedicated. And finally, never give up on your dreams.”

Left to right: Anya Court Care Home in Rubgy; Sue Earrey (Head of Land and Developments, Hallmark Care Homes, the Mayor of Royal Tunbridge Wells and Avnish ‘topping out’ Chamberlain Court the brand new home in Royal Tunbridge Wells; Role Model- Avnish Goyal with his mother

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ASIAN GIANT SURINDER ARORA, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, ARORA GROUP

Premium player in hospitality & property Created in 1999 the Arora Group was pioneered by Surinder Arora and his wife Sunita. The group consists of three businesses; hotels, property and construction. The hotel business is situated across all the major UK airports and now at The O2 arena. It is a big part of our overall business. “As a group we now have over 4,000 bedrooms, which makes us the largest family-owned premium hotel group in the UK and that is largely due to my extended family consisting of 2,500 employees.” says Surinder.

The Arora Group has £1.6 billion managed assets with turnover in excess of £230 million. It has over 100 managed property assets and is based in over 10 UK locations.

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ASIAN GIANT SURINDER ARORA, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, ARORA GROUP

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS Surinder Arora was thirteen when he arrived in England from Indian Punjab. “I didn’t know the English alphabet when I left Punjab because they were just starting to teach English during the year I left for England,” says Surinder. Having struggled through GCSEs, he joined British Airways as a clerk at the age of 18 and following that he became a financial advisor with Abbey Life. As a lad he harboured a desire to become a policeman but a family friend suggested that he try his hand at flying. “He took me to the London School of Flying and paid for the first lesson. I loved it and said to my mum and dad that that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At £21 an hour, flying lessons were beyond my means, so I worked two jobs; at British Airways during the day for £34 a week and at the Penta Hotel, now the Renaissance, in the evenings as a wine waiter,” says Surinder. Using the earnings from his two jobs, he gained his private pilot’s licence (PPL) in 1978 and in 1982 he married Sunita, his wife and business partner of 35 years.

WHETHER IT IS BEING A WAITER OR PORTER, IF YOU ARE WILLING TO WORK HARD AND COMMIT YOURSELF TO THE JOB IT WILL PAY OFF.

EARLY FORAY INTO PROPERTY Surinder first dabbled in property and real estate in the mid 80s. He bought four semi-derelict houses opposite the British Airways Compass centre at an auction for £40,000 each, renovated them and rented them out as guest houses. Soon afterwards he bought adjoining properties. In the mid 90s he identified an opportunity to build a hotel at Heathrow for the crew of British Airways. “Back then the British Airways crew didn’t like the hotel they were staying in so I wrote to BA and offered to build a hotel opposite their crew centre. They asked me to make a one-hour presentation to them,” says Surinder. He knew very little about hotels so he took along with him to the presentation a friend who was an architect. It didn’t take long for the executives at BA to realise that he was a novice in the hotel business and his offer was turned down. His bank too was not convinced and said to him, “Things can go horribly wrong and it can lead to a budget overrun.” After much persuasion he won over BA and the bank and got planning permission against all odds. The hotel was completed early and within budget.

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DREAMS, RISKS AND REWARDS To be successful Surinder believes that one doesn’t have to be exceptional. “If a person like me can make it happen, anyone can,” he says humbly. “You must have a dream before you can turn it into reality. If you don’t have dreams how can you turn anything into reality? But then again, a dream is not a mere pie in the sky,” say Surinder. He firmly believes that it is important to take risks in order to turn a dream into reality. He says, “You have to take risks in life but take calculated risks as life is all about risk and reward. You can’t have the reward without the risk. Take things one step at a time, don’t scramble up the ladder in haste because if you fall the consequences can be disastrous and far-reaching.”

RIGHT ATTITUDE, FAMILY VALUES: KEY TO SUCCESS Says Surinder, “I have seen successful businesses built by the first generation ruined by the second and third

generations due to wrong values and attitudes. My children are very fortunate to have a platform that we didn’t have. We had to start by sweeping the floors. How can we ensure that future generations can carry on that dream and take the businesses to the next level? One of the ways, I guess, is the upbringing of families. I always make sure and teach our children to not just look at the step ahead, but also take a look at the step behind. By looking a step ahead you will always remain ambitious, but looking a step behind will ensure that you will never forget the past, you need to get the right balance.” “That is why, when my children, Sanjay, now a Director in the Group, Sapna and Sonia were growing up doing their A levels and going to university I made sure that they worked in the local supermarkets. My daughter worked at Thorntons and Sanjay worked as a porter in a couple of my hotels. I wanted to make sure that they live in the real world and not just have a wad of cash to spend.”


ASIAN GIANT SURINDER ARORA, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, ARORA GROUP

AS HUMAN BEINGS WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES AND MUSTN’T BE SCARED OF MAKING THEM, HOWEVER, LET’S NOT REPEAT THEM. WE SHOULD MAKE NEW ONES AND KEEP LEARNING FROM THEM.

Left to right: Son, Sanjay Arora and his wife Raj Arora, Surinder Arora and his wife Sunita Arora.

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES “I used to be a control freak,” says Surinder. “Whenever we bought chairs, carpets or décor people wouldn’t decide without consulting me. After seeing what Sanjay has achieved over the last couple of years, I let him and the team get on with it. It doesn’t bother me if they make mistakes. As human beings we all make mistakes and mustn’t be scared of making them, however, let’s not repeat them. We should make new ones and keep learning from them. My team was surprised when I said to them last year that I was going to take a step back and let Sanjay and them step in and make a mark,” he adds.

THRIVING WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN In 2008 during the height of the economic crisis the Arora Group had just built the Sofitel and acquired a large property portfolio from the BAA. Says Surinder, “I had put a great deal of investment into the deal and suddenly the whole world collapsed around me.” But Surinder thrives under pressure.

He says, “When the chips are down I work harder. I have a family of over 2,500 employees who I am responsible for and that is what keeps me going. The golden rule for me is to have plans B, C and D. You must have other alternatives and a back up.”

MOTHER – A HUGE INFLUENCE With much fondness and reverence Surinder recalls the impact his mother made on his early life. After the painful partition of India and Pakistan, his family got a small grant to start a corner shop in Punjab which his mother managed. She also trained as midwife, which helped her get a visa to work in England. Recalls Surinder, “When I came to England in 1972 she had given up her job as a midwife and was working in a factory. She would work in the factory during the day and come home at three in the afternoon to cook for the family. She would then go away at six in the evening to nearby banks and offices to do cleaning jobs until late in the night. In

the weekends she would go to a nearby college and cook for the students.” Surinder would lend her a hand so she could finish work early and go home. “She helped me get one of my first jobs when I was just fifteen. It was a job in the local market in Southall for £1.50 a day,” says Surinder. Later she was instrumental in him becoming a clerk at British Airways. “Growing up, my mother would put restrictions and boundaries in order to instil discipline in us. I hated it then. Looking back, if it wasn’t for my mum’s love and discipline, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She always reminded us never to get big-headed” says Surinder.

UK – A LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES Surinder’s words of wisdom for the younger generation are, “You are very blessed in the UK to have abundant opportunities and to be able to make your dreams come true if you are willing to commit yourselves to the task. If you get an opportunity to go to university, make the best of it; I wish I had that opportunity. Once you have a recognised qualification, no matter what part of the world you go to, no one can take that away from you. You can become a billionaire and lose it all. Education is important. However, not everyone might want to go down the university route and there are many apprenticeship programmes available.” “If I could get one message across to youngsters it is this: not everyone has the aptitude to become a pilot, doctor or accountant, so don’t be reluctant to take up any job. Whether it is being a waiter or porter, if you are willing to work hard and commit yourself to the job it will pay off.”

SUNITA ARORA AND THE ARORA CHARITABLE FOUNDATION The Arora Charitable Foundation, founded by Sunita Arora, oversees and administers the company’s charitable activities. Charities supported by the Foundation include UNICEF, Lily Foundation against Child Trafficking, Cancer Research UK and Evelina London Children’s Hospital amongst others. Says Surinder, “Since 2010 we have been hosting a biennial charity ball and have raised over £1.8 million for causes focussing on healthcare and child welfare. Led by Sunita, we aim to improve our fund-raising targets this year. Nothing gives me more pleasure.”

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ASIAN GIANT NAGA MUNCHETTY, TELEVISION PRESENTER & JOURNALIST

One of the very best Naga Munchetty presents BBC Breakfast on BBC One from 6am, Thursday to Saturday every week. As one of the BBC’s best known news presenters, Naga has interviewed everyone from Mick Jagger to Tony Blair, and Hillary Clinton to David Cameron. She grew up in Peckham, Streatham and went to school in South London. Her mother is from India and father from Mauritius.

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ASIAN GIANT NAGA MUNCHETTY, TELEVISION PRESENTER & JOURNALIST

BEFORE THE BBC Naga studied English Language and English Literature at Leeds University and then took a postgraduate degree in newspaper journalism at City University, London. Writing in the city pages, her first jobs were at the Evening Standard and The Observer. After about 18 months, she got her first job on television. Naga says, “I went to Reuters Financial Television where a friend who had been on the postgraduate course with me was working as a camera operator. I reported on air and tried production too. Obviously I was inexperienced but got a taste for live TV and wanted to make it my career.” Her next stint was at CNBC Europe where she worked as an assistant producer and worked her way up to becoming an executive producer in four years. “Then I had a fortunate series of events. No doubt there was hard work, but I was also very lucky; and you do need a lot of luck in this industry. I got poached by Channel 4 News to set up its business section for News at Noon,” says Naga. Her next role was at Bloomberg where she was the anchor for Foreign Exchange Bonds and Economics. She recalls, “It was a great show. I used to have a daily morning show where I used to interview CEOs and senior bankers around the world.” In 2009, during the tail end of the financial crisis she joined the BBC where for two years she presented ‘Working Lunch’, a business and personal finance programme. She has remained with the BBC since then.

Right: Naga with her BBC breakfast co-presenter Charlie Stayt

ONE CAN FEEL VERY LOW WHEN YOU’VE BEEN PASSED OVER, WHICH CAN HAPPEN FREQUENTLY IN YOUR CAREER. STICK TO WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, IN TERMS OF YOUR INTEGRITY. DO NOT LOSE THAT BECAUSE THE MOMENT YOU you’ve done TRY TO BE WHAT YOU THINK YOUR your best, even when BOSSES WANT YOU TO BE, YOU delivering some LOSE YOURSELF.

GROWING NUMBER OF ASIANS IN TV Naga states, “There are many Asian presenters in news, and I’d like to think we act as good role models for anyone who might be looking for a career in the media. It’s one of the best jobs in my opinion - I’ve worked hard to be doing what I do now.”

COVERING BREAKING NEWS For Naga there is a rush of adrenaline while covering breaking news. She says, “It is very gratifying when you know that you are pushing yourself and that

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horrific news. These situations can be very emotional and draining. I have reported on a number of terror attacks in my time, including the awful events in Paris when the Bataclan concert hall was targeted, as well as 7/7 in London and 9/11 in the US. I always remind myself that people turn to news channels because they are looking for a reliable source of information. My role is to inform our viewers accurately but without creating panic.” Naga has some practical words of advice for those who face unfair treatment in their careers. She says, “One can feel very low when you’ve been passed over, which can happen frequently in your career. Stick to what you believe in, in terms of your integrity. Do not lose that because the moment

you try to be what you think your bosses want you to be, you lose yourself.”

COPING WITH STRESS According to Naga, stress can come about from not being prepared or properly trained for your role. She says, “I don’t feel the pressure when I’m breaking news because I am doing what I’m trained to do. We get plenty of training and we rehearse a lot. Prior to an interview, we are thoroughly briefed. If you ask me how I deal with a fairly high pressure job, which I love, I live my life to the full outside work and that is important. You work to live, you don’t live to work.”

GO-TO PEOPLE For Naga, the most important go-to person when she requires feedback or advice is her husband. She says, “I have an amazing husband who’s a great sounding board. He’ll be very honest with me if he thinks I’ve misjudged a situation. I also have great colleagues and peers


ASIAN GIANT NAGA MUNCHETTY, TELEVISION PRESENTER & JOURNALIST

who I can talk to. I believe in being loyal and being as good a friend I can be.”

NAGA’S MANTRA FOR SUCCESS IN MEDIA According to her, “There are some universal qualities that you need to have to be successful in news media. You have to be tenacious, balanced and measured. You must know who your audience is, be they viewers, listeners or readers. You have to know what they want. Be able to put yourself in another person’s shoes so you’re always mindful of their perspective. Report what you see and always remember you are never the story.”

HER ATTITUDE TO WEALTH For Naga health is more important than wealth. She says, “I think if you are in good health, you are very wealthy. You realise that as you get older. I grew up in a family where it was very important to own your own home and to get on the housing ladder. I bought my house with my first mortgage when I was 22. I’d be surprised if anyone who grew up the way I did would be able to get on the housing ladder at 22 in this day and age. It’s practically impossible in London. I was very lucky but that was 20 years ago. Wealth isn’t what you own. Wealth is reflected in the friends you have in your life, as it should be. It’s the people who love you and the people you love.”

FAMILY VALUES Naga says, “My parents have an amazing work ethic and I’m proud to have inherited it from them. It’s now part of my nature. Thanks to them I’d like to think I’m a decent and honest person. My family was, and still is, brutally honest with each other. It has kept me grounded. My parents always held two jobs, and I keep very busy too in addition to my work on BBC Breakfast.”

BODY AND MIND Naga does yoga and meditation to keep her body and mind fit. She also relaxes by spending some quiet time by herself. “Sit down and have a cup of tea. Just give yourself seven or eight minutes everyday. That I think is really important,” she says.

SPORT AND LEISURE Naga has a wide range of pastime activities. She says, “I play golf. I’m about to start training for a London to Paris cycle ride, and a Bedford to Amsterdam cycle ride, as well as a 100 mile cycle ride. I’m going snowboarding for the first time in February so I’m taking lessons to be ready for that. I like to challenge myself. I’ve become more sporty the older I’ve become. I love socialising with my friends. I love food. I like to cook. I like to have a drink. I like to laugh a lot and laugh really loudly.”

DANCING AND STRICTLY Naga and Pasha Kovalev were partners in the 2016 edition of Strictly Come Dancing. Naga says, “I can bust a move in a club. Training for “proper” dancing is much more difficult but I do absolutely love dancing.”

EATING OUT Naga is fond of South Indian food. She says, “The only restaurant I ever went to when I was a young girl was a South Indian restaurant in Tooting because that was the only one my parents felt comfortable going to. I’ve always enjoyed a masala dosa. So if I find a restaurant that does a really good, thin, large, crispy and spicy masala dosa, you can find me there.”

Her charity work… Naga regularly participates in

charitable activities. She ran the London Marathon in 2013 for United Response which helps people with mental illness and also helps people with disabilities get back to work. She loves animals and has supported The Dogs Trust and RSPCA. She also supports the Prince’s Trust and Action for A-T. SPRING 2018 I ASIAN GIANTS

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ASIAN GIANT SELVA PANKAJ, FCMA, CGMA, MBA, FRSA, CEO, REGENT GROUP

Leadership in education FROM FINANCE TO EDUCATION

Established in 2000, and based in northwest London, Regent Group delivers quality of education. This was the only property they ever education from nursery, through tuition sold!” says Selva with a services and full-time secondary school, to smile. further and higher education and executive PERSONAL TRAGEDY Selva’s father died leadership courses. The Group’s investment Inin a2006 drowning incident at a beach in Poole. This had management division offers innovative a huge emotional impact strategies for high yield returns. on him and he began to

Unassuming and charming Selva Pankaj is not given to revealing his thoughts easily. There is an air of the mystic in his demeanour. Every response from him is considered, delivered in measured tones and offered after much contemplation. The initial impression of him gives no clue that the early days of his career were spent in the Square Mile where he cut his teeth in the hustle and bustle of the financial world. “The atmosphere was hectic and it was a rat race. It was all about moving from one deal to another. Though the income was fantastic I soon realised that it wasn’t for me,” says Selva.

ARRIVAL IN THE UK However, his early years in the UK were far from cosy. “I came from Sri Lanka as a 20-year-old with a hundred pounds in my pocket. That is how my life in the UK started. We had a very good upbringing in Sri Lanka. My parents did everything they could for the family but because of the devastating war in Sri Lanka we lost everything,” reminisces Selva. After initial struggles he qualified in 1994 as a chartered management accountant and joined Prudential Financial Inc and then spent time with Grosvenor, Fortress Investment Group and Schroeders.

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS Selva’s wife Tharshiny, now Managing Director of Regent Group and his now deceased father Senior Selvanayagam

played key roles in setting up Regent Group. “I married Tharshiny in 1998 and we needed an extra income at the time. I came across an advertisement in the local papers calling for private tutors. I applied, got the role and earned my first £20 through tutoring. Little did I know at the time that this would some day lead to a multi-million company which is what Regent Group is today,” says Selva. In 2004 they moved to Rayners Lane and had five students. “My father was a visionary and full of wisdom. We came across a commercial property worth £1.75 million and my father’s instincts told him that we would someday own the property. It seemed like a pipe dream at the time because we simply couldn’t afford it,” says Selva. While they were making enquiries about the property, to their disappointment, they were informed that the property was sold. The buyers who were big-time property investors had a reputation for buying up properties and never selling them. “Some time later the buyers enquired if they could see us. To cut a long story short, to our utter amazement they offered to sell the property to us since we were in the field

question the very meaning of life. In time, he became curious about human behaviour and he began to study the lives of successful people and how they achieved success. It was while he was studying for a graduate management programme at Harvard Business School, the eminent scholar Prof. Clayton M. Christensen said to him, “You got to know who you are and learn to differentiate between man-made laws and the laws of nature.” Although he did not understand it at that time those words aroused much curiosity in him about life itself. Author Napolean Hill’s philosophies, especially those that speak of self-confidence, being kind to others, and going the extra mile for something you believe in, also had an impact on Selva’s personal philosophy and he has been riveted by Hill’s bestseller, Think & Grow Rich,as well as the teaching of Proctor Gallagher Institute’s Bob Proctor.

DREAMS AND IDEAS Selva firmly believes that success begins with a goal. While he lays great emphasis on formal education, he is of the view that very often there is a gap between gaining knowledge and becoming successful. “It is pretty much possible to achieve whatever the human mind can conceive.

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ASIAN GIANT SELVA PANKAJ, FCMA, CGMA, MBA, FRSA, CEO, REGENT GROUP

Far right: Selva and Tharshiny Pankaj in conversation with the Duke of York Right: Selva with his wife Tharshiny Pankaj (left) and Lord Dolar Popat and Dominic Johnson CBE, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party (right)

Nothing happens by chance. There is a method to achieving success and we now teach this method in the UK, US and all over the world which has helped us grow leaps and bounds as an organisation,” says Selva. “You have to fall in love with an idea. If you don’t it will not bear fruit. If you do, you can put any monetary value to it,” continues Selva. “What we teach is not about acquiring wealth. We are teaching people how to grow holistically. When you grow, money becomes a by-product,” says Selva. Selva has an unusual view of success: that success is a progressive realisation of a worthy goal. He believes that there is a

“WHAT WE TEACH IS NOT ABOUT ACQUIRING WEALTH. WE ARE TEACHING PEOPLE HOW TO GROW HOLISTICALLY. WHEN YOU GROW, MONEY BECOMES A BY-PRODUCT.” spiritual dimension to life and part of it is giving willingly and receiving graciously. “I emphasise never to violate others’ rights in one’s quest for success. If you do you may achieve short term gain but that to me is not real growth,” says Selva.

REGENT GROUP’S SPECTACULAR GROWTH AND EXPANSION Regent Group has a diverse range of interests and is composed of 3 strategic business divisions. Regent Group 1 consists of revenue generating divisions in education, training, recruitment and consulting. Regent Group 2 is the business division consisting of real estate investment and Regent Group 3 is an investment management business and

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trades as RIM London. The Group is engaged with innovative methods which combines education delivery and real estate investments, and uses state of the art platforms for curriculum development and support systems. The group responds to developments in information technology and invests in specific enhancement programmes aimed to increase ease of access, and to improve the learner experience.

coming together now. Losing my dad was a great personal tragedy for me. But there is a silver lining in every low. Every low will give you an opportunity to better yourself. Losing my father shook me up and I began searching for the meaning of life.”

SUCCESS – COMPETING WITH ONESELF Says Selva, “In a sense success to me is not about competing with others. I compete with myself by setting high goals and standards. Successful people do not compete with others, they create. If you have an idea in your mind that you love, it is very likely that you will make a success of it. This has been proven millions of times over the ages.”

S-EDUCATION TRUST

UNWINDING

The Selvanayagam Foundation, which was founded in the memory of Selva’s father and mother is aimed at implementing educational, social welfare and charitable projects in economically depressed areas of South Asia and the UK. Though its purpose remains the same, it has now been renamed the Selva Education Trust, and the charity now supports two schools in India and one in Sri Lanka, enhancing the UK’s soft power in the region. Selva wishes to grow this charitable activity to support more schools in India and Sri Lanka.

“When you enjoy what you do it is not ‘work’. So I enjoy life every day. Tharshiny and I love Bollywood music, we like to go out with our girls, I love my wine, we love Indian music. Our tastes are very Sri Lankan/Indian. These days we are more into healthy eating – grilled food and salads,” says Selva.

VISION FOR REGENT GROUP Selva is confident that all the divisions of Regent Group will grow. “In parallel we are creating a family office structure. We want to work with other leading family businesses and other organisations and get them involved in education because the flood gates of education are now opening in the UK especially in higher education,” says Selva.

A SILVER LINING IN EVERY LOW For Selva, his highs are working with people and making things come together. He says, “Whatever I dreamt about is

IN PARTING In Selva’s opinion most of the problems in the world are due to ignorance. He says, “Knowledge and understanding can alleviate most vexing issues. Knowledge only comes through study. If you got to win you got to study. And by that I don’t necessarily mean gaining book knowledge which has its place. I mean contemplating the deeper meaning of life, how natural laws work, how things are created. I believe we are the creators and a higher being has given us the powerful faculty of the mind to accomplish whatever we desire.” “We are all on a journey to understand more about ourselves and the more you study yourself, the more knowledgeable you become; in turn this enhances both one’s understanding, and one’s awareness.”


ASIAN GIANT TONY MATHARU, CHAIRMAN, ASIAN BUSINESS ASSOCIATION AND GHS GLOBAL HOSPITALITY SERVICES

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, opinion maker Tony Matharu is Chairman of the Asian Business Association (ABA), Chairman of GHS Global Hospitality, Managing Director of Grange Hotels, Vice President of Oracle Head and Neck Cancer Research Trust, Chairman of Integrity International Trust, Chairman of Indian Ocean Disaster Relief, Director of Bee London (Business Improvement District) and a board member of a number of other charitable, sports and arts related organisations

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ASIAN GIANT TONY MATHARU, CHAIRMAN, ASIAN BUSINESS ASSOCIATION AND GHS GLOBAL HOSPITALITY SERVICES

EARLY INFLUENCE It was Tony Matharu’s mother who encouraged him to think about running his own business. Says Tony, “Some might say that an Asian family’s ambition for their children could be typified as falling into two distinct plans; joining the family business or becoming a “professional” – doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant, teacher etc.” But in Tony’s case he had no family business. He graduated in Law and Economics which gave him the possibility of a “profession” but he always intended to use his formal education as a fertile ground to plant the seeds sown by his mother. “With her help and encouragement, I was able to buy an unloved property and eventually start the hotel group which exists today,” he adds. For Tony those early days were challenging because he had no track record and very little capital, but the barriers to entry were not as high as they are today. He says, “I’ve lived through the macro economic challenges of global and national recessions and now we face the uncertainty of pre-Brexit, the proposed transition period and the economic landscape in a potentially postBrexit world.”

ABA – LEADING THE WAY He continues, “At ABA we are trying to understand what this might mean for business and we are actively engaging with relevant people and departments as we navigate through these uncertain times. Understanding the domestic and global trade implications of the different economic models and forecasts is a challenge in itself. Making appropriate educated decisions for businesses is certainly another challenge.” Fortunately, ABA has a weekly Public Affairs briefing with a separate Brexit log and provides the opportunities to directly engage with Ministers, Shadow Ministers and others. He says, “It doesn’t diminish the challenges ahead but I am better informed and the dialogue is by no means one way.” “On a micro and personal level

I’VE ESTABLISHED MANY PARTNERSHIPS WHICH HAVE ALL BEEN SUCCESSFUL, EACH BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT WE CAN ACHIEVE FAR MORE COLLECTIVELY THAN WE CAN INDEPENDENTLY.

there are the challenges of all family businesses; balancing personal family interests and ensuring that I don’t lose sight of my responsibilities to my family, the local community and the world around us. That can also present a challenge,” adds Tony.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURSHIP According to him, “It’s always good to hear that one’s efforts are recognised, but I have difficulty with the term ‘success’ and how it is measured.” In his opinion there is not a single secret and he would not measure success in purely financial terms. He continues, “I don’t think that the successful entrepreneurs that young people look up to today; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or others you have met would want their achievements to be measured in pounds, dollars or Bitcoins. Nor would they be afraid to admit that they ever failed. I think that it’s about identifying a need or problem, creating a solution and more broadly making a positive impact.” He quotes David Packard who said, “Many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. Whilst this is an important part of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. A group of people come together to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental”. According to Tony we are now living in a more conscious and transparent world and the phrase “good corporate social responsibility” is embedded in all forward-looking businesses.

A FIRM BELIEVER IN ‘SEVA’ (SERVICE), FOR TONY IT MEANS TRYING TO PROVIDE SERVICE TO OTHERS, EVERY DAY IF POSSIBLE, WITHOUT SEEKING PERSONAL RECOGNITION OR REWARD. ‘I INHERITED THIS FROM MY MOTHER WHO IS A LIVING EMBODIMENT OF THAT.’

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ROLE AS THE NEW CHAIRMAN OF THE ABA Tony considers it a privilege to be the new Chairman of the ABA, which forms part of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and aims to “connect, influence and support” business. That strap-line, he says, distils the essence of his role at the ABA. He continues, “I aim to understand what our business members want and design processes and actions which can satisfy their ambitions. This mirrors the aim of my own business interests. At Grange Hotels, in common with all forward-thinking businesses, we aim to understand our clients’ and guests’ needs – even to anticipate them – and then to satisfy or exceed their expectations. At a micro level in my hotel business this can mean designing and building facilities to meet the needs of business and leisure travellers, together with delivering first class service.” He says, for the ABA, it’s ensuring that they enable worthwhile connections, provide business opportunities, influence and shape policy, grow cross border trade and finally to support businesses, enabling them to overcome challenges as they arise.

FUTURE PLANS Tony has recently invested in a hospitality service company, Global Hospitality Services (GHS), and is excited with the opportunities that this can bring. He loves creating and the collaborative and partnership approach to business that David Packard described. He says, “Indeed I’ve established many partnerships which have all been successful, each based on the premise that we can achieve far more collectively than we can independently.” GHS provides sales, marketing, distribution, technology and other solutions to independent hotels and groups which they cannot or it is not cost-effective for them to do on their own. It provides scale, global presence, expertise and a range of services which add great value to their independent offering. He says, “In addition, I’ve resolved this year and in the future to spend more time with my family and to give more to


ASIAN GIANT TONY MATHARU, CHAIRMAN, ASIAN BUSINESS ASSOCIATION AND GHS GLOBAL HOSPITALITY SERVICES

the various charitable, sporting, arts and community projects I’ve been involved with.”

PHILANTHROPY A firm believer in ‘seva’ (service), for Tony it means trying to provide service to others, every day if possible, without seeking personal recognition or reward. He says that it has now become part of his being and manifests itself in many ways. He adds, “I inherited this from my mother who is a living embodiment of that.” In practical terms he is the Vice President of the Oracle Head and Neck Cancer Research Trust. Head and neck cancers are disproportionately prevalent in the Indian and Asian communities. According to Tony, there is some ground breaking work in diagnosing and treating cancers as a result of this charity and the brilliant work it does. He is also the founder and Chairman of the Indian Ocean Disaster Relief which intervenes post natural and other disasters to protect and sustain lives, particularly among children, and to enable them to rebuild their lives. Tony chairs the Lord’s Taverners (London City region) which “gives young people a sporting chance”. It has thousands of projects across many countries and tens of thousands of beneficiaries. The Lord’s Taverners has come to be associated with sport, particularly cricket, and most people are now familiar with their iconic green specially adapted minibuses. Nearly 1,200 have been given away so far at a rate of nearly one a week. He has recently established a new charity which helps victims of earthquakes and floods in Nepal, now the poorest country in Asia, and is building a community, welfare and education centre for sex trafficked women and burns victim survivors there.

FAMILY AND LEISURE Says Tony, “I have five wonderful children, all of whom offer plenty to distract me, and a busy household. Fortunately, they share my passion for sport and the Arts.” He is Patron of the London Indian Film Festival and still plays competitive cricket and hockey. He is a playing member of the MCC and hopes to play in his 4th Hockey World Cup, which takes place in Spain later this year. He adds, “When with my family, at a screening or on a sports field, I suspect I’m unrecognisable from the entrepreneur many people see in my work life.”

Tony with Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala at the London Indian Film Festival

His mantra for success

Being self motivated, developing a desire to overcome challenges, taking educated risks, being prepared to make personal sacrifices and committing to hard work, are recognised by Tony as attributes of successful people. He says, “I would add to that the ability to recognise opportunity and to be prepared to listen to those with experience – not necessarily in your own field. My mother’s oft repeated words first attributed to now Saint Mother Theresa, are really the best way of describing success and she rightly should have the last word”: n People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centred. Forgive them anyway. n If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. n If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. n What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. n If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. n The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. n Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

Honours and accolades

Tony Matharu was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2017 for his services to the hospitality industry and in recent times awarded the “Best Small Hotel Company” and “Hotelier of the Year.” He also received a Special Recognition Award for his “Contribution to London’s Success”. SPRING 2018 I ASIAN GIANTS

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Artist’ss impression of the n Artist new T2 Hotel at London Heathro ow Airport

www.tthearoragroup.c com


ASIAN GIANT HARNOOP SINGH ATKAR, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, OAKLAND CARE

Care home of choice Oakland Care currently operates two care homes, Woodland Grove in Loughton, Essex with 72 beds and Hastings Court in Hastings with 80 beds. The third care home Beechwood Grove in Eastbourne with 60 beds will open in April 2018. The other care home currently under construction in Chigwell will have 72 beds and will open in 2019.

Above: Dad worked extremely hard in the business. Mum was the backbone of the home - Harnoop Below: Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2017 - House of Commons

AMBITIOUS PLANS Harnoop Singh Atkar is the Chief Executive of Oakland Care, a care home group with ambitions of becoming the care homes of choice for the elderly in the South East of the UK. In July 2016, at the age of 29, Harnoop successfully led a fundraise that provided the group with £60 million of total investment. Says Harnoop, “In five years time we aim to have 15 homes with around 1000 beds and we are on track to meet that target. The homes cater to the needs of the residents for all aspects of their care and enable living life to the fullest in a safe environment. Our homes feature amenities such as cinemas, fine dining rooms, libraries and leisure facilities. We also encourage visitors to come to the home and spend time with residents by making it a warm, welcoming and fun environment. Equally important is that we aim to be the homes of choice to attract staff by making it a great place to develop a career in care.” Harnoop is also a director of hospitality and leisure companies which develop and operate prime assets across the UK. “We are also planning to build luxury retirement apartments for those over the age of 55, which will be co-located next to our care homes,” says Harnoop. The Willows, their banqueting hall in east London has seen significant success since opening in Summer 2014, which has led to investors enquiring to support further growth of venues to be opened under The Willows brand across the UK. “My aim is to establish a legacy by taking the business, which was developed by my father, and progress it as far as I can before handing it over to the next generation so it can continue to flourish for many more years” says Harnoop.

EARLY LIFE “My parents sent me to a private school which, at the time, was not easy for them financially. I stayed grounded because of them and always understood what they often went without so that I could be given every opportunity in life. The stories my Dad shared with us about the struggles he went through when growing up after coming to the UK from Kenya at the age of 15 with nothing resonated with me. He motivated us to work as hard as he did and to have an objective to achieve more than him,” says Harnoop.

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ASIAN GIANT HARNOOP SINGH ATKAR, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, OAKLAND CARE

A STERLING CAREER Graduating with a degree in chemical engineering from Aston University, Harnoop began his career as an analyst at Atkar Corporation which was founded by his father Sewa Singh Atkar who Harnoop greatly admires. He then went on to join the graduate management programme at nuclear giant Sellafield in Cumbria. It was a role that came with a great deal of responsibility and he implemented business changes and compliance projects and worked with a multi-disciplinary team. Excelling at Sellafield he was soon headhunted by PwC where he was a Senior Associate and later by Ernst & Young as a Senior Manager. Says Harnoop, “I was about to leave PwC, get married and explore other opportunities but EY effectively made me an offer that I could not refuse. And I took it. I was only twenty five years old then. I was always younger than my team members.” At EY he reviewed a portfolio of live high value tenders (up to £400m each) at a large scale services client. He also led a team to design and build a contract management function at a Big 6 energy client as part of the Smart metering programme. On his role at PwC he says, “PwC throws you in the deep end and I saw that as a positive. I was expected to deliver from the very first day and there was no bedding-in period. My team built a business which had a turnover of £1.5 million in a short space of time. I was in an entrepreneurial role within a corporate and a lot of business ideas were going through my mind. I began to evaluate my ability to go out there set up my own business rather then be an individual among hundreds of others. ” The work experience and knowledge that he gained at Sellafield, PwC and EY was to stand him in good stead when he went on to lead the care home, leisure and property businesses.

FIRST STEPS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD His initiation into the world of business began long before his formal career commenced. Says Harnoop, “When I was growing up, my mum and dad were working extremely hard and there was a business environment around the home all the time. So I had a good exposure to business early in life. When I was twelve years old I asked if I could assist

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my mum in doing the payroll for one of our companies. I used to dress up in formal clothes like my dad and carry his briefcase to appear like a business man. We used to have a 56k dial-up modem and did all the payroll from home and I found it entertaining!”

SABBATICAL AND AFTER In the initial years, the sight of his dad working long hours in the family owned property business made Harnoop take the view that being self employed was not the right path for him. “At the time I felt that if that was what it took to run one’s own company, it wouldn’t be right for me. I didn’t appreciate the advantages of owning a business and being your own master. I made up my mind to get good A levels, get a good degree, and get a well paid job,” says Harnoop. But destiny had other plans for him. At PwC he began to get restless. At EY too the entrepreneur in Harnoop was stirring up a deep desire to carve out his own path. Says Harnoop, “Life at EY was good but I wasn’t jumping out of my bed and eagerly looking forward to getting to work. Whereas my wife and dad did. After speaking to my wife I decided to take a three month sabbatical and from then on there was no turning back.” His journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur had begun.

THE CARE HOME BUSINESS After a few months of working with small startups Harnoop finally decided to join his father Sewa Singh Atkar in the care home business. The care home in Loughton and Hastings were both independently operated and had different investors. His father was looking to sell them but Harnoop had other ideas. Says Harnoop, “My father felt that the organisation was not geared up to operating the care homes and due to ever tightening regulations things could quickly turn for the worse. But I had worked in the nuclear sector where there could be a serious disaster if ever there was a mistake. So that didn’t deter me.” After convincing his father Harnoop took a lead role in the business. Applying the skills acquired in his previous roles, he evaluated the business, hired the right people and put the right systems, processes and governance structures in place. Next, he was able to get an

investment of £60 million into the business which among other things allowed him to buyout existing investors. Says Harnoop, “The £60 million deal that I was able to strike was exceptional because we were not a mature business then.” This enabled them to consolidate the business and create the Oakland brand. He continues, “My dad established a foundation for me to add value, in a different way. Hopefully, one day, my children will take the business to another level. The objective is to create something that will last long after I depart.”

COMPANY ETHOS - LIVE, LOVE AND BE LOVED “In our organisation we go by the ethos live, love and be loved. This applies to the residents of our care homes as well as our employees,” says Harnoop. “Currently we are one of the best paid care homes in our sector and we are keen to continue that. We pay our staff considerably more than any one other care home provider. We are structuring our training and development programme in such a way that we will become an Investor in People company,” he adds.

ADVICE FOR YOUNG ASPIRANTS Harnoop’s advice to young aspirants is, “Hard work is the absolute prerequisite to being successful in anything. However, to truly thrive you should find something that you are passionate about and excite you above all else. I try to stay as grounded as possible and not get too emotional about work. Business and life are not always about big wins or failures. Enjoy moments of success and if you have a moment of failure, learn from it and move forward by being resilient.” “I am learning that it is also important to take a step back and ensure the right balance between work and life. That includes family, health and lifestyle,” he adds. “My family means a lot to me. While my dad worked extremely hard in the business, my mum was the backbone of the home. Her motherly instinct has been influential and has guided me. My wife and sisters, also make sure we are well looked after. If I didn’t have that level of comfort and support, would I be able to achieve what I have? The answer is no. It is a team effort and I am thankful that I have them all in my life” he concludes.


MY AIM IS TO ESTABLISH A LEGACY BY TAKING THE BUSINESS, WHICH WAS DEVELOPED BY MY FATHER, AND PROGRESS IT AS FAR AS I CAN BEFORE HANDING IT OVER TO THE NEXT GENERATION SO IT CAN CONTINUE TO FLOURISH FOR MANY MORE YEARS

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ent

AS IMPORTANT AS IT IS FOR ME FOR PG PAPER TO GROW, IT IS ALSO HUGELY IMPORTANT THAT I SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH MY FAMILY AND CHILDREN.

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ASIAN GIANT POONAM GUPTA OBE, CEO, PG PAPER

Brainchild of an ntreprenurial genius PG Paper Company Ltd is one of UK’s fastest growing paper companies providing customised paper solutions for paper mills and end-users around the world.

THE PAPER SPECIALISTS

PG Paper company specialises in a variety of printing and writing paper, packaging, tissue and other speciality papers and boards. PG Paper is a globally renowned brand and is present in over 55 countries worldwide with their largest markets being India, the Middle East and the Far East.

THE BIRTH OF PG PAPER Poonam Gupta moved to the UK from India in 2002 after marrying husband Puneet and immediately started to look for a job. However, she was turned down several times due to either being over-qualified or lacking work experience in the UK. She then drew on her entrepreneurial instincts and brainstormed a number of ideas before discovering that a paper business would work well with the contacts she had previously made in India. It took her ten long months of working twenty hours every day, researching every aspect of how to run a business, how to set up relationships worldwide and how to organise customs and shipping containers before she finally made her first deal.

JUGGLING BUSINESS AND FAMILY Starting a family around the time when her business was starting to pick up was

challenging for Poonam.” I was determined to successfully merge the two into my life. I was even talking to customers and completing deals between contractions during labour,” avers Poonam. During the first twelve months of her first daughter’s life, she accompanied Poonam on more than seventeen business trips around the world. She says, “I would improvise with toys to keep her occupied during meetings. I actually found that bringing her along would brighten up the meetings and everyone made the effort to ensure that we were both looked after.” Poonam has 2 daughters who have always seen their mother working while also spending time with them. She says,“When they say they want to grow up to be a businesswoman like me, I know I must be getting the work-life balance right.”

MANAGING THE BUSINESS Poonam oversees all aspects of the business. She says, “In the last few years my team has grown in confidence and managers take full responsibility for their teams which means I am not heavily involved in the day to day business and I can utilise my time growing the business and scouting for other business opportunities. We create an atmosphere in which we work together to discuss any successes or challenges and how we can learn and develop from them.”

TAKING THE ROUGH WITH THE SMOOTH Poonam can recall many successes in her life. But she cherishes the day she secured the very first business deal back in October 2003 which she says made all her hard work and long days worthwhile, and proved that she did have what it took

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ASIAN GIANT POONAM GUPTA OBE, CEO, PG PAPER

to make PG Paper successful. She has had her fair share of pain too. She recollects, “When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I became extremely ill and doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was a terrifying ordeal that left me wheelchair-bound for more than a year but I carried on dedicating myself as fully as I could to my business and in the end, it is PG Paper and my daughter that made me stay strong and focused throughout my ordeal.” Now, she relishes seeing the progress her staff make every day, both personally and professionally.

CHALLENGING THE NORM For Poonam success is a measure of working towards something that one has always dreamed of achieving and making it a reality. Being of Indian descent, it was never part of her culture for women to run their own business. But Poonam was a

reason I treat both the highs and the lows as lessons.” Poonam rates passion, hard-work and perseverance as the key ingredients to make a business successful. According to her, one needs to be passionate about building a business and the quality of service that one offers. She feels that a half-hearted or blasé approach will be obvious and is less likely to succeed. PG Paper used to operate for twenty hours every day for ten months before the first deal was struck. She opines, “You need to be dedicated to putting in the effort for as long as it takes to make that first deal and then continue to put in that same hard work as the business grows.” Continues Poonam, “During those ten months of learning, I made several cold calls and received many rejections but I was determined not to give up. I believed that I would eventually complete a deal and my refusal to let rejection lower my spirits ensured that this was achieved.”

I WAS DETERMINED TO SUCCESSFULLY FAMILY, FRIENDS AND BUSINESS Poonam gives much credit to her family MERGE BUSINESS AND FAMILY INTO for her success. Being a businessman MY LIFE. I WAS EVEN TALKING TO father mentored her during her early CUSTOMERS AND COMPLETING DEALS her days. Her husband, whose background BETWEEN LABOUR CONTRACTIONS. is in medicine, joined PG Paper as Chief rebel even during her younger days and always challenged that norm. She says, “I also think success is determined by the happiness you find in the work-life balance you create for yourself. As important as it is for me for PG Paper to grow, it is also hugely important that I spend quality time with my family and children.”

STAYING GROUNDED According to her, “As much as I enjoy celebrating the highs of achievements and new developments, it is important to remember that success is not achieved overnight and there will be disappointment and rejection along the way. For this

Operating Officer and the combination of diverse skills proved to be an excellent match for progressing the business. Her three brothers also provide support in their own different areas of expertise. Her friends, who she counts on, also offer their expertise especially when new business ventures are being considered.

SPENDING TIME WITH DAUGHTERS Poonam’s favourite way to spend her free time is with her daughters. She says that regardless of the size and global success of the business, her daughters are her biggest achievement. Says Poonam, “They are smart, funny creative and intelligent and we have the most amazing relationship. They understand the need for me to go travelling at short notice or work

Her advice for aspiring women

longer hours so I like to go out with them to see a movie or just spend time playing games, cooking and taking trips together.”

ROLE MODELS In business and on a personal level, she admires her father who was a trader of nonferrous metals. Growing up, she wanted to follow in his footsteps. She is also an admirer of Indra Nooyi. According to Poonam, in her formative years, her teachers were excellent role models and they encouraged her academic abilities and brought out the best in her. On the world stage, the late Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa are her examples of women empowerment and the inspiration behind her own charity work.

PHILANTHROPY Poonam has a passion for women and children’s issues and wild life conservation. She travelled to Rajasthan, India to attend the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. PG Paper has developed a strong affiliation with Action for Children Scotland and over the past 9 years has helped them raise over £500,000 as the official sponsor for their Annual Sports Dinner. Recently Poonam and her husband, for the second time, took part in a tuk-tuk race across Rajasthan with a group of influential individuals, including members of the Royal Family, and raised over £1 million for Elephant Family which aims to prevent the extinction of elephants in Asia. On a local level, PG Paper regularly works with Inverclyde Council on The Recruit programme which helps school leavers develop their skills in business and gives them a skillset which they can take with them to work or develop in university. Poonam was knighted in 2017 for her services to business and charity.

According to Poonam, perseverance is the only way to succeed. She says, “There will be several hurdles in your way, especially as a woman. Whether you are in the minority in your field or trying to juggle a home and family life with work life, if you are determined enough you will find a way to make it happen. Find your strengths and use them, believe in your abilities and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve them. I live by the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world” and this has always inspired my work and ambitions.”

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ASIAN GIANT PARESH RAJA CEO, MFS

Offering tailor-made solutions Market Financial Solutions (MFS) is a bridging provider offering tailored solutions for those in need of finance to pursue investment opportunities.

CLIENT FOCUSSED MFS specialises in complex bridging cases through personalised and responsive delivery of service no matter how intricate or unique the case may be. MFS focuses on providing a bespoke solution directly relevant to the individual needs of clients. This makes MFS unique, and its fast expanding network of brokers and clients is testament to this. Paresh is responsible for leading MFS’ expansion, managing key clients, sourcing new lines of funding and cementing MFS’ position as a leading bridging provider.

SECTOR SPECIALITIES Currently, MFS primarily supports investors in the residential property space. “We help investors looking to expand their existing property portfolio, be it through a new purchase or a renovation project. We also support clients in the commercial property space, and this is something we’ll be promoting as part of our 2018 strategy. That said, I prefer not

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to limit ourselves to a specific sector. We evaluate cases and applications that are put before us, and following due diligence we determine whether MFS can deliver a tailored solution,” says Paresh. Paresh believes he has a natural understanding of commercial finance,

THE BEST AND MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF SOLVING A PROBLEM IS BY TACKLING IT HEAD-ON. particularly complex cases, which he wants to develop, and says, “My next challenge is to look at more effective ways to assist property investment in a professional environment.”

PRIOR TO THE LOANS INDUSTRY Before entering the loans industry, Paresh enjoyed a diverse career including professional consulting and creation of an independent investment group. Working as a senior professional consultant charged with restructuring companies

around the world, he naturally found himself being involved in commercial lending and specialist structured finance, with emphasis on property investment. This, he says, was a vital time in his career, and through this he developed a keen interest in the property market, leading to the expansion of MFS. More than a decade later MFS has acquired a respectable share of the UK bridging market, and it has some exciting plans to expand its operations internationally over the coming twelve months.

NEVER SAY DIE Paresh credits his success to being organised, persistent and tenacious. He says, “It is easy to lose one’s drive and find ways to avoid difficult situations. But I endeavour to be true to myself and not become complacent by taking the easy way out. The best and most effective way of solving a problem is by tackling it head-on. Take each hurdle as it comes and do not be afraid of hard work.” He continues, “The business


ASIAN GIANT PARESH RAJA FOUNDER & CEO, MFS

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ASIAN GIANT PARESH RAJA CEO, MFS

the UK remains a leading destination for investors, bridging will remain a valuable financial tool,” he adds.

world is full of highs and lows but I do not believe that one is unrelated to the other. The lows that I have encountered have led to moments of defining decision making and ultimately transformed difficult situations into rewarding results. I am grateful for these experiences as I believe it has better equipped me to deal with matters in a more tactful way.” Paresh thrives under pressure and loves the challenge it presents. He says that it gives him the opportunity to develop and harness his experience, skills and expertise, and places him in a stronger position before he moves on to the next challenge.

UNHELPFUL POLITICAL CLIMATE Paresh feels that in the current climate of change and uncertainty there are far too many personal attacks among political leaders and needless party-bashing. He says, the country’s residential and commercial property markets – and indeed most sectors – need stability. He feels that here has been too much chopping and changing when it comes to housing ministers and the government’s real estate strategy. He believes that it is critical that there is now a period of political consistency, so that the property industry can progress without concerns of what new policy or reform lurks around the corner.

BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY Says Paresh, “My success can be attributed to my family, especially my wife who drives me to make the most of life and to all my four children who inspire me to achieve.” He continues, “My children are extremely precious to me and I do wish that I could spend more time with them as business can spill over into family time. I am happy to say I have now learnt to switch off and make the most of my family time. Having a family does ground me and gives me a true perspective of life.”

BREXIT AND THE ECONOMY Paresh firmly believes that Brexit will have a profound significance in redefining not only the UK’s political and financial landscape, but also its position on the world stage. He states, “It’s difficult to say what the pros and cons will be at the present moment since negotiations are proceeding without legal precedent.” As an optimist, Paresh believes that the UK will continue to be a thriving hub for economic opportunities and business growth. He adds, “Brexit opens a new window of opportunity for the country, and it’s important for our entire society, ranging from investors and consumers to politicians and businesses, to realise and actively embrace this reality.”

BREXIT AND THE BRIDGING AND PROPERTY SECTOR In Paresh’s view, property has always benefited from being a popular investment in the UK, offering safe and secure returns even at times of market volatility. He states, “Following the Brexit announcement it was claimed by some that waning investor confidence would

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ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS: DISRUPT AN INDUSTRY OR MARKET THAT YOU UNDERSTAND, USE THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR SUPPORT AVAILABLE, AND BE CONFIDENT IN TAKING THE NECESSARY STEPS FORWARD. have a negative impact on the housing market, upsetting demand across both residential and commercial real estate. Eighteen months on, the UK property market has demonstrated its resilience and investor demand has remained consistently strong, driving price growth across the residential and commercial property markets. While we might see the market slow down in reaction to market trends, I’m confident about the long-term growth of UK property in the lead-up to and in the aftermath of Brexit.” He feels that the same can be said about bridging. He states that the value of loans written by the Association of Short Term Lenders in Q3 2017 was 38.9% higher when compared to the same period in the previous year. This, according to him, underlines the sharp rise in demand for bridging loans, with short-term finance evidently proving an increasingly popular option among many property investors. “By offering fast access to finance, bridging ensures that investors are able to keep up with the speed and demand of the property market, and so long as

EXCITING FUTURE FOR ENTREPRENEURS Paresh believes that these are exciting times for entrepreneurship, and budding entrepreneurs have never been so well placed to realise their business ambitions. He feels that the rise of alternative financing sources such as crowdfunding is a great way for start-ups to get their product or service off the ground. In the UK, he continues, we also have the advantage of being surrounded by a plethora of small businesses actively transforming age-old practices. He says, “You don’t need to look far to be inspired. My advice to entrepreneurs is to disrupt an industry or market that you understand, use the public and private sector support available, and be confident in taking the necessary steps forward. Achieve small and attainable goals, and never lose sight of your final business objective.”

THE FUTURE OF MFS Paresh says that the strategy of MFS is to grow steadily and surely. He has recently opened an office in Singapore and as the first ever bridging alternative lender in Singapore he hopes to firmly establish MFS there. He believes that it’s important for MFS to continually innovate and enhance what it does. He visualises himself increasingly working and providing support to businesses that want to grow and develop. In conclusion he says, “I do not think that I will ever stop learning and will continue to enjoy the work that I do.”


ASIAN GIANT PAAVAN POPAT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, TLC GROUP

From humble beginnings The TLC Group specialises in high-end developments across the hospitality, care, commercial and residential sectors. It was founded by Dolar Popat who arrived in the UK in 1972 as a seventeen-year-old refugee from Uganda. Dolar became a member of the House of Lords in July 2010 and was the first Gujarati to represent the Conservative Party. This paved way for his son Paavan Popat to take over the leadership at TLC Group.

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wanted to implement.” Continues Paavan, “One of the important changes that I made was hiring people from outside the industry which helped in bringing in new ideas and adopt better ways of doing things. We are on a journey of continuous development.”

GETTING TO KNOW HIS PEOPLE Paavan employs 700 people and doesn’t get to meet each one of them often. However he makes it a point, whenever possible, to talk to people at all levels in the business, show interest in their affairs and get to know their achievements. “Most importantly, I greet them with a smile,” says Paavan.

HANDLING DOWNTURNS

Lord Dolar Popat

FROM CONSTRUCTION TO CARE Paavan’s background is in the construction industry where he worked as a consultant for the global conglomerate Rider Levett Bucknall for three years. With a passion for constructing buildings the transition to care, especially in an SME, was a challenge for Paavan. He says, “It was interesting and challenging at the same time. Coming from a corporate into a SME, whether it is a family business or not, is always challenging. There was a huge change in working practices. I had to learn to be patient, keep both feet on the ground and get to know individuals. The atmosphere at TLC Group was different but it was a highly successful business and my challenge was to take it forward.”

TAKING ON THE MANTLE Donning his father’s illustrious mantle was a huge task for young Paavan and there was the generational gap to bridge too. Luckily for him the transition was a smooth one. Says Paavan, “It was a smooth and quick transition and we didn’t work together for more than a few months

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because my father was working hard on government and community projects. I was also very fortunate because he was very accommodating and trusting and he empowered me.” Did they have any disagreements? He says, “Not really. We had many debates and discussions around where we were going and how we’re going about things. Perhaps things might have been different had we worked together for a longer period of time. But hats off to my father because he made a big sacrifice and walked away from what was essentially his creation. It was not an easy path for him. He did it gracefully. His is perhaps a unique case.”

Like most businesses, TLC Group felt the bite of the economic crisis in 2009 and 2010. For Paavan this was a steep learning curve but there were several lessons to be learnt. He says, “Working with the funding world at a time when the banks were crumbling was a great lesson and it was tough. I think that has probably been my lowest point because I had no prior experience working in a recession. It was also during that time that I learned the importance of nurturing and strengthening relationships.”

LEARNING FROM FAILURES For Paavan, failure is a great teacher and can lead to strengthening of character. Says Paavan, “I do not encourage a culture of ‘blame’ in our organisation. Instead I encourage a culture of learning from mistakes and improving from them. It’s about identifying where we are going wrong and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

WORKING WITH SENIOR COLLEAGUES Says Paavan, “With change comes discomfort. When young blood is infused into a leadership role it can be disconcerting for older employees who have been in the organisation for a few years. So I had to exercise patience, lead by example, win them over individually and not give up. It was important for me to communicate tactfully the changes that I

Left to right: Brothers Rupeen Popat, Shivaan Popat, Paavan Popat


ASIAN GIANT PAAVAN POPAT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, TLC GROUP

ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE Paavan believes that it takes the right attitude to make progress in a career in the care industry even if one doesn’t have a formal qualification. He cites the example of a member of his management team who left school with a GCSE and climbed up the ranks. He goes on, “My previous operations director started her career as a receptionist and had no qualification in care. But she had a good way with people. This is a people’s business and you have to understand how to nurture people and get the best out of them.”

exceptional care and learning whilst supporting each child to reach their own individual potential in a happy, healthy and safe learning environment.

service and a number of new USPs that we are developing. We are not in a race to grow. Currently we are growing at a steady rate.”

CARE TO EDUCATION

PROFITABLE WAITING LIST

Rupeen was in the care home business since 1984 until he saw a gap in the market for early children’s education. “Clearly there was a synergy between providing care for the elderly and care for children. Bright Little Stars is not about making profits although that element is important to run it successfully. What drove us was to find an industry from where we can make a difference to society.”

The Mill Hill nursery consistently has a wait list of over 100 children. The one in Harrow, this time next year is expected to perform similarly. The Watford nursery, which opened less than two years, is also running a wait list. Says Rupeen, “I would rather have four nurseries consistently running a wait list, than have eight without.”

BUT HATS OFF TO MY FATHER BECAUSE HE MADE A BIG SACRIFICE AND WALKED AWAY FROM WHAT WAS ESSENTIALLY HIS CREATION. IT WAS NOT AN EASY PATH FOR HIM. HE DID IT GRACEFULLY. HIS IS PERHAPS A UNIQUE CASE.

CLOSE KNIT FAMILY His family means a lot to Paavan. He says, “Family’s got to be more important than business. We are a very close knit family and we socialise and spend a lot of time together. If ever you feel that that the bond with your family is getting compromised due to business, then I think it is not worth being in business.”

BUSY SOCIAL LIFE

QUALITY NOT QUANTITY Currently the nursery is in Mill Hill, Watford, Stanmore and Harrow. Says Rupeen, “In 2018, we will focus on existing business rather than on expansion. We will focus on quality of

STAFF DEVELOPMENT The nurseries employ 140 people which includes full time administrators, chefs and kitchen assistants. “We offer our staff a number of opportunities for further education and we are very proud of our staff retention and staff development,” adds Rupeen. Says Rupeen’s business partner Anmol in parting, ‘Two of my children are enrolled in the Mill Hill nursery. “This gives me a first-hand insight into how children in our nurseries are faring. Next year my third child will also join the nursery.” Rupeen Popat, Co Founder, Bright Little Stars Nursery

Paavan goes to the gym regularly and travels as much as he can. He is a follower of his guru, Morari Bapu and visits his live discourses whenever he can. He says, “By going to the gym, having a busy social, family and spiritual life, I think I lead a well-rounded life.”

MENTORING Drawing on his own experience Paavan has mentored a few start-ups. For startups to succeed Pavan emphasises on determination, innovative products and excellent service. He adds, “Surround yourself with people who care for your interests and listen to their advice.”

CHILDCARE & EDUCATION: BRIGHT LITTLE STARS NURSERY The oldest of Lord Dolar Popat’s sons Rupeen Popat left the care home business to launch Bright Little Stars nursery. The idea came about from a passion to get involved in an industry from where he could make a positive social impact in communities. The strategy was to provide

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ASIAN GIANT NAINITA DESAI, COMPOSER, BAFTA BREAKTHROUGH BRIT

Based in London, composer Nainita Desai is a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and recent winner of the Music+Sound Award Best Feature Film Score. She was one of the four shortlisted nominees among several nominations at the Asian Achievers Awards 2017 in the Achievement in Art & Culture category.

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Scoring her way to the top

WORKS AND ACCOLADES Nainita’s professional musical foundations are rooted in documentary where she has forged an enviable reputation composing for hundreds of series and feature documentaries, many of which have garnered OSCAR, BAFTA, EMMY and RTS Awards, as well as scoring for upcoming landmark BBC series such as ‘Earth’s Natural Wonders’ and ‘Rituals’. Also known for her work in features, her recent commissions include the acclaimed Brian Hill docmusical ‘Mumbai High-The Musical’, and ‘The Confessions of Thomas Quick’ (BFI/Film4/Picturehouse). Current projects include British India horror feature film ‘Darkness Visible’ (BFI 2018), British WW2 drama Ni’ihau, narrative video game ‘Telling Lies’ for Annapurna (Zero Dark Thirty and American Hustle), theatrical feature documentaries ‘The Life After’ (BBC / Irish Film Board) and ‘Untamed Romania’ as well as ‘Leicester Sings’ – a documentary musical for the BBC about four generations of a British Asian Gujarati family.

She had a solid foundation in film sound, freelancing as a sound designer on feature films for directors such as Bertolucci (Little Buddha), and Werner Herzog. She says, “Even though I was working on prestigious features as part of a ‘big machine’, it just wasn’t creative enough for me. I yearned to work in music, so I became a freelance engineer and eventually worked at Real World Studios for Peter Gabriel. Working with international musicians and learning from leading engineers and producers, combining genres of music where creativity and experimentation knew no bounds was incredibly liberating.” She had always wanted to work on her own music, to somehow combine her love of music and film. Composing to visuals was her ultimate dream. By some quirk of fate, she was offered the job of writing the music for a travel series for Channel 4. Says Nainita, “This was my first proper scoring project which rolled on to a career’s worth of projects!”

ACCORDING TO HER SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A BIT OF A NERDY TOM-BOY AND WANTED TO GET INTO SOUND ENGINEERING AND RECORDING.

EARLY EXPOSURE TO MUSIC Nainita grew up being exposed to a very eclectic range of music, playing a variety of instruments ranging from sitar, tabla, piano, violin and guitar, as well as aspiring to become a singer. She loved old film scores of the 60’s, 70’s and TV theme tunes and grew up with Indian classical music, Bollywood classics and western pop and film music. According to her she has always been a bit of a nerdy tom-boy and wanted to get into sound engineering and recording. After she graduated in maths she was tenacious and passionate about immersing herself into the music industry. She had followed her family’s advice about having a degree so that she could always fall back on it if her dreams didn’t quite work out, but luckily, she never had to rely on it. “I’ve never had a ‘real job,” says Nainita.

HECTIC SCHEDULE

Nainita divides her time between days spent in the recording studio which involves anything from composing to recording musicians and mixing scores for various projects. She says, “If I’m not writing, I’m often meeting with clients, film companies, attending film festivals, conferences and events.” She tends to work on several projects simultaneously that are all in different stages of production, which means spending long hours, working under intense time pressure and working with demanding clients, especially when approaching the final delivery of a film or series.

BRITISH ASIANS IN MUSIC AND ART Nainita feels that gender stereotyping and cultural values within the Asian community have always led to pressure on the first and second-generation Asians to follow stereotype and pursue established professional careers. She feels that it is now changing. “I had no Asian role models let

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ASIAN GIANT NAINITA DESAI, COMPOSER, BAFTA BREAKTHROUGH BRIT

alone ones that were female, and it never occurred to me that the odds may be totally stacked against me. Again, the industry can be rather clique-y, and fitting in or being accepted can be difficult, but then again, that can be tricky regardless of your gender. Ultimately, it’s down to you as an individual and your personality to carve out your own career path,” opines Nainita. However, with a broader outlook on career opportunities and role models paving the way, it is much more acceptable for Asians to forge a career path in the arts now, says Nainita. She continues, “I think that the barriers also come from within yourself. It may be a lack of inner confidence, or the strength and lack of support to fight pressures to conform.” She points out that in recent times, the momentum for highlighting gender inequality, not to mention diversity and ethnicity, across the media and industry in general has been building. “Hopefully that is here to stay which can only be a positive thing,” she adds.

ACHIEVEMENTS AND ACCOLADES For Nainita working on Mumbai High, a documentary musical for the BBC, was one of the most rewarding projects she has ever worked on. The film is about children living in the slums of Dharavi and was critically acclaimed. “Working with the children in India was incredibly humbling,” she admits. Becoming a Bafta Breakthrough Brit recently was a huge honour for her. She opines, “Those kinds of accolades are normally only given to writers, directors and producers, not composers. So being singled out was an amazing boost for my confidence as an Asian woman in the industry.” Currently she is scoring a feature film. It will be recorded and performed by the BBC National Symphony Orchestra of Wales. Also on the cards is a new video game project performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. “Having my music performed by live musicians is one of the most rewarding experiences for me. They breathe life into music and make it come alive,” feels Nainita.

NAINITA’S SOUNDING BOARD “My partner who I’ve known for over 20 years is the most wise and sensible soul I’ve ever come across and helps ground me,” says Nainita. “As a composer, you are constantly

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SHE HAD FOLLOWED HER FAMILY’S ADVICE ABOUT HAVING A DEGREE SO THAT SHE COULD ALWAYS FALL BACK ON IT IF HER DREAMS DIDN’T QUITE WORK OUT, BUT LUCKILY, SHE NEVER HAD TO RELY ON IT. ‘I’VE NEVER HAD A ‘REAL JOB,’ SAYS NAINITA. filled with doubt and insecurity. When you’re writing music, you’re quite often baring your soul and it’s very easy to take criticism of your work personally. After twenty years I’m used to it now, but I am so very fortunate to have my partner as my sounding board in those moments,” she adds.

MANAGING PRESSURE “I experience both highs and lows on a daily basis but I am grateful and privileged to live the life I live and where I have come from. That daily reminder lifts me up when I’m having a bad day and is humbling when I am on a high!” says Nainita.

PRESSURES & DEADLINES -COMPOSING WITH A GUN TO YOUR HEAD Nainita tends to juggle multiple projects simultaneously, and with them, she says, comes tight deadlines, stress and workloads. She feels that without detailed planning, it can all easily become overwhelming. So, her way of handling pressure is to create daily and weekly project schedules that she sticks to rigidly. “After so many years I think I’ve finally learnt how to stick to a deadline. It’s a bit like writing music with a gun to your head. If I didn’t have pressures and deadlines, I would never finish a film score,” she says.

HER FAVOURITE COMPOSERS Hans Zimmer - for his inventiveness, ability to reach a mass audience, ability to produce scores that marry with images and for helping to make film music ‘sexy’. Peter Gabriel - his music had a huge influence on Nainita when growing up. The fusion of western and world influences opened her up to a world of new sounds and possibilities. Joint place - Ennio Morricone and John Williams. She says, “They have

unique voices and their use of melody and instrumentation introduced me to film music when I was eight years old.”

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY Says Nainita, “If I wanted to be material and wealthy, I wouldn’t have entered the arts! I have never been attracted to material wealth as a means to an end. What was ingrained in me however, was a strong desire for security, which is a total contradiction to the life of a freelancer artist!” Nainita is not a religious person and doesn’t belong to an orthodox belief system but she does believe in ‘karma.’ She feels that there exists a ‘cosmic energy’ that binds us to the universe. She adds, “I live by my own sense of morality and code of conduct. I was brought up as a Hindu but also went to a CofE school where I was first introduced to music. For me creating music is my way of connecting to humanity in a spiritual way.”

CAREER IN MUSIC – KEY INGREDIENTS Nainita feels that there are some crucial qualities to working successfully as a composer and generally working within film and TV, which include being enthusiastic, sociable and collaborative. Her advice to young aspirants is, “Having a thick skin to take the endless rejection and criticism one experiences is essential. Be polite to everyone you meet. Be social, interested and curious in life and everything around you. Developing your technical, and musical skillset as well as your social and interpersonal skills and ability to network are extremely important. Be confident without being arrogant and smug. Be professional and meet deadlines. Above all, stay humble – all these non-musical qualities can take you a long way!”


ASIAN GIANT SHANE THAKRAR, CEO HKS RETAIL LTD

A fast growing business HKS Retail Ltd. is a roadside retail business operating fast food outlets, convenience stores and fuel stations throughout the country. The business was started by the Thakrar Brothers in 1984.

FROM FUEL TO CONVENIENCE The business has grown over the years through development of estates and acquisitions, many of which have been made in recent years. The current turnover of the company is £225m and the total number of stores is seventy. It employs over 750 people. According to Shane, HKS is continuing to grow its estate in all areas, with a significant focus on developing food and convenience offerings. “We are privileged to work with great brands such as Greggs, Subway and Costa, and endeavour to provide road users the perfect and convenient way to refuel, recharge and refresh,” says Shane.

HKS’S SUCCESS HKS operates in a highly competitive market and Shane credits the success of HKS to constantly adapting its offerings to the needs of customers and responding to the feedback of its team members who serve customers 24/7. Says Shane, “We ensure that we regularly invest in our facilities, place health and safety at the top of our priorities and make certain that our pricing remains competitive.”

GROWTH STRATEGY HKS’ strategy is to keep evolving its offering to meet changing markets, technology and

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ASIAN GIANT SHANE THAKRAR, CEO HKS RETAIL LTD

customer desires. Adding new locations for food offers is also a key driver. While working with leading brands such as Greggs, Subway and Costa, HKS also aims to continue to grow its partnerships with other leading food brands. Says Shane, “We feel that there is still some great work to be done on our convenience retailing offer and have some exciting plans for developing that part of our business. We are working with new brand partners in this area too. We will continue to focus on reaching out to travelling consumers and providing refuelling for conventional modes of travel, as well as providing infrastructure such as electric charging for future modes of travel.” HKS is also looking to develop its network both in the UK and internationally in Asia, North America and Europe.

MANAGING THE BUSINESS Shane’s role mainly involves development of strategy, adding new brand partners, seeking acquisition opportunities and formulating the framework for his team’s development. In addition, he plays an active role in overseeing their locations and ascertaining how he can add to the offerings across the network. Says Shane, “Whilst running various areas of the business, I have the pleasure of being surrounded by great family members who have been doing this for years and can provide much guidance.” Shane is of the firm belief that honesty with customers, suppliers and team members is vital to the success of his business. “So is operating with the right ethics and morals, and making decisions that are right for all aspects of life and not just business,” he continues.

MOTIVATING STAFF Says Shane, “A motivated team is key to the success of our business. I ensure that we have regular team discussions and spend time together both at a personal and professional level. It is also important to recognise those that do well. It easy to only pick out the not-so-good-areas, whereas the good areas should also be recognised and shared.”

A DAY AT THE OFFICE For Shane, a typical day involves a morning of catching up with the office team and discussing various operating issues with his operations director. It also involves making a number of calls throughout the day and several meetings with suppliers and potential new brand partners. He says, “I also like to take time each day to look through the previous day’s numbers and discuss key points.”

LEARNING FROM FAILURE & SUCCESS Shane has a positive attitude to failures. He opines, “There is no such thing as failure. In everything that one does there will be good and bad aspects, recognising

SUCCESS IS BEING HAPPY WITH THE ACHIEVEMENT OF GOALS THAT YOU SET FOR YOURSELF. ALSO, REMEMBER TO SHARE YOUR HAPPINESS WITH OTHERS.

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them and adjusting your next move is important.” For Shane there is no set measure to gauge success and certainly no financial measure. He says, “Success is being happy with the achievement of goals that you set for yourself. Also, remember to share your happiness with others. Handling success with humility is key.” According to Shane, one can learn a great deal from surrounding oneself with the right people and being a good listener. “A formal education is not necessarily vital but it certainly offers a range of skills that you can apply to day-to-day situations,” he says.

FAMILY MATTERS For Shane, his family is the single most important aspect of his life. Working in a family business and living with his extended family, he says, makes life certainly interesting and offers the


Left to right: Krishan K Thakrar – C.O.O Sailesh V Thakrar – Director Kamlesh V Thakrar – Director Hasmukh V Thakrar – Director Shane S Thakrar – C.E.O

MY FAMILY, IN PARTICULAR MY DAD AND UNCLES WITH WHOM I SPEND MUCH OF MY DAY AND LEARN FROM ARE MY ROLE MODELS. best learning experiences one can have. He adds, “It is also great to share your life’s journey with those close to you. My family, in particular my dad and uncles with whom I spend much of my day and learn from are my role models.” Shane unwinds by spending time with his wife and his extended family. He also enjoys travelling.

HIS GUIDING PRINCIPLES Shane follows certain principles both in business and his personal life. He says, “Seek the advice of those with knowledge and be a good listener. Ask for help when you need it and when you know it’s right, go for it. It is also important

to plan your ventures thoroughly and take the advice of all those who will join you on your journey.”

ACCOLADES Shane was selected as “Young Executive 2017’ at the Leicester Mercury Business Executive of the Year Awards. Professor Paul Boyle, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester said of Shane, ‘If our economy is to prosper further we need more of these individuals to step forward.” Responding to those powerful words, Shane says, “Winning an award is a great testament to the team that supports the business and transforms all of our ideas and visions into reality. It

was a delightful surprise to win this great award, especially with the association of the university.” HKS Retail also made it into the prestigious Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250 in 2017.

PHILANTHROPY “We aim to encourage more businesses to engage in support of causes such as local community projects as well as support some of the fantastic charitable organisations in the community, many of which we are proud to support,” says Shane. HKS is a keen supporter of medical research and has recently supported the opening of a medical teaching and research facility in Leicester. In addition it is proud to support the work of the British Heart Foundation, Healing Little Hearts and the British Asian Trust, amongst many others.

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ASIAN GIANT BINOY R. V. MEGHRAJ, EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, MEGHRAJ GROUP

Shouldering an illustrious legacy Binoy has large boots to fill given the long and successful business history of Meghraj Group. His pragmatic attitude to business and his core values play key roles in his success.

usiness, philanthropy and social responsibility are the pillars that drive Meghraj Group. Binoy draws inspiration from his grandfather, M.P. Shah, who retired from his business career at 49 and spent the rest of his life on philanthropic work as a pioneer of what we now know as venture philanthropy.

Meghraj Group was founded by Binoy’s grandfather, M.P. Shah, in 1922 in Kenya, and he is the third generation of his family to work in the business. The business’ activities have changed considerably since his grandfather’s time. The core guiding principles which have flowed down since then are around their values: respect for relationships, taking a long-term view, integrity, social responsibility and contribution. These cover both how the business plans and operates, and how the business integrates into society. Today the Group is involved in three

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main areas: investment banking advisory, fiduciary services and infrastructure consulting. With offices in India, Kenya, UK, Japan, USA and Dubai, the investment banking business advises on buying and selling companies, finding business partners, and raising equity and debt financing. Much of their work is around capital flows between the regions they operate in. The fiduciary business, with offices in Jersey, UK, Switzerland, Dubai, Mauritius, Kenya and Singapore, provides professional trustee services, and sets up and administers trusts, companies,

investment vehicles and funds for international businesses, wealthy families, family offices and fund managers. The infrastructure consulting business advises internationally in the power sector (including renewable energy), climate change, and urban and transportation infrastructure to businesses, development agencies including The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United Nations, and governments, through offices in India and Kenya.

EARLY LIFE AND NOW Binoy’s initiation into the business began when he was only 14, and he joined the business full time at 20, after graduating from University. He began in the marketing department, working directly with clients. He was soon involved in the start up of the investment banking business in India, their first expansion since the 1960s in Asia. He


ASIAN GIANT BINOY R. V. MEGHRAJ, EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, MEGHRAJ GROUP

MY GRANDFATHER, M.P. SHAH, IS A GOOD EXAMPLE. I ADMIRE HIS ENTREPRENEURIAL EXAMPLE, GOING FROM A VILLAGER IN INDIA TO BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN IN KENYA THROUGH HIS DETERMINATION, ENTREPRENEURIAL SKILLS AND INTELLIGENCE also worked on a project to rethink the Group’s management structure, resulting in developing external professionals to run the businesses, and refocusing the roles of family members. From a Group perspective he is involved with strategy, relationships with clients and partners, and new businesses. He is responsible for the investment banking and infrastructure consulting businesses. As a matter of policy the Group hires professional MDs from outside the family to run each business. Binoy supports the MDs and teams, helping with expansion, business development and client relationships, and facilitating interaction among the teams and between the businesses internationally.

HIGHS AND LOW Addressing some of his highs and lows he says: “I am excited about the international expansion of Meghraj’s investment banking and infrastructure consulting businesses, which were originally just in India. I am also proud of the experience and credentials we have developed advising large Japanese companies investing overseas, which is a unique differentiation for us.” “Over the last few years, the businesses have all started operating in Kenya, and are growing well there. It is exciting to be returning to our roots, and expanding in the country in which Meghraj was founded 95 years ago. We are looking forward to significant expansion for Meghraj across East Africa.” “There have of course been lows as well. Some key partnerships have not worked out as anticipated, despite investing significant resources, and it is always frustrating when this happens. We try to learn the right lessons from these experiences,” says Binoy.

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ASIAN GIANT BINOY R. V. MEGHRAJ, EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, MEGHRAJ GROUP

HIS MENTORS There are two people that Binoy seeks out for advice. He says: “My father and uncle are the DNA of our business, they are its living history, and they have decades of experience as entrepreneurs and businessmen. I go to them for general advice, and also specific advice about individual situations.Their knowledge about our clients is very extensive.”

HIS VIEWS ON SUCCESS “Within each business, we want to build and strengthen relationships, meet our clients’ needs, increase the level of repeat business from clients, and exceed our annual budgets: that is a base we set for success,” says Binoy. “From a more personal perspective, I don’t really define tangible success goals for myself, because I feel that approaching these goals would risk complacency. I want to continually strive and push ahead. My mother tells me off for this, and says I should celebrate each success, but my natural instinct is that as soon as there is something to celebrate, I am already thinking about the next challenge,” he adds. More broadly he measures success in terms of the positive contribution and impact made on society, and to that extent, he feels, the business is a means to a much larger end.

MANTRA FOR A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS According to Binoy, to run a successful business, qualities including determination, persistence, hard work, integrity and reputation are important. He says reputation takes time to build, but it is time well spent. He adds, “It is critical to attract a great team to work with – it’s a cliché, but it has certainly helped me to be able to recruit people that are smarter and more experienced than I am.” “Having access to external opinions and experience helps. I am a member of an organization called Young Presidents Organization, and there is a small core group of members I meet regularly that are a great sounding board,” says Binoy.

HANDLING HIGHS AND LOWS When it comes to handling the highs and lows of life Binoy is fairly philosophical, and deals with life with equanimity. He says, “I believe in karma, and this moderates my reactions. I try to remain

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neutral to both highs and lows. For the highs, I tend to start thinking about the next challenge, so I don’t dwell on them much. For the lows, I find it helpful to consider the potential impact of an issue after 1 and 5 years to judge its real impact.”

ATTITUDE TO WEALTH Wealth, feels Binoy, is a responsibility. He says, “I feel that it should be used to help society. This is something I have learned from my family, particularly my grandparents, father and uncle. I have seen their examples of contributing to society.” “My grandfather retired from business at the age of 49 and spent the rest of his life on philanthropic work, giving back to society most of his wealth, building more than 100 educational and healthcare institutions. This defines my attitude to wealth. I believe in capitalism and trying to build wealth, and that this

BUSINESS, PHILANTHROPY AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ARE THE PILLARS THAT DRIVE MEGHRAJ GROUP. BINOY DRAWS INSPIRATION FROM HIS GRANDFATHER, M.P. SHAH. has important societal benefits, such as creating employment and reducing poverty. The utilisation of that wealth is a responsibility, and a mindset focused on contribution is important,” he adds.

IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY VALUES Family is extremely important to Binoy. He says, “I would be nothing without my family. They have taught me, helped me and supported me. As the third generation in a family business, it is difficult to separate our family values from the business’ values. I discussed earlier our business values, and these are similar to our family values, which is more holistic and natural.”

IMPORTANCE OF PHILANTHROPY Philanthropy is very important to Binoy. He says, “I have been left with big footprints to fill. The areas of focus for my family’s two foundations are education and healthcare. Within education, I am particularly interested in entrepreneurialism, and helping encourage grassroots micro-entrepreneurs. Their increased

survivorship should lead to sustainable impact, increased employment and community wealth creation, giving significant benefits. I was involved with a charity that taught basic business skills to micro-entrepreneurs, and the impact it had was encouraging.” The family’s foundations support the institutions, such as schools and hospitals,started by the family, and also some independent charities. “We believe tremendous value can be created by business people applying their business skills, experience and relationships to charities, helping to make them sustainable and efficient,” says Binoy. If he were to pioneer something, Binoy says, “It may well be in the area of venture philanthropy, and the application of business disciplines and technology to philanthropy.”

UNWINDING Most of Binoy’s time is spent on work, leaving him little time to enjoy hobbies. He says, “I like listening to music, and used to play and write music earlier. I enjoy travelling, and I’m interested in architecture and design.”

HIS IDOLS Several people Binoy admires in business are also people he admires outside work, because they straddle the business and philanthropic worlds. He says, “My grandfather, M.P. Shah, is a good example. I admire his entrepreneurial example, going from a villager in India to becoming a successful businessman in Kenya through his determination, entrepreneurial skills and intelligence, but also how he switched focus from business to philanthropy and applied his skills, experience and money to helping society.” “As a more recent example, I admire Bill Gates for his entrepreneurial and business brilliance, and for how he changed direction to focus his skills and resources on philanthropy,” he adds. Outside of business, he admires the physicist Richard Feynman, a true polymath, the architect Tadao Ando for his conceptual concrete buildings, the creativity of the musician Brian Eno, and the author Yukio Mishima among others.

ADVICE FOR BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS “Be prepared to work very hard, get some good mentors to guide you, and don’t underestimate the importance of luck,” says Binoy in closing.


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