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INSPIRING TO ASPIRE 2019
CONVERSATION WITH ICONS
EXCEPTIONAL WOMEN INSPIRING CHANGE Real life stories of contemporary icons SUPPORTED BY
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CONTENTS ANNE BODEN 5
Breaking barriers, a win-win for all
DR VANITA RATTAN 28
Innovation in skincare
SANGEETA WALDRON BINA MEHTA 6
Women in business
Creating a global PR brand
SHAVATA SINGH ANITA GOYAL 8
Living with passion and purpose
Winning high acclaim for brow and lash treatment
DR YOGINEE PATEL 11
A woman in unmanned territory
DR. PRIYA VIRMANI 37
Painting a new world
Smart Core Wealth – ensuring financial independence
JASPREET KAUR 41
BINI LUDLOW 18
Sweet Cumin - The spice route to success
The bard behind the ‘netra'
SHASHI GOSSAIN 44
Combining business and philanthropy
Cirkkel Studio: Shaping consumer behaviour through design
MANI KOHLI 48
Making a fashion statement through henna 2019 | ASIAN GIANTS
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WELCOME ASIAN GIANTS 2019
Challenging the norm Women in the UK have made great strides in various ﬁelds and this edition of Asian Giants will bear testimony to their accomplishments. Even in traditionally male dominated sectors such as banking and technology women entrepreneurs are beginning to reshape convention and play leadership roles. Technology-led ﬁnancial services innovators like Anne Boden, founder of Starling Bank, are ﬁne examples of what women can achieve despite gender stereotypes and funding discrimination. Dr Yoge Patel, CEO Blue Bear Systems Research which is a leading player in avionics research and unmanned systems, has demonstrated that charting new and male dominated territories is within reach of every woman.
inspirational and exemplary. I thank them for generously sharing their stories with us and I join our readers in applauding their achievements.
At the time of going to press NatWest CEO Alison Rose was the front-runner to become RBS's CEO. While the board of Santander’s UK division is currently chaired by Baroness Shriti Vadera all the other leading high street banks Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group - are male-dominated. So, there is some way to go before women are on par with their male counterparts, at least in some sectors where commitment to inclusion and diversity, perhaps, needs redeﬁning.
Thanks to the level playing ﬁeld that this country offers British Asians have taken every opportunity presented to them and punched well above their weight. The stories of unsung heroes among them need to be told for the sake of our future generation.
In sectors such as fashion, communications, public relations, philanthropy and hospitality women have achieved much, as this magazine will bear out. And here too, success was achieved through hard work, grit, innovation and against severe odds. Each one of the high achievers featured in this publication is a giant in their own right and their stories are truly
The British Asian community has come a long way since it ﬁrst set foot on these shores. Over the decades the community has never lacked role models. In the early days the role models were our very own parents who worked in factories and corner shops to make two ends meet and most of all, to provide good education to their children.
It was the great Sir Isaac Newton who said: 'If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants’. Perhaps the younger generation will echo his words when they reﬂect on the struggles and triumphs of those featured in this edition of Asian Giants.
CB Patel Publisher/Editor Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar
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ASIAN GIANT ANNE BODEN, FOUNDER AND CEO, STARLING BANK
Breaking barriers, a win-win for all GENDER BIAS When I first began raising money for my idea of a mobile first bank, I had plenty of time to observe the foibles of VC investors at first hand. Since the average start-up generally has to get in front of at least 300 investors before any sort of success (no, really, this is true), this leaves much room for extensive and prolonged observation. Something that I worked out fairly quickly was that these financiers, who wielded so much power over the life and death of entrepreneurial enterprises, all had something in common. They almost always invested in people who looked just like them: white, male, thirtysomethings. While I succeeded on the first criteria, I was way off on number two and three, as a female, fiftysomething entrepreneur. Suffice to say, the odds were stacked against me.
CHANGING SCENARIO Fortunately for me and, I like to believe, the large numbers of Starling Bank customers today, we found an investor who was able to see beyond this bias. Less fortunately, five years on from when I first started presenting to investors, this barrier to entry has still not entirely gone away. While there has been undoubted steps forward in the right direction, including a small, but growing number of VCs which are actively promoting portfolio diversity, progress always seems painfully slow. I still appear with depressing regularity on lists along the theme of ‘most powerful women in fintech’. While it’s great to be recognised, and I fully accept that I operate at the axis of two traditionally male dominated fields, banking and technology, I long for the days of a tougher playing field. In the past year, just £358 million of funding went to female-founded start-ups, versus £3.6 billion for their male counterparts, according to The Entrepreneurs Network. Data on investments awarded to founders from ethnic minorities is harder to come by, but I have seen figures variously reported as between 4% and as low as 1%.
Anne Boden Founder and CEO, Starling Bank DIVERSITY ON THE RISE The news is not all gloomy. As well as initiatives to improve diversity of the tech scene by providing mentorship and advice on early stage funding, there are clear signs that firms are actively looking at their recruitment policies. A report by Wayra found that the proportion of ethnic minorities working in tech start-ups is actually outpacing the proportion of the UK’s ethnic minority population, at 21% versus 13%. At Starling, we are constantly looking at what we can do to make us seem more accessible: to everyone. For example, we publish our gender pay gap numbers and actively promote open discussion about the root causes of the gap. We are not legally required to do this, but feel it is important to hold ourselves accountable. Ultimately, we know only too well that diversity of all sorts leads to a better overall performance. It’s not just because people from different backgrounds bring a valuable different perspective, which is crucial for a consumer-facing product like ours. It makes sound sense when it comes to seeking out that all-important commercial advantage that is the
difference between a business bumping along, or rising up ahead of its peers. Right now, there is a global shortage of software engineers. It makes zero business sense to restrict a recruitment drive to the narrow pool of white male candidates. We just want the best people, regardless of their sex or race. This is why we run our job ads through a language decoder to make sure they are inclusive and inspire the widest range of applicants. We want to spot any hidden bias and veer away from making job descriptions too prescriptive.
BENEFITTING FROM DIVERSITY If we want to make real, meaningful, progress, all businesses would benefit from regularly running all of their processes and strategies through the equivalent of the language decoder. Instead of thinking about diversity in all its forms as a box ticking exercise, individuals and company founders should be focussed on what a great contribution diversity and inclusion makes. For start-up founders, this won’t automatically lessen the 300-plus pitches to investors, but it is another important step to breaking down the barriers and is to the benefit of everyone.
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ASIAN GIANT BINA MEHTA, PARTNER, KPMG LLP
Women in business Only one in five British businesses is run by a woman. Yet what’s really interesting is that women are increasingly becoming the job creators and growth drivers in the UK, with women-owned businesses contributing a staggering £105bn to the economy. The Alison Rose review carried out earlier this year found that this is under half of the £250bn of value that could be added if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. So what is holding women in the UK back from reaching their full potential?
THE CHALLENGES There are some common challenges for startup businesses in general, such as access to funding, attracting new customers, access to new markets and attracting and retaining talent. But there are also distinct challenges that are unique to female founders and owners, from gender stereotypes to funding discrimination. A poll of 750 women published in the Daily Telegraph confirmed that this is often the case, as it revealed that two-thirds felt they had not been taken seriously by potential investors. We know that female founderled businesses receive a disproportionately lower percentage of funding, and the impact can be devastating as this can limit their ability to attract talent, enter new markets and grow. The biggest practical obstacle is access to the right networks and connections to set them on the right path. There’s also something about breaking societal norms, particularly in the male-dominated start up industry, and this is further heightened in sectors like tech and manufacturing. Perceptions of what are and aren’t traditionally female industries and roles don’t yet match reality, which is why many women have to work considerably harder than men to achieve the same, if not better, success. I have seen an emergence of female
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Bina Mehta Partner, KPMG LLP founder networks (sometimes referred to as tribes) that are fiercely loyal and supportive of other female entrepreneurs and go as far as advocating each other – collaborating, partnering and leveraging each other’s successes. It is not about excluding males but more about ensuring women don’t get left behind.
GROWING NUMBER OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS There’s no denying that there’s still some way to go in tackling and closing the entrepreneurial gender gap, but we mustn’t forget the progress that has been made. I recently hosted the Top 100 Asian Stars in UK Tech 2019 which recognised 32 women, all of who are doing incredible work as either tech entrepreneurs, investors or influencers. One of the entrepreneurs featured in this edition has featured in the list for a number of years and was winner of the Entrepreneur category at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards this year. She’s a true role model for the next generation of females looking to grow and build successful businesses in a non-traditional area.
TIPS TO PROGRESS If you’re a woman who is thinking about starting a business, or if you are experiencing some of the challenges I’ve mentioned, I encourage you to push for progress. And if you’re finding it hard to break down some of the barriers, then perhaps the following practical tips can help you: l Find business mentors – can be men or women but look for the skills and insight you are lacking and want to develop. l Find your tribe - peer-to-peer support is powerful and helps to bridge the confidence gap. l Finally, seek external support – there are various organisations and groups offering advice to women in business, from accelerators and investment houses, to co-working spaces. At KPMG we have a team of experts dedicated to innovative startups, providing specialist advice and helping with introductions to useful contacts. I believe there’s real power in sharing both successes and lessons learned from failures, so let’s continue to inspire, empower and help one another to reach our ambitions.
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A FUTURE FOR PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE India without tigers is unimaginable
4,000 TIGERS REMAIN IN THE WILD
Persecuted due to conflict Habitat under threat from development Slaughtered for their body parts
SA AV VE WILD TIGERRSS TODA AY Y
Keep Wildlife in the Wild
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ASIAN GIANT ANITA GOYAL , TEACHER, ENTREPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST
Living with passion and purpose Anita Goyal is the CEO and trustee of The Hemraj Goyal Foundation (HGF) and The Hallmark Care Homes Foundation. She is a patron of Binti International and has been Honorary Chair of the FGM (female genital mutilation) Appeal for Barnardo’s for the past two years. Anita is an award-winning philanthropist and community champion, and has authored two books: Voices from Punjab, and Voices from Gujarat as part of a trilogy. Approaching everything she does with an open mind, Anita is unambiguous and single-minded about her passion and purpose which is to make a diﬀerence in people’s lives.
FROM TEACHING TO PHILANTHROPY Anita’s career began when she completed a BSc in Biomedical Materials Science & Engineering at Queen Mary College, London. A passion for teaching led her to become a science teacher, advancing to Head of Science and then progressing to Assistant Head Teacher of Inclusion. She completed her MA in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education and UCL. She says, “I always had a passion for working with children especially those with behavioural difficulties and social
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and emotional challenges. My last role in teaching was in a school with special educational needs where I worked for eight years. “When Avnish asked me to run the family foundation over five years ago I thought long and hard and I decided I could make more of a difference with the skills I had learnt in my teaching career and I handed in my resignation and haven’t looked back since then. In hindsight I wish I had taken that decision earlier and followed my heart to do charity work.” Anita is the Co-founder of 'Ultimate
You' where she designs educational seminars for business, leadership, life and relationships along with her husband Avnish Goyal who is an award-winning entrepreneur. She is also the founder of 'People of the World' which is a platform for people of diverse backgrounds to share their stories through books and inspire others. Today, Anita is considered a female icon in the not-for-profit sector.
THE HEMRAJ GOYAL FOUNDATION Anita runs the Hemraj Goyal Foundation together with her husband
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Avnish Goyal. The charity was founded in memory of Avnish’s late father, Hemraj Goyal, whose vision was to influence the next generation of the family with the view to inspire them to get involved in philanthropy and make a lasting impact in the quality of life of those less fortunate. To achieve its objectives, HGF partners with many organisations and charities who share their vision both in the UK and abroad. Some of the charities that HGF has partnered closely with are the Cherie Blair Foundation, Lily Against Human Trafficking, Barnardo's, the National FGM Centre, The Outward Bound Trust, Toybank and Door Step School’s project through Child Action.
HALLMARK CARE HOMES Anita is actively involved with Hallmark Care Homes; the business which was founded by her husband – now Chairman. A family business which was established in 1997, it currently operates 19 quality care homes across England and Wales with a number of additional homes in the pipeline. Says Anita, “I visit the care homes regularly and have supported team members in training and empowerment courses to help them deliver an outstanding service, creating a culture that enables the highest quality care centred around family values. “Through our care homes we raise money for various charities. We have recently launched the Care Sector Annual Fundraising Ball to raise money for charities such as Alzheimer’s Society and The Care Workers Charity for which Avnish and I were trustees. The Hallmark Care Homes Foundation has been launched to support the annual ball as well as fund vital research and innovation in the care sector. With an ageing population I would like to do more for people living with dementia especially in the Asian community.”
EDUCATION IS FOR IMPROVING THE LIVES OF OTHERS AND FOR LEAVING YOUR COMMUNITY AND WORLD BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT (MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN)
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ASIAN GIANT ANITA GOYAL , TEACHER, ENTREPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST YOUTH IN CHARITY WORK According to Anita today's young people have many opportunities to get involved in charitable work. Anita and Avnish's daughters Simran S and Simran G follow in their parents' footsteps. They have proved to be rolemodels for the future generation by leading on a number of charity events that have promoted the work of other charities. One such event was a multisensory experience in London with Sense International whose focus is on deafblindness. This helped raise awareness within those who attended, teaching them how difficult these conditions are for those affected. Says Anita, “I believe that if you follow your passion you are leading a fulfilling life. Working in philanthropy builds your character. It enhances your leadership and organisational skills, and enables you to network with people of diverse backgrounds which in turn improves your interpersonal skills.”
KEY MESSAGES FOR YOUTH When it comes to character building Anita places much emphasis on honesty and integrity. She says, “My message for our youth is to be kind and compassionate yet strong when dealing with issues. Avoid being self-centred. Influence people in a good way. Be open to new ideas. Get a coach or mentor. If you aspire to be like someone find out everything about their life and model yourself on them or take the best characteristics of a few role models and make them your own. “I would also advise our youth to be inquisitive, open-minded and ask lots of questions. I spent far too many years of my early life accepting the status-quo when I should have been challenging it. “It is important for young people to listen and understand the situation before responding. We live in a world of instant gratification but there is more joy and fulfilment in holding back and sometimes waiting for things you want.”
Avnish (left) and his mother, Santosh Goyal, with the rest of their family at the opening of Hallmark Care Home's Banstead Manor in 2019
and I think this is a global conundrum. Many jobs of today are unlikely to exist a few years down the line. “Parents can be a part of the solution to this problem by engaging with organisations other than schools because school is only a part of children’s lives. They can ensure that children are involved in a variety of non-school activities, learning more about the wider world and travelling widely. They must be encouraged to learn more about their heritage and culture and take the best parts of this. By starting a book club in your family and having a family day is a powerful way to connect and form a stronger relationship with each other.”
FUTURE PLANS The growth of young leaders in philanthropy has been vital for the global community. Social media is being used as a powerful platform for young people to fundraise, raise awareness and start campaigns to connect the world to important causes. The team at Hemraj Goyal Foundation are committed to
engaging and involving the next generation in supporting their charitable endeavours and involving them at every stage of their journey. Says Anita “Through our family Foundation, I have been lucky enough to travel around India and the UK to explore some of the projects that we support. Through charities such as the Cherie Blair Foundation we seek to empower women in rural communities through skills training and opportunities for work, while our partnership with charities such as Child Action and Barnardo’s focus on creating a better world for our children. The future for the foundation for the next decade will focus on supporting and developing the next generation to engage in the causes that they are passionate about so that together we can all make an even bigger difference.” Many might find her dreams and ambitions daunting, but given her passion for philanthropy and her indomitable sense of purpose through education, Anita Goyal's legacy will be one that will make a difference to a myriad of lives.
THE FUTURE GENERATION With a long and successful stint in education behind her Anita feels that we have inherited a Victorian-age education system through which we are addressing futuristic problems. She says, “There is a clear mismatch between what our current education system offers and what our future needs,
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Avnish and Anita's visit with Shweta Chari, CEO, Toybank (centre) to a funded play centre in Mumbai alongside Simran S (left) and Simran G (right)
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ASIAN GIANT YOGE PATEL, CEO, BLUE BEAR SYSTEMS RESEARCH LTD
A woman in unmanned territory Founded 20 years ago, Blue Bear Systems Research is one of the oldest unmanned systems companies in the UK. A pioneer in its sector, it is at the cutting edge of unmanned systems and autonomy research and development, supporting both military and civil markets worldwide. A rarity in the aerospace sector, at the helm of the Blue Bear Group and its spin out companies is a female, engineer, entrepreneur and Kenyan-born Gujarati, Yoginee Patel.
A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION A respected figure in the aerospace industry, Yoge comes with over 25 yearsâ€™ experience in manned and unmanned systems in partnership with multidisciplinary, multi-national teams across industry and academia. Her expertise and background are much sought after at the highest levels and she sits on the UK Defence & Security Boards and is often asked to represent SMEs in the Defence sector at strategic levels. Prior to joining Blue Bear in 2007 she was with QinetiQ, an organisation that is primarily in the defence, security and aerospace markets whose customers are
predominantly government organisations, including defence departments in the UK and overseas. Here she led pan-site programmes on UAS Design and Development and fast jet Flight Clearance and Air Worthiness, Stores Integration and Simulation.
BIRTH OF BLUE BEAR Based in Bedford, Bedfordshire, Blue Bear was started by Dr Phil Smith one of Yoge's former colleagues with whom she had worked in the government labs for ten years. Phil was a visionary who needed help bringing a high value proposition to life. Yoge was invited to
head up Blue Bear to deliver this new business model. With a degree in electronics, a PhD in aerospace, a postdoctorate in aerospace and by now an industry expert in her own right, she took up the offer. Recalls Yoge, â€œI stepped in to make the Blue Bear vision a reality. I joined Blue Bear when it consisted of 5 people and had two projects. It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to be where we are today but being a Gujarati I inherited the industriousness and persistence of my parents and so got on with the job. I spent two years inviting potential clients and partners to come and see what we
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ASIAN GIANT YOGE PATEL, CEO, BLUE BEAR SYSTEMS RESEARCH LTD
“WOMEN'S APPROACH TO BUSINESS IS DIFFERENT AND THEY BRING A UNIQUE DIMENSION TO THE BOARDROOM.”
were about and what our plans were. I also wrote umpteen proposals and engaged with as many people as possible. I was writing between 30 and 50 proposals a year.”
TRADITIONAL VALUES Says Yoge, “My roots are steeped in Asian tradition and family values. So, I run this company, a very feisty one, almost like an extended family anchored in the values that I was taught as a child. My Grandfather had a very similar template; he managed a very large extended family in harmony, as did my own parents. I learnt a huge amount by just absorbing family dynamics; this learning is applied to running Blue Bear. Most importantly, everybody in Blue Bear has an equal status and the right to speak and be heard.”
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PASSION FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY “I was always passionate about Maths. I was deeply interested in it and I was also fond of Physics. I remember being told by my sixth form tutor not to study maths because the only career available to me was accountancy. But I studied for an engineering degree and thoroughly enjoyed it. Being a quintessential Asian I worked very hard. In my early years I was very shy and wouldn’t say boo to a pencil. I quickly learnt to push myself beyond my comfort zone and conquer my fears as I moved into industry,” recalls Yoge.
ROLE OF FAMILY Yoge credits a large part of her success to her family, especially her parents, siblings and children who have supported her unerringly throughout her entire career. “In the formative years my uncles were invaluable sources of advice. I especially recall my uncle Rameshmama advising me not to stop at my first degree and go beyond a degree and do a Masters or a PhD. It was he who
advised me to study aerospace at Cranfield. “I wouldn’t have done my PhD if not for my uncle's persistent encouragement. My parents were incredibly supportive of all the children’s education. It was the main reason they moved from Kenya to the UK and so they worked hard to make all our dreams come true. They remain modest, unassuming and incredibly engaged with all the family. “Growing up, we had very little material comforts and had to make do with the basics. But humble beginnings very often prompt a desire and aspiration in people to do better. When you combine that with a set of good values you can achieve anything. That is how I ended up doing an engineering degree and a doctorate. The rest of my story was a case of following my nose and making best use of the opportunities that came my way. “The UK is truly a land of equal opportunities.”
THE NEW GENERATION According to Yoge we live in a
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ASIAN GIANT YOGE PATEL, CEO, BLUE BEAR SYSTEMS RESEARCH LTD different world to the one we knew as children and Asian parents must acknowledge and embrace it. She says, “Asian parents need to be more communicative. The older generation told children what they should do and often the children did what they were told to do. “Today's children will ask for justification and parents need to provide that. They need to be cajoled and negotiated with because that is the modern world that they live in. In schools they are taught to be independent and have freedom of choice, which is a good thing. So, parents need to adapt.”
WOMEN IN THE BOARDROOM Says Yoge, “I think it is very important to have women in the boardroom because they transform the way business is done. Women's approach to business is different and they bring a unique dimension to the boardroom. Without making a generalisation, I feel that the soft elements of McKinsey's 7-S model are better embraced by women leaders. They may not take battles head on, but they will look at other levers and change the way business is done. “I am very selective when it comes to picking my battles. I look at problems differently. I look at the final outcome and how I can get there. “Forming relationships are important because quite often people buy off people. If you can develop good relationships you can achieve much. That is a soft skill which comes relatively easily to women. “I come across a lot of Asian women in the business arena who have done incredibly well, very often through sheer will power. That tells me that the world is changing. But there still exists a very traditional approach in Asian homes where women are expected to be super mums – managing a business or a career and the home. I think the greater challenge in Asian families is how men embrace change and I am not sure if all men are ready to do that.”
that doesn’t need to be disturbed. If anything, we should ask ourselves how we could prepare our next generation to do things better than we did by re-tuning the core success formula which is deep rooted in our culture, the way we are and the standards that we set ourselves as individuals.”
BRITISH ASIAN SUCCESS
MAKING THE INDIA CONNECTION
4% of business owners in the UK are Asian and 7% of the GDP comes from that 4%. Says Yoge, “Our community has come a long way and we are vital to the prosperity of the UK. It is important that we keep doing whatever we are doing. There is a success formula at the core
Yoge is passionate about India and according to her it is important for the
British Indian community to explore India from a point of view of day to day living and the way business is developing is there. She says, “India is a truly amazing place. I believe that UK India trade relations could be improved, and I am confident that the UK will welcome that.” In an industry hitherto manned by males, Yoge Patel stands tall and her accomplishments are living proof that for women who dare the sky indeed is the limit.
“MY ROOTS ARE STEEPED IN ASIAN TRADITION AND FAMILY VALUES. SO, I RUN THIS COMPANY, A VERY FEISTY ONE, ALMOST LIKE AN EXTENDED FAMILY ANCHORED IN THE VALUES THAT I WAS TAUGHT AS A CHILD.”
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ASIAN GIANT BINDAR DOSANJH â€“ PROPERTY GURU
Sma r ensu r i
SHE NOW INSPIRES AND EMPOWERS THOUSANDS, MAINLY WOMEN, TO INVEST IN PROPERTY. USING HER TRIED AND TESTED STRATEGIES SHE HELPS THEM HAVE BETTER CHOICES, MORE FREEDOM AND TIME WITH HER MESSAGE: IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU
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ASIAN GIANT BINDAR DOSANJH – PROPERTY GURU
a rt Core Wealth – u ring financial independence Bindar Dosanjh is an award-winning property developer, property mentor and author of the Amazon best seller and award winning book “Power Property Investing for Women”. Despite being a successful lawyer, challenging personal circumstances steered the course of her life on a journey into property investing. She turned the part-time hobby into a fulltime passion. There has been no going back since then. She now inspires and empowers thousands, mainly women, to invest in property. Using her tried and tested strategies she helps them have better choices, more freedom and time with her message: If I can do it, so can you
THE ACCIDENTAL INVESTOR Whilst at school, her plan was to become a medical doctor, but she had a fundamental problem: “I couldn’t stand the sight of blood. I once saw my dad’s nose bleed and I fainted,” says Bindar. That put paid to her dream of a career in medicine. Engaged at the age of eighteen, and married at 20, her marriage didn't last long. With a young baby to support, when mortgage interest rates were 15%, she became an accidental landlady by renting out rooms in her own home. Seeking to create a better life for herself and her daughter, she trained part-time as a lawyer for around seven years. Her property journey began in the late 1990s when she needed to move closer to work
and to her daughter’s school. Now a lawyer, with more money but less time, Bindar transitioned into being an amateur landlady. Unfortunately Bindar gave her financial power away when she took on the services of an investment property company, who delivered armchair investments. They sourced “off plan properties” to their investors. It later transpired that these deals stacked up in someone’s favour but sadly not hers or other investors, and almost made her bankrupt. She finally become an award winning property investor when she got herself financially educated together with the support of a property mentor. With over 20 years of experience in property investing, she went on to launch
Smart Core Wealth which hosts training sessions and events on property investment for beginners, mainly women, to take control of their financial future and become financially free. Smart Core Wealth is a family run business which utilises successful property investing mentors to guide and support clients to have financial control of their future. Her property portfolio worth several million pounds belies the countless mistakes that she made along the way, and the personal tragedies that she turned into triumph. According to Bindar, her journey took her from being an 'Accidental Investor' to 'Amateur Investor', to now being a multi award-winning Property Investor. Just as her own mentors guided her, she provides the
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ASIAN GIANT BINDAR DOSANJH – PROPERTY GURU same support to her students from the start to finish. She is also a much soughtafter speaker at international forums where she shares her expertise on property, wealth and emotional intelligence, demonstrating how to create a portfolio of high yielding properties in a short time. Says Bindar, “People think buying a property is hard work, but it needn't be. However, you need to be financially educated to use only proven strategies, which I share with young and old, to make property investing lucrative.”
HUMBLE BACKGROUND Bindar’s parents arrived in the UK as migrants from the Indian Punjab in the 1950s. Hailing from a family of farmers, entrepreneurship was alien to them. As many hard-working migrants did in those days, upon arrival they found work in a factory in West Bromwich. Reminisces Bindar, “It was a brave decision on their part to migrate to the UK and they worked extremely hard to give their children a better life. Every night dad would count the pennies he earned and give them to mum to manage the household. If not for them, we wouldn’t have the life that we now have. “Dad was very helpful to those around him and was highly respected for his integrity. Over time he saved up enough money to buy properties which he bought in cash. Unfortunately he sold the properties just before the 1990s property boom so he didn’t make money.”
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FIRST STEPS ON THE PROPERTY LADDER Soon after her separation, the first property that Bindar purchased from her savings as a lawyer was a run-down house. She says, “I used to renovate it in the evenings after work on my own or with a few friends. The property had no central heating, the garden was a jungle, the roof leaked and required timber treatment. The only finished room was my daughter’s. I actually slept on a mattress for about three years. I bought it for £125,000 and now it’s worth £650,000. I still own it as a rental property as it achieves a great cashflow and capital appreciation.”
ADVICE ABOUT BUYING PROPERTY According to Bindar aspiring property investors must ask themselves a few basic questions such as: How handson do they want to be? Do they want to be full-time investors or is it a hobby? How much spare time do they have to commit to it? How much money do they have to invest? How can they raise money and where from? Where is the property located? She continues, “A property investor needs to have a good team of mortgage brokers, lawyers, surveyors and accountants and so forth. I strongly advocate investing in an experienced mentor, just as a successful athlete has a coach.”
“PEOPLE THINK BUYING A PROPERTY IS HARD WORK, BUT IT NEEDN'T BE”
For Bindar, school was a difficult place. She recalls, “I had to work extremely hard to fit in, as my middle sister and I were the only Indian girls in the Catholic School. We were bullied and called racist names. One of the teachers even said I would amount to nothing as I didn’t get good grades. That drove me to work extremely hard, and I got five GCSEs.” Growing up, the women in Bindar’s family couldn’t dream of going to university. They were trained to stay at home and become housewives. Recalls Bindar, “From the age of ten the moment we got home from school we had to change into traditional Indian clothing and help with household chores. “When my parents went to work, as the oldest child, I had to look after my
brothers and sisters; this caused me to mature into adulthood quickly. We were not allowed to socialise with friends, and the only socialising was visiting our extended family. During weekends my parents would hire a video cassette player to watch movies. Neither of my parents could drive, so we walked or used public transport to get around. Having said that, I did and still have a loving family to support me.”
EMPOWERING WOMEN According to Bindar although women have made significant strides in various fields they have a long way to go. Which is why she believes that women must support each other in order to succeed. Bindar is a founding Director of the
Female Property Alliance (FPA) which seeks to inspire women to become property investors. In 2018, the FPA was awarded the ‘Best Networker’ award by the prestigious Best Business Women Awards. Her book ‘Power Property Investing for Women’ (https://amzn.to/2NW58XS) won the Business Book Award 2019, in the category of Exceptional Book written by a woman. Says Bindar, “My mission is to inspire and empower women so they can control their financial destiny. Our FPA networking events are for women who are thinking of investing in property or existing investors who have a desire to inspire and empower each other. We actively encourage celebrating each other’s successes, be it a new job, a wedding, or birth of a baby. It doesn’t need to be a property investing success. Every three months we open the doors to mixed groups when everyone is welcome.” Bindar lives by what she calls the ‘GAP’ principal. She explains, “The ‘G’ is for gratitude for what you have, and for those around you. The ‘A’ is for taking necessary action. The ‘P’ is for perseverance. I believe that no-one should ever give up until they’ve achieved their goals.” During her spare time Bindar enjoys visiting her family, doing pro-bona legal work, going to the cinema and dining out. She is currently working on her second book titled: How to lose your partner without losing your mind and money. The book aims to help people deal effectively with financial and emotional traumas of a divorce or separation.
O2h Ventures.qxp_Layout 1 03/09/2019 17:10 Page 1
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Bini Ludlow.qxp_Layout 1 13/09/2019 14:45 Page 18
ASIAN GIANT BINI LUDLOW, FOUNDER, SWEET CUMIN
“I STARTED COOKING WHEN I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. MUM USED TO SAY THAT MY FUTURE MOTHER-IN - LAW WOULD GIVE ME A HARD TIME IF I COULDN’T. I REPLIED THAT I MIGHT NOT GET MARRIED. MUM LOOKED MORTIFIED AT THE PROSPECT OF THIS.”
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
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ASIAN GIANT BINI LUDLOW, FOUNDER, SWEET CUMIN
Sweet Cumin the spice route to success Cooking is Bini Ludlow's passion. It has taken her places, won her a raft of awards as well as high praise from culinary pundits like Lloyd Grossman and Tom Parker Bowles.
STARTING YOUNG The journey began at the tender age of seven under the tutelage of her mother and aunties who taught her traditional Gujarati cooking in the confines of the household kitchen. Madhur Jeffrey was a must-watch on week-end television. Along the way she discovered her 'ultimate curry' in the sunny paradise of Goa. It was to be crab curry with rice and salad. She has worked in secondary schools, teaching young people how to cook creatively. Now a culinary virtuoso and in high demand she shares her repertoire of Indian cookery on national TV, radio and press. But the road to fame began with a meagre £200 in her kitty.
THE INDIAN INSPIRATION Bini's first passions were art, fashion and textile which she taught in secondary education for fifteen years. Having achieved her goals and ambitions in education she embarked on a threemonth travel in India which would give her the opportunity to investigate her family history, her heritage, as well sample some traditional Indian cookery. She made that journey with her father and future husband Richard, with whom she planned their wedding which was to take place in the UK. The Indian adventure ended in
Goa and she flew back to the UK to start a new life. Says Bini, “Coming back was a culture shock. I was going to get married but after leaving a successful teaching career I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I married Richard and we wanted to start a family. After several miscarriages and three rounds of IVF we were left with £200.”
THE GENESIS OF SWEET CUMIN Recalls Bini, “A friend came to visit me and over a cup of tea suggested the idea of setting up a cookery school. She said people love cooking Indian food and loved my curries. I was also a qualified teacher so why don’t I use my skills and start a business in cookery? That is how my cookery school, Sweet Cumin, began with a meagre budget of £200.” She continues, “I started a Sweet Cumin Twitter account and followed a link to ITV and entered a competition called Food Glorious Food. The competition allowed one home cooked dish on the shelves of M&S. I entered lamb and tiger prawn curry dishes which were well received by Lloyd Grossman who I represented for the south west region. It was a pivotal point in my career because after three months of setting up the cookery school I stared to receive several offers of work. M&S loved my curry, but a
Cornish pasty made by a 90-year-old went through to the next round.”
EYE ON QUALITY Each hands-on and tailor-made Sweet Cumin cookery class consists of up to four people and can be arranged for daytime and Saturday mornings. Bini supplies all the ingredients and equipment and gives away a free recipe pack at the end of the class. All her ingredients are of the highest quality and sourced from local farms and shops. Participants come from all over the world including America, South America and Japan to name a few.
BINI FINE FOODS LTD. Bini Fine Foods specialises in producing ready to heat high-end traditional Indian home cooked curries. They are supplied to over 55 high-end outlets including wholesale, independent delis, farm shops, garden centres and dining establishments. The dishes are prepared in her kitchen using fresh locally sourced ingredients and are suitable for children and adults. They come ready frozen and are prepared in small batches to retain their flavour. Recipes are influenced by the Gujarat region of India and inspired by family recipes and skills passed on to Bini by her mother and aunties.
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ASIAN GIANT BINI LUDLOW, FOUNDER, SWEET CUMIN EARLY LIFE Bini was born and raised in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Like many British Asians, Bini's parents arrived from Kenya Mombasa in 1967 with her older sister aged two. Her father was a trained mechanic and mother worked at several mills in Bradford including Salts Mill, a former textile mill, now an art gallery, shopping centre and restaurant complex in Saltaire, Bradford. Recalls Bini, “My dad was very strict and protective and mum a caring workaholic. I loved going to school and enjoyed learning, being creative and competitive. Sport was my nemesis but after I left school I found the love for running, off-road cycling and circuit training. “I walked to school with a heavy bag of books. It was quite a distance, but I saved the money for my bus fare and lunch so that I could use it for my education when I went to art college.” At the age of sixteen her mother asked her to get a job and provide for herself. She found a Saturday job at Etam, a clothing shop in Bradford city centre.
Bini’s Mum, Dad and husband Richard (left)
and all the challenges it brings. I would encourage any woman who has a passion to pursue her dreams. I now see more and more women beginning to believe that they can manage a household and live their dreams. “Being a woman entrepreneur can have its own peculiarities. When I started my business, whenever my husband and I attended events or visited suppliers,
“THE JOURNEY BEGAN AT THE TENDER AGE OF SEVEN UNDER THE TUTELAGE OF HER MOTHER AND AUNTIES WHO TAUGHT HER TRADITIONAL GUJARATI COOKING IN THE CONFINES OF THE HOUSEHOLD KITCHEN.” Says Bini, “I’d cook lunch for everyone at home before I left for work. I went on to work for other clothing retailers whilst I studied at university to pay for my dissertation and textile resources. “I started cooking when I was seven years old. Mum used to say that my future mother-in -law would give me a hard time if I couldn’t. I replied that I might not get married. Mum looked mortified at the prospect of this. Looking back, I was a rebellious teenager and a tomboy who was anti-sari wearing.” Bini recalls the time when she was asked to cook for her teachers at middle school where she also managed a group of class mates. “I cooked it like I did at home because they never specified the heat level. After eating the teachers couldn’t speak for a while as they found it too hot. I suspect my mates were keen to see the teachers sweat through their meal.”
WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP Says Bini, “I love being self-employed
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
people would assume that my husband was the business owner and ignore me. It made me laugh when my husband directed them to me. I usually offer a firm handshake and take control of the situation. I am only 4ft 11 inch but I’m not invisible.” Her advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs is to set a goal and go for it. She adds, “I do that all the time and it has kept me going.” Bini feels strongly about the existing gender pay gap and says, “I don’t understand why there is such a discrepancy. Women work just as hard as men and do the same jobs. I think everybody deserves recognition whatever gender they are.”
AWARDS AND MEDIA APPEARANCES Bini has won many accolades including Western Daily Press Food and Farming Awards, Best Food Producer 2018, 12 Great Taste Awards, Champion Product for Taste of the West for her Classic Chicken Curry, Best Local Food
To Go in the South West and Delicious Magazine Finalist for the Produce Awards. Her food has also found a place at the royal table at Buckingham Palace at the request of HRH Prince Andrew. More recently Bini cooked for the ICC World Cup Cricket 2019 teams and VIPs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia New Zealand and West Indies when they played in Somerset County Cricket grounds in Taunton. Her classes and frozen ready meal range have made numerous high-profile TV and Radio appearances (BBC, ITV and C4) as well as featuring in local and national press (The Guardian, Delicious Magazine, Olive Magazine and Crumbs Magazine). Bini’s longstanding collaboration with Thatcher’s Cider (pairing curries with ciders) has been rolled out across the UK, Australia and the US. Bini is also a member of the National Women in Enterprise Taskforce for the Federation Of Small Businesses where she holds events to champion and support women and men in the South West of England.
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ASIAN GIANT KETNA HIRJI, FOUNDER, CIRKKEL
Cirkkel Studio: shaping consumer behaviour through design Ketna Hirji is a woman who means business. She is exploring and disrupting the world of manufacturing and product development whilst finding innovative solutions to address some of the world’s most pressing issues through her start-up, Cirkkel.
BORN CREATIVE Born and raised in one of London’s most vibrant and quirky districts, Camden Town, Ketna has found a way to revolutionise plastic waste by giving it a second life through luxury products. Her journey into product management and development began when she was headhunted by Google London. She requested a move to its office in New Delhi for two years since she knew that India would be the biggest economy in years to come. She returned to London where she started consulting for start-ups and tech companies. She then decided to go back to India, describing it as a two-year sabbatical in Rajasthan and Gujarat. There she taught children designing and innovation skills as well as meeting with many artisans
involved in craft centres across the two cities. It was during this trip that she came across a craft centre called ‘Khamir’ where a group of women used waste provided by schools and various companies to weave into durable textile sheets. “Before I came back to London, I purchased some products and I realized that the material was very durable. So, we began developing and sharing ideas with the artisans over WhatsApp and soon started receiving samples,” says Ketna.
CIRKKEL Cirkkel is a design studio that collaborates with local artisans across the world to reimagine consumer behaviour. Cirkkel means circle in Swedish. It essentially lends itself
towards the circular economy, cyclical consumption and the journey of plastic waste from shop shelf, to bin, to craft centre, and eventually to new products in the wardrobe. The Unreel Collection, Ketna’s first collection, consists of laptop sleeves, envelopes, and clutch bags, made from plastic bags, wrappers, vinyl, and VHS film tapes. The products are made by marginalised communities from women to prisoners. She feels strongly that brands needn’t change their business models or tick boxes to please CSR initiatives just to look attractive and remain artificially relevant. Says Ketna, “Instead do something easy; send us your waste.” She is now looking for FMCG partnerships with the likes of Pepsico who can help her collect waste in a more incentivised way from the consumer.
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ASIAN GIANT KETNA HIRJI, FOUNDER, CIRKKEL
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE THE FUTURE. HOW CAN WE DESIGN A FUTURE WITHOUT THEM AND THEIR INPUTS? 22
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ASIAN GIANT KETNA HIRJI, FOUNDER, CIRKKEL MANAGING BARRIERS Ketna is clear and determined about what she wants to achieve and believes excuses are a form of boredom and laziness. While she is aware of the issues facing women in the workplace, she does not see them as barriers. She explains, “If you see something as a problem it will inevitably become an actual problem. What we have control over is the processing and interpretation of what we experience and see. Therefore we should work towards improving our mental processing power and ﬁghting inner negative passivity.” She continues, “Our energy is the most valuable currency. We often trade it for rapid success and quick fame. A dear friend and investor once told me that I would win since I was willing to pay the price. She advised me not to lose my humanness, joie de vivre, generosity and innocence. Sadly, they are the coins and currency we offer ﬁrst in the trade up to success since they seem less valuable when we are young. In fact, those are the most valuable treasures and once traded, the world cannot give them back to you even if it wanted to.”
A SIMPLE LIFESTYLE Having spent 5 years in Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan she is an ambassador for simplicity. She says, “There is so much to take away from village life. The slow pace and joy rules out anxiety and artiﬁcial urgency that we create for ourselves. People living in rural India devote a lot of time to themselves and their interests. Something we don’t do enough of in cities. The pride they carry for everything they do and their selfconﬁdence has taught me to take a similar approach to my own well-being.” On the issue of ‘burnout’, Ketna says, “If you’re burning out you are doing the wrong thing. I’ve worked in start-ups since the last 6 to 7 years where there’s much hype around looking busy, burning-out and other new-age jargons.”
STAYING GROUNDED At the age of 34 Ketna has much to be proud of: launching her brand at Selfridges, tackling plastic waste, empowering women around her, and teaching design and innovation workshops to 7 year olds. What is most striking about Ketna is that she remains level-headed and humble about her success. She says, “My mum is never one
to be over the moon when we achieve success because she wants us to do more.” Both her parents have taught her to lead a balanced life.
GIVING BACK Ketna has worked with the Mayor of London to create a programme that supports tech startups in London. She has advised a number of companies, connecting them to investors, mentors and industry specialists. Ketna believes that it’s important to provide young people with real life experiences. She will be looking for a teen member for her board when the time is right. Says Ketna, “Young people are the future. How can we design a future without them and their inputs? I have met some of the most articulate and innovative youth and would like to give them something to be proud of. “We have a team of young people at Cirkkel who developed all their skills while doing things,” adds Ketna. As well as managing Cirkkel, Ketna is the Chief Innovative Ofﬁcer at Eros International Plc, a leading global company in the Indian ﬁlm entertainment industry who are looking for new ways to engage with their consumers as well as explore new technologies. As Chief Innovative Ofﬁcer she is currently shaping the experience of the future lab, which will collaborate with academia, inﬂuencers, industries, technologies and emerging talent across India to begin with, and then, to set up immersive labs in London and Los Angeles. She is currently spearheading a startup challenge (www.exrlab.com) that is promoted by Invest India and Start up India, looking out for the most disruptive technologies in Augmented Reality, Artiﬁcial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, cloud and every acronym in tech one can think of.
FUTURE PLANS According to Ketna, Cirkkel is just getting started. She says, “We like to sell moments rather than products. We are
launching several new products this year. One of them is the world’s ﬁrst wearable travel blanket: a project, which I have been working on for the last four years. “It's designed to reduce waste in the travel industry as well as help people fall in love with travel again.” The product is due to be launched in q3 2019. On her work in the mobility sector Ketna says, “In literal terms, in Kutch (Gujarat, India) where our production centre is, there is no sophisticated form of transport that is safe. After having suffered a car accident returning from Kutch to Ahmedabad in 2016 I realised that there was desperate need for a pod type transport system that was safe, reliable and futuristic. “There are many accidents in this particular area of Kutch, Gujarat. So, my design team and I are currently working on a futuristic solution that will beneﬁt communities and the environment, with the intention to get a leading automotive company to collaborate with us.”
BEING ONE'S TRUE SELF She says, “Learn to be you. It takes some people a lifetime to be themselves and completely free of societal moulds and demands.” Referring to the ‘cirkkel of life’ Ketna says, “What we see is what we process, what we process is what we consume, what we consume is what we will look like. I’ll let you mull over that thought.”
WHAT WE SEE IS WHAT WE PROCESS, WHAT WE PROCESS IS WHAT WE CONSUME, WHAT WE CONSUME IS WHAT WE WILL LOOK LIKE.
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ASIAN GIANT PAVAN DHANJAL, ENTREPRENEUR & ACCLAIMED HENNA SPECIALIST
Pavan Dhanjal is a recipient of the British Empire Medal for Services to Beauty, and Pavan’s, ‘The Henna Bar’ is a global brand with outlets across London and the UK, as well as Dubai, New York, Milan and Paris. She has ambitious plans to widen her network of outlets in the months to come.
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ASIAN GIANT PAVAN DHANJAL, ENTREPRENEUR & ACCLAIMED HENNA SPECIALIST
Making a fashion statement through henna MAKING A FASHION STATEMENT THROUGH HENNA Henna, a sophisticated form of body art from the Indian sub-continent is said to date back to the Vedic times. Pavan has taken this ancient art to the international stage and made it a fashion statement. She has even written a book about it: Part-Time Ink, a guide to creating modern henna designs at home. She has worked with big names such as Rudimental, Ellie Goulding, Perrie Edwards and Alesha Dixon, and created bespoke designs for the runway shows of Antonio Berardi and Manish Arora. Her mission statement: “My aim is to make available our unique and beautiful henna to all, no matter where they are in the world. I hope to see henna treatments become a mainstay of the wider beauty bookings arena. Blow dry? Manicure? Henna? Sure!” And she sure has.
AN INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS It was Pavan’s parents who instilled in her an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to succeed. Encouraged by them, she put her skills to the test at the tender age of ﬁfteen when she ﬁrst created decorative henna designs at a family wedding. There has been no turning back since then. She was instantly hooked to the mesmerising hues, the intricate designs and the dazzle of the henna. That, coupled with her entrepreneurial genius, has made brand-Pavan an international success. In 2012 she completed 512 unique henna armbands in an hour – a Guinness World Record breaker! The world was
now Pavan’s oyster. Pavan was invited to open a pop-up henna bar in Topshop’s ﬂagship Oxford Circus Store. It was an instant success.
MAKING OF A BUSINESSWOMEN Pavan Dhanjal was born in East London. Her family moved from India to the UK in the 70s. Fashion and business run through the veins of Pavan’s family. “My mother started the ﬁrst beauty salon in Green Street, East London. My father had his own double-glazing company. So, I always thought that the right thing to do was to start my own business,” says Pavan. “Even when I was in school I always had a Saturday or Sunday job because I always wanted to earn an income. I always loved to learn new things. I loved the world of business and commerce and was always curious to learn how they operated,” she adds. Pavan is one of 5 children. Her three older sisters witnessed the hard work their parents put in to set them up, whereas Pavan her and her brother had a comfortable upbringing. “Despite their initial struggles in business, my parents made sure that we had violin lessons, and took part in extra-curricular activities such as karate, and musical orchestras,” says Pavan. At University, Pavan started to do Henna and photoshoots in various magazines. It was then that she
participated in a Henna competition and broke the Guinness World Record which was to become a good selling point for her business pitch. Then followed media coverage on TV and introduction to celebrities.
GOING MAINSTREAM However, it wasn’t smooth sailing in the early years of her business. She says, “I realised that western celebrities loved Henna but did not know where to get it done. I went to Selfridges to open an outlet, but they declined my offer. Top Shop said ‘yes’. All I had back then was a trolley with a few mehndi cones and a few glitter cones, but it was a hit! I went back to Selfridges and they said that they would give it a trial. It was a huge success!” She later opened outlets in Harvey Nicolls, Barneys New York and in a departmental store in Milan. “I have received excellent support from these luxury stores and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she adds. She currently employs 27 pro-artists and other support staff. Says Pavan, “I want to make henna accessible to everybody, of every cultural background, and make henna an intrinsic part of the beauty regime. As a British Indian woman, through Henna, I want to spread the beauty of our art and culture. I want to be the go-to brand for the world. When people think of Henna
“SOMETIMES THE OLDER GENERATION ASIANS ARE SURPRISED AT OUR SEEMINGLY EASY-GOING LIFESTYLE. BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED, AND OUR GENERATION DOES THINGS DIFFERENTLY.”
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ASIAN GIANT PAVAN DHANJAL, ENTREPRENEUR & ACCLAIMED HENNA SPECIALIST they should think of Pavan Henna.” Her products are vegan friendly, non-toxic and allergy free.
LIFE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR Says Pavan, “Contrary to what some people may believe, being an entrepreneur is hard work. Very often, you don’t dictate when and how you work. Rather your work dictates your schedule. I sometimes get a business call in the middle of the night and I must get the job done at that very moment. I am constantly thinking of what product to launch next, the next department store to open our outlet in, our next PR meeting, and what our achievements and goals are. “If you want to be an entrepreneur make sure you really want to because it will demand a lot from you. In the initial years into my business while I was slogging away, my friends were going away on lavish holidays. Now that I have done well in business I can go on the holiday of my choice, So, of course, there is a bright side to being an entrepreneur.” Pavan believes that not everyone is cut out for the world of business. “Some people prefer a 9-5 salaried job, which is fine. To each her own.”
LIBERAL BACKGROUND Unlike some British Asian families where girl children are restricted by tradition and convention, Pavan’s parents were liberal. For that, she gives much credit to her parents. Says Pavan, “I have immense respect for my father and mother who are like friends to me. I can have a glass of wine or go out with them for a meal. We had complete freedom at home to make our own decisions. Whether to marry the person of my choice, setting up my own business, wear what I wanted to, or go on holidays when and where I wanted, the choice was always mine. “Unfortunately, that is not the case in many Asian homes. I see the restrictions my Asian women staff face at home and it saddens me. Very often, once they get married they are no longer able to work or partake in social activities. That has to change soon.”
“IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR MAKE SURE YOU REALLY WANT TO BECAUSE IT WILL are doing. If you are not, DEMAND A LOT FROM you will not get the results YOU.” that you want. Don’t do it
CORE VALUES IN LIFE “You got to be happy doing what you
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
just for the sake of money. Money does not drive me. Rather, it gives me the freedom to do what I want,” says Pavan. “I would advise aspiring women entrepreneurs to focus on what they want to become. If you want to become a mother and stay at home that is fine, but make sure that is what you want to be and not what you are forced into doing. If you are working and you are married don’t stop pursuing a career just because you are married,” she adds.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK “More often than not my schedule is hectic, but I love the buzz of launching a new product or a new outlet. When my
Bringing henna to life
diary is relatively free I spend time with my family. I am very fortunate to have a balanced life and a wonderful set of employees. “I love to train in the gym, go for long walks with my husband, love to travel, visit new places, and go to concerts. Sometimes the older generation Asians are surprised at our seemingly easygoing lifestyle. But things have changed, and our generation does things differently. “Being an entrepreneur can be hard work. My outlets open at 9 am and close at 9 pm, seven days a week. The only days we close are Christmas day and Easter Sunday,” says Pavan. As the adage goes, success comes at a price. So did Pavan’s, The Henna Bar. No one knows that better than Pavan Dhanjal.
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INSPIRING TO ASPIRE
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ASIAN GIANT DR VANITA RATTAN, FOUNDER, THE HYPERPIGMENTATION CLINIC
Innovation in skincare MAKING OF A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS After qualifying from University College London Medical School in 2008, Vanita spent the next three years researching clinical trials for hyperpigmentation treatments in her parents’ laboratory at PharmaClinix, an award-winning global skincare brand founded by her mother Shashi Gossain. “I created the first ever Professional hyperpigmentation treatment for Asian and African skin. All pigmentation treatments in the world were created for Caucasian skin types because they were designed in the West. Common treatments tend to burn Asian and African skin leading to more pigmentation,” explains Vanita. She treats skin pigmentation on the face and body that may occur due to several reasons including acne, burns, mosquito bites, melasma, and scratches. Thanks to her groundbreaking treatment, people with coloured skin can now have a professional grade hyperpigmentation treatment specifically designed for them. Using an advanced Mandellic-based peel, packed with skin brightening ingredients, it is a safe and effective treatment. “I wanted to go niche and be the only one in the world. Our formulation reduces
hyperpigmentation by an average eighty percent after just three treatments,” says Vanita. Now catering to a global clientele her first clinic started in Harley Street. Due to growing demand for her expertise she moved to London’s Mayfair from where she treats clients from as far as the US, Nigeria, India and Malaysia.
THE BUSINESS MODEL Vanita has over 100,000 followers from all over the world on Instagram (@thehyperpigmentationclinic) where she lectures on hyperpigmentation. Thousands of followers are medical doctors who also treat hyperpigmentation. The expertise that she shares on social media is free of charge in order to improve pigmentation practices globally. Says Vanita, “My years of lecturing at Ace Medicine is helping me now with lecturing and doing presentations on Instagram. Earlier, I was lecturing on medicine and now I am lecturing on hyperpigmentation. All the lessons that I learnt over the years and the mistakes that I made I can now pass on in a very effective way. My biggest following is in India, UK and the US. The followers who I
I WANTED TO GO NICHE AND BE THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD. OUR FORMULATION REDUCES HYPERPIGMENTATION BY AN AVERAGE EIGHTY PERCENT AFTER JUST THREE TREATMENTS.
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
interact with on Instagram are my potential clients, some of who subsequently visit my clinic in Mayfair for treatment.”
MEDICAL CAREER As in many Asian families Vanita’s parents wanted her to become a doctor but her mind was set on running her own business. “My hero was Sir Richard Branson and I wanted to become a successful entrepreneur like him. So, I struck a deal with my parents. I said to them that if I did go to medical school they in turn would have to support me if I went into business,” says Vanita. Three years into medical school, and only twenty-one years of age, she created a medical education and publishing company called Ace Medicine where she taught over five thousand students in a span of five years. And yes, her parents kept their side of the bargain and gave her the seed capital to launch her flourishing venture. ‘I created revision courses, content and video and sold them on social media. I was selling to final year students. I invited top lecturers and doctors from UCL, King’s College London and Imperial College to put books and courses together, and created a library which had about fifty hours of video footage,” she says. In recognition for her work in medical publishing she was honoured with an
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A medical professional with degrees in Medicine (MBBS) and Physiology & Pharmacology (BSc), and a successful entrepreneur Dr Vanita Rattan runs internationally acclaimed ‘The Hyperpigmentation Clinic’ in London’s Mayfair, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.
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ASIAN GIANT DR VANITA RATTAN, FOUNDER, THE HYPERPIGMENTATION CLINIC award by the British Medical Association, making her the youngest person to win such an accolade.
INITIAL YEARS Talking about her early years of research into hyperpigmentation she says, “The first three years were hard because our lab tests were failing and there was no guarantee that I would succeed. I was married and we had a very limited income. I was pregnant with my first child and I still hadn’t cracked it. I was trying to treat the darkest pigmentation on the most sensitive skin without burning which was a very difficult thing to do.” After eventual success she opened her first clinic in Harley Street from where she worked for five years before moving to Mayfair. She says, “It has been a very difficult journey but a very rewarding one. The initial part of any business can be very difficult and slow. That is when you need perseverance and single-minded doggedness. If you can get past that point in your business, you will reap the rewards later.”
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR WOMEN TO SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH INSPIRATIONAL to a private school, had PEOPLE AND THOSE WITH THE SAME every kind of tuition and WORTH ETHIC AND VISION. YOU ARE took part in several extracurricular activities. I THE ACCUMULATION OF THE feel that now it is my duty PEOPLE AROUND YOU. to make them proud.”
PARTNERS ON THE JOURNEY Says Vanita, “My husband Sandeep has spurred me on my journey to where I am today. While researching my hyperpigmentation treatment, he was the first person I experimented on, and I burnt him a few times! My mum who is a qualified pharmacist and my dad, who is also a medical doctor, have been the people who I go to with my ideas. If I didn’t have that support network I would have never achieved what I did. “I am fortunate that I come from a privileged background. My parents have invested so much in my education. I went
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
LEARNING FROM FAILURE During her early years into hyperpigmentation Vanita tried her hand at running a restaurant. She recalls, “I started a restaurant in Westfields called Teriyaki Express. It sank after one year. My husband and I were still in our twenties and we lost a quarter million pounds which included loans and savings. This was the biggest disaster of my life and a huge lesson. “I believe that it is important for entrepreneurs to learn from mistakes. The lesson that I learnt from my restaurant experience was to only start a business that has a very high barrier to entry, and where there are only a handful of players. It has to be niche market where you can be the best in the world. Now I don’t go in and spend money like I did in my restaurant business. I test the idea on a small scale and will only scale up if I am confident that it will work.”
WOMEN IN BUSINESS Says Vanita, “Women entrepreneurship has now become
acceptable in the mainstream and I am glad that more and more doors are opening for women. Within the Asian community parents are becoming far more open minded and liberal. “Having said that, not everyone is cut out for business. If your passion is music, teaching, art or sport, just go for it with a passion. “I am very grateful that my family wanted me to succeed in business. My husband encouraged me to live my passion, and we are partners in everything that we do.”
WOMEN OF THIS GENERATION In closing she says, “I believe that women of my generation live in excellent times. With so many resources that are within easy reach and advancement in technology, we are truly blessed when compared to women of previous generations. If we set the right goals and are willing to work hard there is no reason why we cannot succeed. “It is important for women to surround themselves with inspirational people and those with the same worth ethic and vision. You are the accumulation of the people around you. “Most importantly, never stop actively educating yourself in this rapidly progressing world and work harder then you ever thought you could. The possibilities are endless.”
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ASIAN GIANT SANGEETA WALDRON - PASSIONATE ABOUT PR
Creating a global PR brand Sangeeta Waldron is an award-winning public relations professional who founded Serendipity PR and Media in 2009. Integrity, fun, and passion are at the core of Serendipity, and these qualities are very much part of her personality. In a career spanning over three decades she has worked with powerful global brands such as the Economist Group, Cabinet Office, WHO, UN, The Times, Mayor of London, Cass Business School and Breast Cancer UK.
SELF-MADE Serendipity PR and Media works across arts, culture, books and business in growth markets. A solopreneur for ten years Sangeeta has established a highly successful communications venture despite several challenges and trying personal circumstances. After completing a Masters in 21st century English Literature from the Punjab University in India she returned to the UK where she was confronted with various challenges including lack of work experience and the 1991 UK recession. Undeterred, she secured a job at the local job centre and sat the Civil Service entrance examination, from where she embarked on a successful career in the civil services. Her roles included writing speeches for ministers and a former prime minister. Five
years later she resigned from the Cabinet Office and joined a small, not-for-profit organization, which was doing pioneering work on climate change and sustainability in the developing world. She then went on
to work for leading organisations including the charity Victim Support, where she helped get the victim supportline featured on BBCâ€™s Crime Watch program.
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ASIAN GIANT SANGEETA WALDRON - PASSIONATE ABOUT PR
“DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE AND MEET PEOPLE. YOU MAY GET PLENTY OF REJECTIONS, BUT EVENTUALLY YOU WILL GET THERE.”
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ASIAN GIANT SANGEETA WALDRON - PASSIONATE ABOUT PR Says Sangeeta, “In my early professional career I used to be petrified at the start of a new job, so I learned to embrace my fears. I realised that to make quick progress I had to fast-track my career. I also enjoyed launching and growing new initiatives which is why I took up newly-created positions in various organsations.”
and we decided to stay on in India,” says Sangeeta. Although India is dear to her heart, she never fitted in and was bullied for her western accent. At the age of 21 after completing her Masters in English, she decided that it was time to return to the UK. Her time in India, she says, helped to shape her into the entrepreneur that she is today.
LIFE OF A SOLOPRENEUR
Choosing a name for her business wasn’t something Sangeeta had to think long and hard about. She says, “Throughout my life I have had several chance encounters with people and events that turned out to be delightfully meaningful. That is why I chose Serendipity which means fortunate accidents made by chance. On several occasions I have unexpectedly encountered people, who have made a huge impact on me. I have also had the pleasure of meeting new people who, to my astonishment, are connected to my circle of contacts in one way or another from people in the boardroom who have heard of my South African grandfather, to someone from another country who went to my college in India.”
Being a solopreneur Sangeeta has to find the right balance between work and play by creating boundaries and priorities. “I don’t attend every event that I am invited to, because it is important for me to make time for my family. If my son has an event at school, I plan my diary around it,” says Sangeeta. She believes that the advantages of being one's own boss are flexibility and adaptability. However, she is pragmatic and warns against the glamour which entrepreneurship is often wrongly associated with. “You are very much on your own, with no one to bounce ideas off and to talk to,” reflects Sangeeta. She is grateful for her husband and her 12year-old son who she says are her advisors. One of the challenges that Sangeeta has faced is being stereotyped. She says, “Very often I’ve been the only women of colour at events, where some people seem to have their own stereotypes about my ethnicity, which I go out of my way to dispel. I enjoy approaching people and intiating a conversation.”
STRENGTH IN MOTHERHOOD When Sangeeta started her media business in 2008 there was a global recession but this did not deter her. When her son was born in 2007, motherhood gave her a steely determination which she hadn't realized that she had in her until then. After her husband’s bank went under due to the global recession, Sangeeta realised she had to make a radical change. She says, “I said to myself that if I could set up my own media business and survive the global recession then I could survive anything.” The first year of business was a period of networking and making connections. At that time, she received invaluable advice from a successful entrepreneur, who told her that the first two years of a business was all about sowing the seeds, and the rewards would come later.
EMBRACING HER UNIQUENESS Hailing from a South African and Indian background Sangeeta was born and raised in the UK. When she was 14 her father decided to retire and move the family to India. “I had never been to India, and I ended up living there for nine years. When I was 16, my father passed away
Says Sangeeta, “When I started Serendipity PR and Media in 2009, I could see that social media was going to change not just my profession, but everything around me. In order to maximize the potential of my company, I learnt social media from the internationally acclaimed social media visionary, Thomas Power. Social media is constantly evolving and it is now very much a significant platform in my communications strategies.” Serendipity PR and Media is now in its tenth successful year. Sangeeta is currently adding the finishing touches to a book on public relations for the global market, aimed at small business, entrepreneurs and charities, which is due to be published later this year.
REFLECTING ON LIFE “As a child, I wanted to become a journalist and write my own fiction book. Over the last eight year’s I have been writing for news platforms on climate change and sustainable business news” says Sangeeta. “Looking back on my journey I would never have imagined where I am today,” she adds. Hailing from an entrepreneurial background, she learned the art of running a business from her mother. “My mother ran her own business and in those days, which was the 70’s, that was pretty much unheard of, particularly for an Asian woman. When we lived in India, my mum did a lot of work with a hospital which taught me the importance of giving back to others.” Sangeeta believes that it is important to be true to yourself, which she learned from her dad. “Who I am in the workplace is exactly who I am in my personal life, and my social media is a reflection of that too.”
“LIKE EVERYONE I HAVE LEARNT FROM EXPERIENCE, WHICH HAS MADE ME WISER. I NOW USE MY LIFE EXPERIENCES TO HELP OTHER WOMEN IN BUSINESS.”
GROWING WITH MISTAKES “Like everyone I have learnt from experience, which has made me wiser. I now use my life experiences to help other women in business. I believe no matter where we are in the world, women are not very good at recognising their worth, so we tend to undersell ourselves. The challenges facing women makes me more resolute to campaign for women's equality,” she adds.
THE COMPETITIVE WORLD OF PR The changing face of public relations and her love for change is what attracted Sangeeta to PR. In 2008 the use of social media in communications and public relations was still in its embryonic stage.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNG GENERATION Sangeeta has a simple piece of advice for the younger generation and that is to have self-belief and trust one's gut instincts. She says, “Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and meet people. You may get plenty of rejections, but eventually you will get there.” Her own career is an example of what one can achieve with persistence, determination, and self-belief.
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Winni n Known as the ‘go to Brow Guru’, Shavata Singh is the founder of the highly acclaimed The Shavata Brow Studio which oﬀers the very best in brow and lash treatments. It is available in nineteen locations in the UK and Ireland within selected Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and John Lewis stores, as well as De Gruchy, Jersey and Daniel Galvin, Marylebone.
THE BROW STUDIO HAS RECEIVED MANY HIGHPROFILE BEAUTY AWARDS AND HAS BEEN FEATURED IN TOP PUBLICATIONS. IT HAS ALSO BECOME A FAVOURITE TO SEVERAL CELEBRITIES. 34
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ASIAN GIANT SHAVATA SINGH, FOUNDER, THE SHAVATA BROW STUDIO
i ng high acclaim for brow and lash treatment AN AWARD WINNER The Shavata Brow Studio has received many high-proﬁle beauty awards and has been featured in top publications. It has also become a favourite to several celebrities. Past and present names include Adele, Victoria Beckham, Kelly Brook, Kate Hudson and Elle Macpherson, as well as Bollywood names such as Sophie Choudry and Huma Qureshi. Some of the prestigious industry accolades that have come Shavata’s way are: Harper’s Bazaar Hot 100 Best Brow Service, 2013; Irish Tatler Beauty Awards - Best Brow Brush, The Red Sable Brush, 2014-2015; Beauty Shortlist Awards - The Brow Strengthener, 2016; Attracta Beauty Awards – Favourite Eyebrow Brand, 2016.
MAKING OF THE BROW SPECIALIST With over 30 years’ experience in taming unruly brows Shavata is a recognised leader in the beauty industry. It was in 2004 that she plucked up the courage to launch The Brow Studio. Her career began as a beauty therapist at Michael John Hair Salon in Mayfair, where she developed a following for shaping eyebrows. Shavata would provide her clients with complimentary natural eyebrow shaping using pure cotton thread, also known as Threading. Threading is an ancient method of hair removal which originated in India and has gained huge popularity across the world.
One day a former British Vogue Editor came into the salon for her waxing and Shavata offered her a brow service. Very impressed with the service, the Vogue Editor published an article about her more youthful appearance – thanks to Shavata. This incident was to launch Shavata into the higher echelons of the fashion world. “I never imagined a career in the beauty industry. It all started when a friend recommended it to me,” says Shavata. After leaving school, she landed a job in salon Phoenix and then Harrods where she worked as an electrologist. However, it was her job at Michael John where her career as a beauty therapist began that she developed a following for shaping eyebrows. She was now working after her regular working hours. She says, “I would continue working after eight o’clock in the evening. I built up a huge clientele and became a senior therapist. What other therapists earned in a month I was earning in a week.”
EARLY STEPS INTO FASHION Says Shavata, “In 2001 I created the stencil for four eye brow shapes and named each stencil after a celebrity. My second product was a complete eyebrow kit which I launched in Marks & Spencer. The idea came to my mind after a buyer from Marks & Spencer came in to get her eyebrows done. I mentioned my idea to her and she loved it. A
year later we launched the ﬁrst ever brow kit - the Shavata Brow Kit - at Marks & Spencer.” Then followed several business opportunities with leading beauty retailers such as QVC UK and SpaceNK.
THE SHAVATA BROW STUDIO – STICKLER FOR QUALITY In 2004, Shavata was approached by Harrods who offered her a space within the luxury store to start the ﬁrst ever brow bar. It was during that time that she launched The Brow Studio which now has nineteen outlets across the UK. She owes her success to excellent customer service and highly skilled and trained staff. Says Shavata, “If you don’t train your staff well, they are just going to treat it like any other job rather than a career. I frequently send in mystery shoppers to my studios to check for tidiness, to see if staff made eye contact with them, or if they recommended any of our products.” Employees who score over 85% are then rewarded with a cheque in the post and celebrated via communications both internally and externally. At Shavata Brow Studio everything is geared towards customer satisfaction. It is about the experience as well as the treatment.
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ASIAN GIANT SHAVATA SINGH, FOUNDER, THE SHAVATA BROW STUDIO THE SHAVATA ACADEMY The Shavata Brow Studio will be opening its very own academy this year. Anyone wanting to master the Shavata brow shaping technique, can hone their skills here. A bespoke course lasting one to two days, the course is taught by qualiﬁed trainers at their Beauchamp Place Studio in Knightsbridge. This unique course will demonstrate how to perfect the art of threading, and trainees can look forward to becoming a fully trained, Shavata recognised brow expert, in just over 4 weeks.
“PEOPLE CAN ONLY SEE MY SUCCESS AND WHAT I’VE ACHIEVED. BUT, NOT MANY ARE AWARE OF THE TIMES WHEN I COME HOME SO EXHAUSTED THAT I SIT JUGGLING BUSINESS DOWN FOR FIVE MINUTES AND mother the value of AND FAMILY WAKE UP TO FIND THAT IT'S managing her Not only is Shavata a 4AM, AND THE LIGHTS ﬁnances. She says, recognised leader in the “We were never allowed beauty industry, she is also an ARE STILL ON.” inspiring female boss and a very savvy entrepreneur. “I give my best when I am under pressure,” says Shavata. She was working at Michaeljohn beauty salon and committed to air time on QVC, when her son was born. “I remember the ﬁrst day I was on air, I was in the green room breastfeeding my six week old son,” recalls Shavata. She still works on the shop ﬂoor and is always fully booked.
MIGRATION FROM INDIA Born in India Chandigarh, the youngest of ﬁve siblings, Shavata and her family moved to the UK when she was 6 years old. “When you come from an immigrant family, values and work ethics are really important. My parents were always working and were great role models,” says Shavata. At an early age she learnt from her
to spend more than what we had. I’m turning ﬁfty-one this year and never have I ever overdrawn.” Shavata’s father was a police ofﬁcer in Kenya and her grandfather a judge. She says, “My father taught me the importance of honesty, respect and integrity. I bring those values into my business and in the way I treat my clients.”
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT Shavata is currently mentoring an aspiring beautician – a good example of an empowered woman empowering another., Shavata says, “The only reward I expect from my mentee is that she reaches out and empowers another person. Several women have been instrumental in my success and I would like to play a role in the success of other women.”
Conﬁdent and graceful Shavata has never felt the need to dress or behave in a certain way to command respect. “I’m a female and am happy with the way I am. I don’t think twice about putting on a pretty dress when I’m going to a meeting. I’m not going to dress up in a formal suit to impress,” says Shavata.
NOT ALL GLAMOUR “People can only see my success and what I’ve achieved. But not many are aware of the times when I come home so exhausted that I sit down for ﬁve minutes and wake up to ﬁnd that it's 4AM, and the lights are still on,”says Shavata. Like many successful people Shavata has had to make many sacriﬁces in her personal life. “There have been times when I’ve picked up my kids from school whilst doing a conference call. I would like to spend more time with my children than I now do. When I do spend time with them, I make sure that those moments are memorable and cherished. I want them to understand that hard work pays. If they want luxuries they have to work hard to get them,” says Shavata.
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
Shavata wants to take the experience at her brow studios to another level “I want to make it even better, we’ve now got a whole new training strategy, so we are going to retrain all of our girls while launching a whole new product.” If the opportunity to go international arises, Shavata is happy to take it. Regarding competition, she says, “I think there are always new competitors around the corner, but I don’t intend to give away my number one spot.’’
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ASIAN GIANT DR. PRIYA VIRMANI, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ANALYST, WRITER, TED SPEAKER
Painting a new world They call them 'the forgotten children of Sonagachi', India's largest red-light district consisting of several hundred brothels. Their mothers are sex workers whose lives are blighted by abject penury. Someday the children too will follow in their mothers' footsteps with little or no hope of leading normal lives. Theirs is a dark world dominated by pimps, mafia and paedophiles who left to their own devices will shape these childrenâ€™s future. But not if Dr Priya Virmani has her way.
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ASIAN GIANT DR. PRIYA VIRMANI, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ANALYST, WRITER, TED SPEAKER Priya is a political and economic analyst, a writer, a disruptive social entrepreneur, a TED speaker, a wellbeing specialist and a passionate advocate and international ambassador for women's issues. With a PhD from Bristol University and time spent at Harvard University post her doctorate, Priya Virmani has made it her life's mission to make a difference in the lives of the children of Sonagachi and similar children elsewhere. She does it through the charity 'Paint Our World', a humanitarian project that works to emotionally empower children who have been through trauma including sexual abuse and becoming orphaned. Founder and Director of her charity, it now spans the Indian cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore where she has reached over 510 children. Says Priya, “We reach out to the most invisible children to make them invincible. Often their 'homes' are the streets and railway station platforms. They are abused, raped and left behind at the same geographical location. “Before 'Paint Our World' started children would drop out of school as they were unable to integrate. They come with no interpersonal skills, no concept of love and kindness, care or trust. Today, each of the children that Paint Our World works with is going to a reputable school and the school retention rate is now 100%.”
“During Christmas 2008 I organised a party for them at Millennium Park which is by the river Hooghly in Calcutta. From there the children could view boats, and nearby at Victoria Memorial Park I treated them to horse carriage rides.” During her early days Priya worked with Mother Teresa who knew her parents well.
THE LIFE CHANGER Says Priya, “Before Paint Our World started I met a very inspirational lady from a shelter home for children who pleaded with me to work with her. I declined because I was well settled in the UK by then. During our conversation a little girl walked in and her story pulled at my heartstrings. It turned out that she was being abused by her biological father and her home was filled with extreme violence. I clearly remember being mentally traumatised by that little girl's story for several days and it was then that I decided to fully immerse myself in the welfare of our most invisible children.” Priya draws inspiration from the ancient Indian philosophy of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam' which means 'the world is one family' and for her that includes the children of Sonagachi. She is willing to risk her very life for the sake of these children. “Sonagachi is filled with mafias and while I was working there I was aware that anything could have happened to me. We had to pull out of the area to ensure the safety of our specialists and team members. Now when I look back, I realise how insanely courageous I was.” says Priya.
“WE REACH OUT TO THE MOST INVISIBLE CHILDREN TO MAKE THEM INVINCIBLE. OFTEN THEIR 'HOMES' ARE THE STREETS AND RAILWAY STATION PLATFORMS.”
THE BIRTHING OF PAINT OUR WORLD Reminisces Priya, “It began in Calcutta when I was four years old. It was the monsoon season and I was walking to school. I saw semi-naked children sifting through garbage, rummaging for food. I remember seeing one small girl feeding a tiny toddler what looked like a rotting vegetable peel. Deeply touched, I went back home that evening and asked my parents why those children can't sit at a table and eat. I didn’t get an answer that was convincing. That question was the seed that would one day birth 'Paint Our World'.” Later, to keep her late father's memory alive, she would visit local slums near his workplace in Calcutta and give out colouring books and story books during Diwali and Holi. Recalls Priya,
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JOURNEY TO ENGLAND Priya came to the UK in 1998 as a student to study at the University of Bristol from where she obtained her PhD. Here too, her passion for working with children found new avenues. Through student unions she was involved with projects that worked with children from dysfunctional families where there was drug and alcohol abuse.
IMPACT OF HER FATHER'S EARLY DEMISE Priya was in her twenties and at University in the UK when her father
suddenly passed away. Says Priya, “I was an only child and very close to my dad. He was my emotional, psychological and financial support. He died suddenly, and I had no time to grieve and take it in. He had a business and employed people whose livelihoods depended on the business. There were consequences for my mother, home and finances that I had to deal with and I had to hit the ground running. Strangely, when I arrived in India, shortly after his death, an amazing sense of strength came over me. I had to rise to the occasion because if I didn’t I felt I would be letting down the upbringing my father gave me.”
A WELL-BEING SPECIALIST Priya is highly regarded as a wellbeing specialist. Her work takes her across the world where she is involved with large corporations, entrepreneurs, students and tea plantation workers, empowering them to realise their goals. Says Priya, “For someone who has been researching psychology for over a decade, I began to understand how detrimental stress is for our body and mind. That is when I got into well-being.” She strongly believes that it is not just CEOs and senior managers who need empowering but also people down the pecking order. In 2018, she gave trailblazing workshops on motivation and empowerment to hundreds of lower income workers including factory workers, retail staff, and men and women working on Assam’s (India) tea estates. She believes that such workshops can transform the Indian workforce leading to tremendous value creation for businesses and societies.
INTERNATIONAL ASSIGNMENTS Priya has given talks on topics ranging from globalisation, political economy, entrepreneurship, women's rights and the non-profit sector to psychology and motivation in various countries including India, China, the USA, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Malta and Puerto Rico. In February 2018 and again in 2019 she was invited to Delhi to speak alongside Indian and British Parliamentarians and world leading entrepreneurs. She has been invited to speak at several conferences across the world together with leading thinkers and intellectuals such as His Holiness, The
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ASIAN GIANT DR. PRIYA VIRMANI, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ANALYST, WRITER, TED SPEAKER
Dalai Lama. A Political and Economic Analyst, Dr. Virmani contributes to BBC Radio and has written for publications across the globe including The Guardian, London and The New Statesman, London. As a mentor she has worked globally with educational institutions including business schools and organisations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). She has worked with school teachers, children, teenagers, corporates and the hospitality sectors such as ITC Hotels (Delhi and Kolkata), empowering them to define and realise their goals.
AWARDS This year she was awarded the '#She Inspires Award’ in the UK. The Award was presented to her at the House of Commons in in London on 7 March 2019. In November 2017 she received the 'You Are Stardust Award' awarded by Radio Works, London for 'making a positive impact on the world'. In January 2017, she won the All Ladies League Award for the 'Iconic Woman Creating A Better World For All', in recognition for her work in the areas of women and
“AN EMPOWERED MAN, SHE FEELS, WILL TAKE PRIDE AND JOY IN SEEING THE WOMEN AROUND HIM HAPPY AND EMPOWERED.”
children's empowerment and for her political and economic talks and writings.
EMPOWERED WOMEN Priya believes it’s not women who need to be empowered but it is men. An empowered man, she feels, will take pride and joy in seeing the women around him happy and empowered. She says, “Very often it is men who feel insecure that is why they subjugate women and not let them be reach full potential.” Her parting shot for women: “You owe it to yourself and to the gift you have been given called ‘life’ to invest in yourself. And it all starts with self love and self care. When you are at your best, you can give your best to the world.”
2019 | ASIAN GIANTS
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Jaspreet kaur - 3 Pages.qxp_Layout 1 13/09/2019 11:06 Page 41
ASIAN GIANT JASPREET KAUR, FOUNDER, BEHIND THE NETRA
The bard behind the 'netra'
Jaspreet Kaur is a spoken word artist. 'Netra' in Sanskrit means 'eyes' and through her mind's eye Jaspreet envisions a world bereft of some of the social ills that plague society. She believes that poetry can be a voice for the voiceless, shatter stereotypes and break down barriers. Poetry, according to her, is a soothing balm to bring about positive social change, and this East London born poet has been breaking down barriers one poem at a time. 2019 | ASIAN GIANTS
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ASIAN GIANT JASPREET KAUR, FOUNDER, BEHIND THE NETRA THE STORY BEHIND THE NETRA She is an award-winning poet, a history teacher and the creator of 'Behind the Netra'. Jaspreet has performed for the royal family, held TED talks, worked with the likes of actor Idris Elba and is a beacon of hope for many. This spoken word artist has transformed the lives of several people worldwide, helped tackle gender issues and brought about positive social change. Her poetry addresses taboo subjects in the Asian community and wider society. But her life hasn’t always been an easy ride. Bullied at secondary school and suffering from anxiety and depression in her teenage years, Jaspreet began putting pen to paper at the age of 13 to release the range of emotions which she was unable to share with others. It was only when she was at university that Jaspreet sought professional help and began cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). She was encouraged to carry on writing poetry as a way of letting out her emotions. “After finishing university I realized that I had hundreds of poems, but being an introvert I didn’t want to share it with others,” says Jaspreet.
SHARING HER POETRY WITH THE WORLD
“I REALIZED THAT POETRY CAN CONNECT PEOPLE, HELP CHANGE LIVES AND EDUCATE THEM ABOUT ISSUES THAT I WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT. SO I RESOLVED TO MAKE POETRY MY CHANNEL TO BRING ABOUT SOCIAL CHANGE.” 42
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
After graduating from Queen Mary, Jaspreet began her masters in gender studies at UCL in 2014. Driven by conversations she had with her grandfather on the social ills that plagued Punjab, such as the mistreatment of young girls and the preference of a male child, she chose female infanticide as the topic of her 20,000-word thesis. “I looked at it from a social, cultural and economic perspective and gained insights into why it it led to sex selective abortion even in the developed world including the UK,” says Jaspreet. It also inspired her to write a poem called Queens and Corpses. “I realized that not everyone has the time to read a 20,000-word essay on female infanticide, so I distilled my thoughts in a poem in order to spread my message,” she continues. It was only when she performed the poem at an open mic night in Hounslow that Jaspreet became a global icon when a member of the audience filmed and
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ASIAN GIANT JASPREET KAUR, FOUNDER, BEHIND THE NETRA shared her performance on Facebook. Her performance went viral and Jaspreet was inundated with messages from the UK, Canada, America and India. “People resonated with the poem which heightened the awareness of sonpreference. It was empowering to know that words could do that. I realized that poetry can connect people, help change lives and educate them about issues that I was passionate about. So I resolved to make poetry my channel to bring about social change,” says Jaspreet.
GENDER INEQUALITY AND PAVING THE WAY FOR OTHERS Performing her poem ‘Lost in Translation’ at the UK's first Asian Women’s festival in Birmingham, she began by sharing findings from a survey which showed that in the UK South Asian girls are the second highest performing ethnic group after Chinese boys and girls. “South Asian girls are outperforming Asian boys, but there is no evidence of that in the workplace, and to me that is unacceptable,” says Jaspreet. On the lack of BAME representation, Jaspreet highlights research which shows that there are more men called 'Steve' as CEOs in the top 100 FTSE companies than coloured women and men. “It is not that we don't tick the right boxes because our achievements show that we do. But why is that not showing in the workplace? I believe that it is because of institutional sexism and racism,” opines Jaspreet. Conscious of the life-changing power that poetry has, Jaspreet is using her talent to help others. She has worked with a number of corporate companies and has held workshops in several schools. “I have worked with children from disadvantaged areas in London, where I have conducted workshops for students with mental health issues and lack self-confidence,” says Jaspreet. Having found her true passion in life, teaching and poetry are what keeps her motivated, whether it is helping and educating people in the classroom or performing a poem on stage. “That’s what I live for,” she adds. A naturally organized
Kande Primary School, Malawi, April, 2018. Jaspreet with charity Khalsa Aid International, providing school materials to students and near by village
person, Jaspreet stays on top of things, thanks to a well-structured diary. She says, “I prioritize things and my husband is very supportive. He reminds me to slow down a little or take a break during weekends.”
FAMILY VALUES The youngest of four siblings and an aunt to five, her family means a lot to her. She credits her family for inspiring her to pursue poetry and for teaching her sound values. As a young girl, her father encouraged her to read and educate herself to the best of her ability. One of her poems titled ‘Es Qua’ reads: ‘My father fed me books and encyclopaedias at tea time. He said if I desired knowledge intensely, the whole world could be mine’. Speaking of her grandfather’s immigration story, Jaspreet says it has taught her the importance of hard work and the value of her possessions. She continues,“I frequently write about my mother who is an inspiration for my poetry. Voicing her stories is something I’m very passionate about because our mothers weren’t able to have a voice. They were unable to
THIS SPOKEN WORD ARTIST HAS TRANSFORMED THE LIVES OF SEVERAL PEOPLE WORLDWIDE, HELPED TACKLE GENDER ISSUES AND BROUGHT ABOUT POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGE. HER POETRY ADDRESSES TABOO SUBJECTS IN THE ASIAN COMMUNITY AND WIDER SOCIETY.
express their stories or emotions in the way that we can today.”
PROUD ACHIEVEMENTS Performing for Her Majesty the Queen at the Commonwealth Service in March 2019 is one of the biggest moments in her life. The live event was broadcast on BBC with almost 2 billion people tuning in. A goal that was etched on her vision board became a reality when she was was invited by TEDx London to speak about self-confidence. Performing for an audience of 1,200 people she delivered a talk on how poetry saved her life. Her talk highlighted a 2002 study that suggested that poetry and creative selfexpression when used as a form of therapy could help save the NHS substantial costs. “Through TEDx talks I wanted to highlight the importance of poetry and art as a way of helping people with mental health issues,” says Jaspreet.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATON She says, “Find what you truly care about, what your passion and purpose is and become the expert.” Jaspreet also highlights the importance of being true to oneself. “There will be moments when people may want to change who you are, or you think you need to change to become a better person. Just stick to who you are,” she concludes. Jaspreet has plans to publish a book and make documentary style films.
2019 | ASIAN GIANTS
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ASIAN GIANT SHASHI GOSSAIN, ENTRPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST
Combining business philanthropy Business, philanthropy and environmental issues are some of Shashi Gossain's pet passions. She lives her passion for business through her much acclaimed and international cosmeceutical business PharmaClinix, and her passion for philanthropy and the environment through her recent brainchild, Top Indian Designers.com
PHARMACLINIX - BEAUTY BUSINESS Recommended by dermatologists worldwide, PharmaClinix offers a wide range of high-end beauty skincare treatments which are scientifically designed for Asian and African skin. Popular in over 33 countries, the products are used by several members of the Middle East Royal families and Bollywood stars. Shashi is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and The Society of Cosmetic Scientists and brings with her around 40 years of experience in the pharmaceutical, skin care and beauty business. She owns a ‘One Stop Health and Beauty Clinic’ in Kensington, London. She has written several books,
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
including the best-selling beauty book, The Ultimate Anti-Ageing Handbook, Acne Treatment: The Complete Guide, and Skin Whitening Treatments: The Complete Guide, which is now also available as an e-book. Shashi is a regular columnist for top health and beauty magazines and offers her expertise as a skincare specialist in several countries.
TOP INDIAN DESIGNERS.COM Shashi's other venture, Top Indian Designers.com, is the world’s first online store to buy, sell, and hire Indian designer fashion. Says Shashi, “The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Many high-end Indian clothes are
only worn once or twice and put away, never to be worn again. People don’t want to discard them because they are too expensive, or they have an emotional attachment with them. Very often they don’t know how and where to sell them. Through Top Indian Designers.com I encourage people to buy, sell or hire Indian designer fashion and help tackle environment pollution. “At Top Indian Designers.com you can renew your wardrobe and turn your unwanted expensive clothes into pounds. Those looking to buy luxury Indian clothes can buy a nearly-new sari or dress for a bargain. The saris come with all the accessories such as matching blouses and petticoats. With mixed marriages on the increase I have both
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ASIAN GIANT SHASHI GOSSAIN, ENTRPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST
Asian and non-Asian, men and women clientele in mind. Soon I will cater to Pan-Europe audience.” Enquires have been pouring in from leading Indian and Pakistani designers who are looking to sell end-of-season lines. These include leading designers such as Mandira Bedi and Talking Threads from India, and Ekta Solanki from the UK. Currently Shashi is making a series of videos on sustainability and reduction of wastage by decluttering one's wardrobe. “The videos aim to encourage the Asian community to overcome a mindset of holding
“THROUGH TOP INDIAN DESIGNERS.COM I ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO BUY, SELL OR HIRE INDIAN DESIGNER FASHION AND HELP TACKLE ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION.” 2019 | ASIAN GIANTS
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ASIAN GIANT SHASHI GOSSAIN, ENTRPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST on to unwanted clothes,” says Shashi. Shashi is patron of Fashion for a Cause, and trustee of Angel Foundation in India. Both charities work towards empowering women. A part of the sales from Top Indian Designers.com will go to charitable causes.
FORAY INTO HEALTH AND BEAUTY Shashi started her career as a qualified pharmacist and opened her first high street pharmacy in North Kensington with a beauty salon attached to it. Says Shashi, “I have always been interested in skincare, and have worked with the likes of Estee Lauder during my school days. I studied cosmetic chemistry as part of my pharmacy degree and applied that knowledge while treating Asian clients who, during that time, didn't have scientifically proven high-end cosmetic creams which worked on their skin.” To meet this need she launched PharmaClinix in 2006. After a successful launch in the UK, PharmaClinix began to attract the attention of overseas buyers. Exports to Bahrain began in 2007 followed by exhibitions at Dubai Derma, the pioneer and largest event in the Middle East, North Africa and Indian Subcontinent region for dermatology, skin care and lasers. To cater to the growing demand in the Middle East, Shashi started her first overseas office in Dubai. Then followed queries from South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Philippines, Fiji Islands, Kenya and Uganda. In the UK, PharmaClinix distributes to Harley Street, Harrods, medical doctors, leading beauty salons, 'A' class pharmacies and online outlets. PharmaClinix products are now available in 33 countries. Says Shashi, “Although it is a highly competitive business, we are in the niche high-end of the market. Half of our trade comes from exports.”
FROM PHARMACY TO FASHION Says Shashi, “As a high-street pharmacist it never occurred to me that someday I would be doing what I am doing today.
“Those were lucrative days for independent pharmacy. But, over the years I could see that things were getting harder. Also, I couldn’t see myself standing behind a pharmacy counter from nine in the morning to five in the evening when I turn fifty. For me life begins at fifty – when the birds have flown the nest. So, when my children began to marry and move out the entrepreneur in me urged me to re-invent myself and carve out a different future. “What I am doing now is something that I can carry on doing no matter what age I get to. My business has taken me to over thirty countries which I never imagined would happen. You only get one stab at life, and I believe that if you don’t live every single day of your life the way you want to, you have wasted your life.”
COMBINING BUSINESS AND PLEASURE Says Shashi, “As an entrepreneur, you can never switch off, even when you are down with sickness. I am up at five in the morning every day and my work starts at 6am due to the different time zones that my business operates in. I do the household chores from 9am, and at 10am I am at my desk at work. The rest of the day I look after UK operations and plan my new projects. “I hit the gym at four in the evening and I am at home by five. I am actively involved with several ladies’ groups and music groups which keep me busy. I also volunteer for a few charities.”
MANTRA FOR SUCCESS She believes that the key ingredients to becoming a successful entrepreneur is to be passionate about what one is doing, thinking outside the box and making full use of talents and abilities. She says, “I don’t ‘work’ in the conventional sense because I am passionate about what I am doing, and I enjoy doing it. I look at life as a journey,
“FOR ME, LIFE BEGINS AT FIFTY – WHEN THE BIRDS HAVE FLOWN THE NEST. NOW IT IS MY TIME TO DO WHAT I WANT. PEOPLE TALK ABOUT RETIRING BUT TO ME THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. WHAT DO I RETIRE FROM?
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
so I thoroughly enjoy it.
SUPPORT NETWORK She recalls, “My father was a teacher and mother ran a convenience store. Later my family owned care homes. Both by parents started from scratch and did very well for themselves. “I am blessed with an enterprising family and I have a good support network when it comes to discussing problems or new ideas. I couldn’t do without my family. My husband has been a great source of strength and so has my daughter Anita who is a medical doctor and an entrepreneur with beauty clinics in Harley Street.”
LIFE BEGINS AT FIFTY Says Shashi, “For me, life begins at fifty – when the birds have flown the nest. Now it is my time to do what I want. People talk about retiring but to me that doesn’t make sense. What do I retire from? If retirement means sitting at home and doing nothing, then that is not for me.” Shashi turned sixty last year. She was eleven when her family arrived in the UK with very few resources. Looking back, she says, “I believe that British Asian women have done very well, and I must say that this is in great part due to the abundant opportunities and security that this country provides. For me, there is no country in the world like the UK.” She signs off by saying, “I am currently consumed with a passion to get people to recycle and help the planet. If I can get the British Asian community to do that, nothing can be more satisfying.”
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20 AWARDS th ASIAN ACHIEVERS The peopleâ€™s choice awards
NOMINATIONS Deadline for submitting nominations: 30th June, 2020
Is there someone you know from the Asian community who deserves recognition for their unique contribution to the community or the nation?
Categories 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Professional of the Year Woman of the Year Sports Personality of the Year Business Person of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award Uniformed, Civil and Public Services Entrepreneur of the Year Achievement in Media, Arts and Culture Achievement in Community Service
Email: email@example.com Apply online
Awards will be held at Grosvenor House, Park Lane
September 2020 Organised by www.abplgroup.com
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ASIAN GIANT MANI KOHLI, FOUNDER, KHUBSOORAT COLLECTION
Mani Kohli describes herself as a self-made, disciplined and creatively motivated entrepreneur with a keen sense for balance in nature and art, with very realistic achievable goals. Having been in the world of fashion for over 36 years, her fashion brand ‘KHUBSOORAT Collection’ has served over 3,000 customers internationally, and has been worn by members of the British royal family.
“I TOOK THE INITIATIVE TO SET THE TREND NOT ONLY FOR THE ASIAN COMMUNITY, BUT ALSO FOR THE WIDER COMMUNITY.”
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
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ASIAN GIANT MANI KOHLI, FOUNDER, KHUBSOORAT COLLECTION
Creating elegance JOURNEY BY DEFAULT A self-made entrepreneur, Mani created KHUBSOORAT COLLECTION out of necessity rather than desire. Originally from India, Mani moved to the UK when she got married at the age of 19. The marriage did not last long but the breakup made Mani determined to build a good life for herself and her children. A born creative, Mani says, “Whenever I went to India, I would return to the UK with clothes that were absolutely gorgeous. At that time there were no outlets for readymade Asian fashion, so I seized the opportunity and started making garments.” With the help of of her friends and after endless number of coffee sessions her piece of work soon began selling out. In 1985 Mani opened her first boutique in East London. When Mani embarked on her entrepreneurial journey she did not have much support from those around her. Her failed marriage made it worse. What she did have was a good education and talent, and she combined the two to eventually birth KHUBSOORAT COLLECTION. She says, “My father was in the Indian army. As a result I travelled a lot and had the opportunity to visit several places in India. I knew exactly what India had to offer so I could plan my business strategy well.” For Mani it was more of a learning process as she got to know the readymade garment industry. She adds, “I got the basics right. I sought out customers who would appreciate what I did. I chose hues of blues and greens which are the preferred English tones.”
Talking about her early days as an entrepreneur, she says, “Nowadays there are several career opportunities such as internships and work experience opportunities. But in the generation in which I grew up these opportunities were not available and I am self-made. I was reliant on the local support in India and the network that I created by meeting the right people and hiring the right embroiderers. The word designer is very loosely used today, but when I started designing it was about inherent craft skills from sketch to finish.”
FASHION INSPIRATION A romantic at heart, Mani was heavily influenced by Bollywood during the 70s when she was in high school. During that time, legendary Bollywood stars Zeenat Amaan and Parveen Babi were the stars of the big screen who set the fashion trend. For many young girls they were a huge inspiration and they heavily influenced Mani’s ideas. “It was good to see women like them who were quite emancipated for that generation. They were role models who I could talk to and identify with as the modern woman. So, I
worked around the fashion of that era and created garments which women found appealing.”
GROWING UP Mani describes her childhood as ‘wonderful’. She grew up in an elite society that was educated and well attired. With her father serving in the army, travelling was a way of life and Mani took full advantage of the privilege. She says, “I soaked-up the surroundings
“I HAVE CUSTOMERS WHO BRING IN GOODS WHICH THEY BROUGHT FROM ME SEVERAL YEARS AGO. I RE-DESIGN IT FOR THEM TO WEAR AGAIN. SO, SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FASHION BUSINESS IS POSSIBLE.”
2019 | ASIAN GIANTS
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ASIAN GIANT MANI KOHLI, FOUNDER, KHUBSOORAT COLLECTION
of every location that I visited. I was like a sponge, and my exposure to various locations heavily influenced my creative aspirations. At the age of 11 I was making my own trousers and skirts. I was so inspired by what I created that I wanted to be seen in it.” During Mani’s younger days, digital distraction was non-existent so she would sit at home watching and learning about sowing and embroidering from her mother and aunts.
EVOLUTION OF FASHION FOR THE BRITISH ASIAN WOMEN When Mani came to the UK, she saw many South Asian women wear oversized coats over homemade shalwar kameez, with dupattas (stoles) for scarves. “I didn’t see them wearing what I had seen in India.” She realised that women in the UK needed a fashion-infusion that didn’t explicitly single them out as belonging to a migrant society. She says, “I took the initiative to set the trend not only for the Asian community, but also for the wider community. While fashion, in general, may have become westernised, I believe that when a woman walks into a room
ASIAN GIANTS | 2019
with a well draped sari, she can make heads turn.”
NEXT GENERATION OF FASHION DESIGNERS Mani believes that a successful business must invest in relationships with customers and the people it works with. She further adds that it is important to have a thorough understanding of the nature of the business and its environment in order to sustain it through evolving times. Now catering to the fourth generation, Mani says that it has been possible to do so because she is able to connect with and understand different generations of customers.
SECRET BEHIND HER SUCCESS With over 36 years of experience in business and fashion, Mani Kohli has been through the ups and downs of running a business. When she decided to part with her then husband, her son was only just born. During the 80s divorce was frowned upon in the South Asian community. She says,”It was a tough call but my parents looked after my children
whenever I had to travel on business.” She was determined to create a secure future for her children and ensure that they did not miss out on their prime years. Her success, she feels, is a result of her dedication, passion and discipline. She says, “Ever since I started my business I have worked seven days a week and 365 days a year. I have now decided to downsize and live a part of my life doing other things.” Looking back at her 36 years in retail business, Mani says, “I don’t think I have missed out on much. At the same time, you can’t become successful without making sacrifices.”
SUSTAINABLE FASHION Says Mani, “I have customers who bring in goods which they brought from me several years ago. I re-design it for them to wear again. So, sustainability in the fashion business is possible.” According to her, “We have to stop living the extravagant lifestyle that we do. Not all clothing should be disposed off. Clothes can be redesigned and reused which I believe modern society is failing to do.”
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Asian Giants 2019 - Exceptional women inspiring change (Issue 3)