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ASIAN GIANTS INSPIRING TO ASPIRE

SUMMER 2016

ISSUE ONE

INTERVIEWS WITH ICONS

£7.50

FEARLESS IN FAILURE HUMBLE IN SUCCESS

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CONTENTS SUMMER 2016

Above: Ebony Suite, The Mayfair Hotel

EDWARDIAN HOTELS 12

KISHORE SANKLA 6

LORD KARAN BILIMORIA 8

3 CONTENTS

ZAMEER CHOUDREY 24

17 EDWARDIAN HOTELS An Icon Par Excellence

4 ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS Comment, CB Patel and an Overview from the ABPL Team

20 T. RAMACHANDRAN

5 TRIBUTE TO ASIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

23 MONI VARMA

Jasminder Singh, Founder and Chairman The Edwardian Hotels

The man who loves a challenge

The Never Say Die Man

26 DR. SANDY GUPTA A Giant at Heart

6 KISHORE SANKLA Revolutionising Healthcare

29 MAHMUD KAMANI Trendsetter

10 LORD KARAN BILIMORIA A Peer and an Entrepreneur

32 ZAMEER CHOUDREY Modern, Modest, Moderate

14 BHANU CHOUDHRIE Suave and Sharp

35 KIRIT PATEL Living the dream

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WELCOME

ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS In the late 60’s the British media was abuzz with debates - sometimes acrimonious, often painful - on the arrival of non-white immigrants. Some people were apprehensive about their arrival. If any of them were to revisit those opinions, they will be pleasantly surprised. There have been no rivers of blood, and these islands are no less beautiful than they’ve always been. Scholars can, and doubtless will, do their research, and find that the experiment with immigration has been truly beneficial to Britain. Asians’ achievements in education, entrepreneurship, the professions, art and culture, and public life are ubiquitous. It happened because of the vitality, strength and openness of the British way of life. In the UK we have equal opportunities, access to education, healthcare and the rule of law, combining to make Britain truly unique. Mahatma Gandhi during his independence struggle would castigate any oppressive action of the Imperial administration with a simple term ‘this is unBritish.’ There is one other dimension which delights me enormously. People like me who arrived in this land with their dreams and aspirations, have fully embraced UK as their home. It is heart-warming that the British people have not only embraced this multi-national approach, but they continue to see it as essential

for the future prosperity of Great Britain. Our quality of life and values are second to none, and we continue to retain a significant voice on the global stage. We have been publishing two successful newsweeklies - Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, along with several other special issues, for the last 44 years. Why did we feel the need for a publication like Asian Giants? When my team members proposed the idea, we deliberated and recognised that while we host the prestigious Asian Achievers Awards , we can do more than just celebrate success. Asian Giants represents those who have the vision to reach greatness, and who having done so use their positions to accomplish more, not just for themselves but for society as a whole. We can learn much from these amazing individuals. This edition of Asian Giants is just the first of many and I would urge readers to suggest other high achievers who are worthy of mention. The achievements of our community thus far are just an indication of its vast potential. The best is yet to come, thanks to our British values as well as our own traditions and heritage. Having travelled and witnessed this journey at ABPL for more than 40 years, I am optimistic about the road ahead.

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS The desire to become successful is innate in most mortals. Some dream about it but never make it to the summit - fears, failures and disappointments cutting short their quest for glory. Others dream big and far surpass the goals they set for themselves, overcoming the very obstacles that cut short the journey of lesser mortals. So what is the secret behind successful people? What yardstick do they use to measure achievement? What challenges do they encounter between conceiving a dream and birthing success? We at ABPL put these seemingly profound questions to a few exceptional individuals – men who stand head and shoulders above the rest. Holding nothing back they were generous in sharing their success stories – telling it like it is. What they shared was impromptu and we have done our best to present their stories as they were narrated. This special issue is our humble attempt to articulate their priceless nuggets of wisdom and provide a glimpse into their world, very little of which is otherwise known. Some traits, common to all of them, stand out. Clarity of vision, risk taking, hard work, passion for challenges, a constant endeavour to innovate and reverence for family values are a few of them. Cobra beer was a young man’s pet dream while still studying at university. Solutions4Health was created by a man who turned his back on the  corporate world while in his peak. Bristol Laboratories rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The humble rice is now available in delightful varieties, thanks to Veetee. C&C Alpha is a shining star in the rough and tumble of the financial world. And there are many more.  If you are seeking inspiration, role models, stories of guts and glory, the lives of men in these pages have it all. We can only say ‘thank you’ to them.

PUBLISHER/EDITOR

THE ABPL TEAM

THE TEAM

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TRIBUTE

A TRIBUTE TO ASIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP The Asian Community in the UK today is as impressive for its legions of excellent role models as it is for its incredible diversity. A number of successful, motivated and inspirational Asian entrepreneurs spanning several generations call the UK home. They excel in different industries, be that pharmaceuticals or fashion, food shipping or finance. Some arrived here more than half a century ago, whilst others are following in the footsteps of their mothers and fathers before them. They come from different walks of life - some have learnt their trade here, whilst others have brought skills and expertise from other countries. Yet we all are connected by a common thread – shared values if you will. Asian families put emphasis on hard work; the importance of education for all; the relevance and seriousness of the law and the need to be passionate about our work. It is this drive that contributes to our accomplishments. Today’s Asian role models are like never before. Our young people should be heartened to see how many people they can learn from,

those who have leading roles in politics and policy making, sport, the arts and media. These people show us that opportunities arise as a result of hard work and dedication. They demonstrate that by caring about a cause, individuals can make a difference. These people are important, because the desire to emulate, or carry on great work of others helps to drive a community forward. This is why an initiative such as ASIAN GIANTS is so vital. Recognising those who have achieved their goals across various disciplines and industries demonstrates that we, as a community, respect and commend their achievements. It shows that they are supported by others and that their efforts are recognised. I hope that it also serves to spur others on to want to do well. Aspiration is crucial; our community is what it is today because people wanted to do better, improve their lives, benefit society and provide more for their families. I want to congratulate all of those named as ASIAN GIANTS and implore others to wish to have their names included in years to come.

JASMINDER SINGH CHAIRMAN & CEO, EDWARDIAN HOTELS LONDON

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ASIAN GIANT KISHORE SANKLA

REVOLUTIONISING HEALTHCARE FOUNDER, CEO KISHORE SANKLA HAD A LUCRATIVE CAREER - ONE THAT EVERY YOUNG MAN YEARNS FOR. YET HE TURNED HIS BACK ON IT TO START SOLUTIONS 4 HEALTH WHICH IS AN INCREASINGLY GLOBAL PROVIDER OF PREVENTATIVE HEALTH SOLUTIONS.

THE DRIVING FORCE Starting out in a large & humble family of nine, Kishore was the youngest of seven children. He was at a tender age of four when his father decided to take the family out of their familiar life in Kenya and move to the unknown surroundings of England. They say that it’s great hardships in life that reveal a person’s true strength and personality. This character was tested when at the age of just 16, Kishore’s father and mentor passed away on the morning of his final Maths GCE exam. An extremely poignant period in his life Kishore reflects saying, “I am proud of what my father did for me, and I knew I needed to make him proud too, it has certainly been the driving force of my perseverance and my desire to help people.”

EARLY LIFE It was apparent from an early age Kishore was a

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creative and inspired child ready to make a difference. “I used to sit in my room for hours, and was fascinated about technology and how things worked. I would end up making all sorts of gadgets, from rain sensitive switches to radio tuners. I even wrote a computer programme for a local video rental company on my first home computer. I remember this even now, it was a Commodore 64, which cost over £200 and my father had sacrificed so much to buy this for me.” With a degree in Engineering Mathematics and Computer Science under his belt, in just his mid 20s he was occupying senior level positions at the likes of Oracle Corporation, Ministry of Defence, Cable and Wireless, Deloitte’s, and the NHS. However, he also puts his compassionate nature and desire to make a difference down to a solid family grounding and proper sense of belonging. Kishore proudly adds “the blessings from both sides of parents and family, have

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4 Health in 2008 during a deep recession. Kishore explains “Leena’s inspiration was her mother, who was her guiding force. We knew that the journey we were about to embark upon would be tough, but we were immensely concerned about the health inequality and life expectancy between different social economic groups. With significant budget cuts across the public sector, we were confident that we could deliver a high quality and cost effective service that would be culturally sensitive, delivered at a grass root level that would really make a difference to those most in need. It was about doing things better, smarter and more efficiently.” Consistently with the thought of providing quality for the customer, and improving the lives of people, Kishore knew that a combination of his creativity, grit, business acumen and hard work he could make Solutions 4 Health a stunning success. Under his leadership Solutions 4 Health grew rapidly during a time where even small growth for companies was a rarity. In just eight years Solutions 4 Health expanded from 2 people to over 360. It is now an increasingly global provider of preventative health solutions with expertise across three divisions - healthcare, information systems and Telehealth services. Innovative and forward thinking, they work synergistically to provide a one stop solution for the delivery and management of outcome focused Integrated Public Health Lifestyle Services. It was obvious that Solutions 4 Health was going to flourish with a philosophy personified by its leader. “We try to help people by using innovative ideas, as I always say, it’s more than healthcare it’s human care.” Now, as global interest and demand for their expertise increases, they also operate from Dubai & Mumbai with plans to set-up in Asia Pacific Region in early 2017. Kishore says with pride: “We have some phenomenal people in our organisation and some of the best talent in the country. They like the way we work, our ethics and culture – and relish being part of our success story. What’s more, they have the same desire and commitment to make a real difference to people’s lives.” The award winning healthcare division now supports over 100,000 service users annually and specialises in smoking cessation, NHS health checks, chronic disease self-management (licensed by Stanford School of Medicine), falls prevention for the elderly, cardiovascular risk assessments, weight management, physical activity plus a range of behaviour change digital platforms. Indeed, they are the largest provider of smoking cessation services in England and their falls prevention service for the elderly has scooped up innovation awards in Singapore for ‘Best Product to Support Ageing’. Kishore adds: “The UK has a phenomenal history and reputation for providing preventative

“I am proud of what my father did for me, and I knew I needed to make him proud too, it has certainly been the driving force of my perseverance and my desire to help people.”

been pivotal to my success.” He explains: “I’m from Rajasthan (Jodhpur), India and we are very culturally rooted. We were a normal Asian family, nothing special, but I was brought up to do the right thing – we had a simple saying that was drilled in from my parents – be truthful, focus on excellence and success will follow. I have a wonderful wife and business partner, as well as two grown up children we’re immensely proud of and who are also involved in the business.” Displaying dedication and an innovative flair it was clear Kishore could go on to do great things. Proving it’s possible to overcome life’s toughest challenges and create something for the better.

SOLUTIONS 4 HEALTH So, it’s perhaps not surprising that he and his wife Leena, a Public Health Expert launched Solutions

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ASIAN GIANT KISHORE SANKLA

care, far more than other countries. So for us to be pioneering such services is really special for both our frontline staff and the directors.” Proven, cutting edge and web-based management information systems also allow for much more efficient data collection, reporting, prescribing and payment requirements. Currently over 2,000 healthcare partners (GPs, pharmacies and hospitals) use these online systems and applications to better support the needs of their patients.

MYSELFCARE – DELIVERING PEACE OF MIND One of his personal favourites, however, is a secure and scalable Telehealth platform (MySelfCare), which helps patients with long-term health conditions monitor their vital signs every day (blood pressure, blood glucose, oxygen levels, weight etc.), with immediate alerts to a team of clinicians or simply to their family member if readings fall outside of safe parameters. They can even provide users with immersive, real time secure video consultation with UK based doctors, counselors and therapists from wherever in the world they may be. Kishore explains: “Using the latest cloud storage technology, readings are stored and updated in our high security hub - and if the patient’s condition deteriorates a green light at our end turns to amber and they are immediately notified. Alternatively, the clinician or a member of the family can be notified, so it provides peace of mind for all concerned. “I use it to monitor my own mother, who has diabetes. If her blood glucose reading are high, I get notified by a text message. That to me is hugely significant because even when I am travelling, and she is hundreds of miles away, I am able to keep a caring eye on things. If I don’t receive regular messages, it means she is not taking her readings, so I can then call her and check if she is fine.” MySelfCare will be rolled out directly to the public, from September 2016 in England, followed by planned rollouts in the Middle East and Asia Pacific Regions in early 2017. It gives patients peace of mind, confidence in their own wellbeing, connects them and the health professionals securely and efficiently, plus it’s easy to use from the comfort of the home and consequently reduces demand on GPs and hospitals. This is another of Kishore’s passions – successfully pre-empting the development of long-term conditions because 70% of the NHS budget is spent on the likes of arthritis, heart disease or diabetes, all of which are preventative and related to lifestyle choices. He says: “We can stop people developing longterm conditions and help manage them better - so either way they don’t end up in hospital. It’s a global issue and reducing it is a global challenge, but

“Our healthcare and technology initiatives are all about reducing the number of avoidable hospital visits, because if fewer people attend the qualit y of care will be better.”

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encouraging people to do more physical activity, stop smoking and manage their weight helps with blood pressure and lowers the risk of developing cancers. “Our healthcare and technology initiatives are all about reducing the number of avoidable hospital visits, because if fewer people attend the quality of care will be better. It’s a catch 22 situation, because while hospitals are currently facing an acute shortage of doctors, nurses and resources the biggest problem with NHS is the high number of patient visits.” Solutions 4 Health has an impressive track record now and this burgeoning reputation as one of the most dynamic healthcare & technology providers in the UK has enabled them to win significant multi-million contracts nationally and recruit nearly 100 new staff over the past 6 months. Revenues have doubled each year and consequently the company has invested significantly in unique and far reaching platforms to meet future and changing needs.

THE FUTURE Looking to the future and the exciting and many challenges facing his organisation in 2016 Kishore says: “For me it’s about maintaining and managing growth and ensuring that we have a strong and stable foundation, whilst at the same time investing in new and even more innovative healthcare technology to drive the future vision of the company.” This vision and drive has been formally recognised with Kishore being voted CEO of the Year, Healthcare and Technology by the leading financial success story magazine. This complements the company’s recent achievements of winning a prestigious MJ Award for Public Health Partnerships with Bracknell Forest Council. Asked about what success means to him, Kishore concludes “I have a constant urge to innovate that will make a difference to people’s lives, I have a simple mantra that I have always followed - focus on excellence, success will follow” ●

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ASIAN GIANT LORD KARAN BILIMORIA

A PEER AND AN ENTREPRENEUR A PROUD PARSI WITH A KEEN NOSE FOR BUSINESS, LORD BILIMORIA’S COBRA BEER WAS A PASSIONATE DREAM IN HIS EARLY DAYS AT UNIVERSITY. HE FOLLOWED THAT DREAM TO ESTABLISH AN ICONIC BRAND.

His serene and tranquil demeanour belies an ancestry consisting of military genius, business acumen and academic excellence. Lord Karan Bilimoria’s grandfather was a Brigadier in the Indian Army, his father, chief of the central army in India commanded 350,000 troops and he was raised with the legendary Gurkhas. His maternal bloodline bequeathed him academic excellence and business acumen. By birth, he is a Parsi – a tiny community that gave the world leading scientists, musicians, scholars and entrepreneurs. The culture and refinement that defines his persona is rooted in a pedigree that not many can boast of. An honours degree at only 19, followed by a qualification as a chartered accountant and a degree in law from Cambridge set the course for a future that has been illustrious both in business and peerage. It was during his time at Cambridge that the business acumen in him birthed Cobra beer; a brand that would go on to take its rightful place alongside others at the very top of the league. But the journey wasn’t easy. Speaking to Asian Voice Lord Bilimoria took us on a journey that he seldom talks about in public.

The hardest decision you have made so far? I had to make several difficult decisions. I have two principles – adapt or die. So during times of tough decision making one has to be flexible and willing to adapt. One such decision was to move the manufacturing of Cobra beer from Bangalore, India, to the UK. If I had not made that decision I wouldn’t be sitting here talking about Cobra beer. Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement. So sometimes you will end up making mistakes but you have to learn from it. There are no shortcuts to success. Cobra beer has been through several crises and each one was different. But the Cobra brand was so strong that it never flinched once. What saw me through each crisis was support from my family, a loyal team and having the right principles, values and integrity.

What would you say is the proudest moment of your life? Marrying my wife and raising children with the right values are some of my proudest moments. In business, it will have to be the creation of Cobra beer. It is a product that people absolutely love and has now become part of the British way of life. What is the secret behind the success of the Parsi community? A lot of it is to do with the chief principles of Zoroastrian faith – good thoughts, good words and good deeds. As Mahatma Gandhi described the Parsi community, we are, in numbers beneath contempt but in contribution beyond compare. And our contribution is immense. We are fortunate to have a host of role models to look up to. The Parsis have never been a threat to anyone wherever they have settled. We are also fortunate to have been the recipients of much kindness from the Gujarati community who welcomed us with open arms when we fled to India to escape persecution in Iran.

“Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement. So sometimes you will end up making mistakes but you have to learn from it. There are no shortcuts to success.”

Tell us something about yourself that people might not know. What they may not know is how much I prioritise my family. We have four children. However much I travel, I always make it a priority to visit their schools, to watch them play sports, to be with them, to advise and encourage them.

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Does the decline in numbers of the Parsi community sadden you? Yes, I am deeply concerned. The government

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Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea, CBE, DL, Crossbench Peer and chairman and founder of Cobra Beer

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ASIAN GIANT LORD KARAN BILIMORIA

of India has set up measures to stem the decline. Unfortunately in India, if a Parsi girl marries outside the community her children cannot be initiated into the community. I would like this to change because unless it does the decline will continue.

education. I would say, ‘Get an educational qualification first and then start your business’. I came up with the idea of Cobra beer while still at university but waited until I finished my education before setting up my business.

What is your greatest fear? Fear for the safety of my family is paramount. In business it is the fear of failure. Failure is not an option. I recall a successful businessman telling me that the one aspect that sets apart successful entrepreneurs from the ones who are not, is guts. They have the guts to do it in the first place and often they have the guts to stick to it when others fail.

Do you make any contribution to India? I feel passionately about India and its potential. I feel equally at home in India and the UK. Cobra beer is an Indo-British project, I founded the India UK Business Council, I sit on the UK India Round Table and on the Prime Minister of India’s global advisory council. I am always looking for opportunities to bring together India and Britain in some way or the other.

What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? The most important attribute is the right attitude. My motto is to aspire and achieve against all odds. To aspire and achieve was my great grandfathers’ motto and it now embellishes my coat of arms. At times you may have all the odds stacked against you and you have little means. But you must go out there and make it happen with the right values, principles and with integrity.

To who would you like to credit your success ? Firstly, I see success as a journey, not a destination. I can think of several people who inspire me. My grandfather, who was a member of the Upper House in both the UK and India, is a great inspiration. Both my parents are sources of inspiration.

What would you say to aspiring politicians? Politics is a tough world. I believe that politicians must have a real job and a career before entering politics. Unfortunately, so many in the House of Commons have gone from university Proud moment - on to politics without having receiving the CBE held a proper job. I was very interested in politics from my early days at Cambridge where I was vice president of the Union and led the Cambridge Union debating team. My opponent was Michael Gove MP, who was leader of the Oxford debating team. Even after I started my business I kept in touch with politics but never joined the House of Commons. Later when the opportunity came I joined the House of Lords. It helps me in the House of Lords that I have had a good education and a career. How important is formal education? There are highly successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Mark Zuckerberg who have had no formal education. But my belief is that a good education is good for personal growth. A good education broadens your mind and instils problem solving skills that are so important for successful entrepreneurship. If for some reason your business does not succeed you can always fall back on your

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How would you like to be remembered ? If what I have achieved can be an enduring legacy for future generations, that would be my biggest achievement. I often look back on the life of my great grandfather and the inspiration it offers me to this day. That to me is an example of great achievement. What is your vision for the UK? Seventy-five years ago the UK was the world’s biggest empire ever known. Today there is no empire, not many natural resources to boast about, a population of only 65 million but we are still a powerful country and a global economy. We have some of the world’s best architects, designers, engineers, best education system and the City of London is one of the leading cities in many ways. We are a tiny nation but the world’s 5th largest economy. We have 92 Nobel Prize winners. The Royal Family is one our greatest assets. The Queen is the world’s longest serving monarch. We have a long and ancient history yet we are cuttingedge and modern in every way. That combination of the ancient and the modern is a powerful asset. However, I would like to see more investment in R&D, innovation and higher education. That would make us even more successful and keep us ahead of the curve. So, my vision for the UK is for us to always look far ahead, be innovative, stay ahead of the rest and do it with the right principles. l

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ALTHCAR

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ASIAN GIANT BHANU CHOUDHRIE

SUAVE AND SHARP DURING HIS CHILDHOOD BHANU WAS FED WITH A HEALTHY DOSE OF BUSINESS SENSE. HIS FATHER WOULD LURE HIM INTO HIS OFFICES WITH PIZZA AND ICE CREAM SO THAT THE YOUNG LAD WOULD GET ACCUSTOMED TO A BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT. ALREADY A VETERAN AT A YOUNG AGE HE REVEALS HIS UPS AND DOWNS AND THE JOURNEY TO THE TOP.

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hanu Choudhrie was born in New Delhi in 1978 and moved to London in 2000. He studied International Business and Marketing at the University of Boston and recently completed the OPM Programme from Harvard University, Bhanu’s passion is creating businesses and taking them to their logical end, be it an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or a management buyout. Born into a family of successful entrepreneurs, he learnt the ropes of doing business at an early age. “My father would tempt me with pizza and ice cream to visit his offices so that I would get a feel for business,” says Bhanu. He has been the executive director of C&C Alpha Group Ltd since 2001 and oversees a vast portfolio of investments, including Hospitality, Healthcare, Real Estate, Aviation, and Banking. In a conversation with Asian Voice, Bhanu spoke at length about his business and family.

MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS Due to the nature of his business, making tough decisions are a part of everyday life. “The toughest decision for me is when you see a business failing. Not every business is successful and the toughest call is when you have to make a decision to disengage – to shut it down, liquidate it, sell it, take your losses and say thank you very much. One of my first encounters was with a company that was into mobile technology. I personally had invested a lot of time, energy and money in it. And it was not successful. But because it was one of my first ventures, it hurt me to shut it down. But you learn and move on. You learn from mistakes and next time you probably won’t wait that long to take a call,” says Bhanu. “For me, mistakes come in various forms. It could be that I have invested in the wrong business, wrong sector, wrong country. It may well be that I have invested in the wrong management team. At times it can be ‘herd’ mentality. For instance, a few years ago everybody invested in the dot-com boom. When that sector was going down it was difficult to disengage from it in the hope that things might get better which didn’t happen. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to give you a wake up call,” he continues.

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GLOBAL VISION C&C Alpha Group is a truly global business and Bhanu is a firm believer that the world today is without borders. One of his biggest challenges is finding the right management teams. He says, “When we consider global expansion, our priority is to identify a team that has the expertise to execute that business in that country and sector, and be the top in that field. If a team is unique in what it is doing then they are the right people for us because that is who we want to partner with. We don’t want to partner with just another entrepreneur or just another management team.”

HIS PROUD MOMENTS Born into the new millennium Bhanu has always been fascinated with IPOs. He recalls with pride several companies going public with which he was involved – ebookers.com in the UK, Air Deccan in India and Customers Bank in the US, to name a few. “I never get tired of helping companies go public and seeing the smiles on the faces of management teams. I consider their success to be my success,” he says.

IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES “Identifying opportunities is getting tougher,” says Bhanu. “So we focus on industry sectors that we are familiar with. We hire people who have the required skill sets for that particular sector. Even when selling a business we retain its people as advisors, so that we can draw on their knowledge. To identify opportunities you have to have an entrepreneurial streak. Maybe I was born with it or maybe I developed it over the years. More importantly I have experienced it first-hand. I have made mistakes. If you don’t make small mistakes you will make a very big one at some point in your life. You cannot go through life without making any mistake. I am fortunate to have experienced it at a young age,” he continues.

MANAGING DIVERSE CULTURES “If you do not know how to deal with management teams from different countries, cultures, and religions, that is a failure right there. Having travelled worldwide gives me a huge advantage. I did a 3-year Executive

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The toughest decision for me is when you see a business failing. Not every business is successful and the toughest call is when you have to make a decision to disengage

Bhanu Choudhrie, Executive Director, C & C Alpha Group Ltd

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ASIAN GIANT BHANU CHOUDHRIE

Programme OPM at Harvard Business School. There were 150 students from around 30 different countries. That gave me an opportunity to interact with people from countries that I had never visited. Currently, I am part of a group called YPO, Young Presidents Association, which has a membership of 30,000 from all over the world. Being part of social or business groups is essential for all entrepreneurs. That helps to keep up with what is happening in the world, be able to communicate with people from different cultures, religions, different language groups, and convert those relations into friendships for life or new business opportunities and partners,” says Bhanu.

Bhanu with wife, Simrin

BHANU’S TAKE ON EDUCATION He attaches a lot of value to formal education. “I finished university 16 years ago. I went back to university 3 years ago to refresh myself. I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I did it for myself. Because I wanted to see what had changed in the world of knowledge and education. At Harvard we had professors from different parts of the world and it is that exchange of knowledge that is education.” Learning is a life long process for Bhanu. “In our class of 150 people, the youngest was 23, the oldest was 70. I asked the 70-year-old why he was there. He said that it was a long time since he had been to university and he now wanted to see what the 23-year-olds of today were learning.”

SIGNIFICANCE OF A HEALTHY FAMILY LIFE His family is an important part of his success as a business person. Says Bhanu, “To be successful you have to stay focussed and if your family life is not healthy you are always going to struggle to stay focussed on your business. My early influence was my mother. Equally important is my wife Simrin. She has been my partner, support and best friend for 13 years. She has helped shape me to become a good husband and father. We met at a very young age and so can share a lot of happy and sad moments. When I go through struggles she is always willing to step in.” Bhanu and Simrin make every effort to teach their only son Kabir, both Hindi and Punjabi. Bhanu is a Hindu and Simrin is a Sikh so they visit both the temple and the Gurudwara. “Kabir enjoys going to both. Maybe it has to do something with the Prasad (sweets offered to the gods) he gets there,” says Bhanu with a chuckle.

WORDS OF WISDOM FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS “Dream big and keep dreaming. Take risks and challenges. You will learn along the way. That is the vital aspect to becoming a successful entrepreneur. There is no shame in failure, on the contrary you grow from there,” is his mantra.

ON POLITICS “The country needs young politicians. The whole world is going through a revolution. The biggest revolution that we have not seen yet is the revolution of the millennials. They are the future generation. There is a huge percentage of the population which makes today’s millennials. Their needs, wants and aspirations are very different from any of ours. I don’t speak their language, I don’t fully understand what they say, do or want. Their wants and needs are going to change and shape politics. Therefore having young people in politics is very important and knowing what the millennials aspire to is very important,” says Bhanu.

PHILANTHROPY Bhanu has a lot of business interest in India which he visits 5-6 times a year. His family has a number of charities in India. They run a school outside Delhi which looks after over 2,000 children. They have also set up a trust to build and run Hindu temples across India. His charities help and support children with Aids. His wife Simrin works with victims of human trafficking and is a Patron of The St Wilfrid’s Centre, Sheffield, which helps homeless and vulnerable adults in Sheffield. Bhanu believes that art is not just for the privileged, which has led him to set up a foundation to promote upcoming Indian artists.

C&C ALPHA GROUP’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE UK Next to India, Bhanu has spent most of his time in the UK where he has set up several successful businesses. C&C Alpha Group also supports several charities in the UK. As the founding sponsor of the Emerging Markets Symposium in 2008, C&C Alpha Group has pledged support until 2017. “We help transfer institutionalised knowledge from the UK to countries like India and other emerging markets. In a sense we help take best practice from the UK to regions that will benefit from it,” says Bhanu with pride. l

HIS PARTING WORDS

“ONE THING THAT MY FAMILY HAS TAUGHT US IS TO BE HUMBLE. I WOULD LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS A GOOD FATHER, GOOD HUSBAND AND A GOOD GRANDFATHER.”

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ASIAN GIANT EDWARDIAN HOTELS

Schiaparelli Suite, The May Fair

AN ICON PAR EXCELLENCE THE HOTEL CHAIN’S RECIPE FOR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS TO MAKE EVEN THE SHORTEST STAY LAST LONG IN THEIR MEMORY. AND ITS VISIONARY FOUNDER JASMINDER SINGH HAS LOFTY PLANS - TO BECOME AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE DISTRICTS THEY ARE POSITIONED WITHIN. THE LEICESTER SQUARE PROJECT IS A FINE EXAMPLE.

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dwardian Hotels London’s intrinsic link to the UK capital began in 1977, when Chairman and Founder Jasminder Singh OBE bought The Vanderbilt Hotel in South Kensington. After arriving in London from Kenya in 1968 and qualifying as an accountant, he went on to establish the hospitality group in the 1970’s. The Vanderbilt, which remains a key property within Edwardian Hotels London’s portfolio, was swiftly followed by the purchase of the Grafton Hotel (1982), Kenilworth Hotel (1983) and the group’s first 5 star The Hampshire in Leicester Square (1988). Jasminder’s eye for opportunity led to the acquisition of the May Fair from Intercontinental in 2003. Jasminder Singh says, “London offers visitors and the people who live here so much – from entertainment and culture, to architecture and education. I wanted to develop hotels in prime locations to not only take advantage of all of that, but to become part of the

fabric of the city itself. We strive to be good partners to all who spend time with us – be that to eat, to stay or for a conference, but we also want to be good neighbours and play an integral part of the districts we are positioned within.” In 2012, Jasminder Singh’s desire to affirm Edwardian Hotels London as a key player within the capital was cemented by the acquisition of a major development site in the prestigious Leicester Square. Situated in the heart of the West End, a new 350-bedroom hotel is currently under development and is due to open in 2019. As well as beautiful rooms and suites, it will encompass an Odeon cinema, restaurant and bar concepts, alongside substantial meeting and event spaces. Whilst nine of the hospitality group’s properties are within central London, growth outside of the capital’s hub has also continued. In 1990 the Heathrow venue was opened, with the third floor atrium created in 2002.

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ASIAN GIANT EDWARDIAN HOTELS

Right: Suite, Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street

Five years later in 2007, the New Providence Wharf Hotel in Canary Wharf opened its doors to guests. Outside of the capital, Edwardian Hotels London showcases its hospitality excellence at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester. Set inside the city’s historic Free Trade Hall, it has brought a new generation of award-winning luxury to one of the city’s oldest and most iconic buildings.

TOUCH OF CLASS Under Jasminder Singh’s leadership, Edwardian Hotels London has launched a number of successful restaurant concepts across several hotels. These include the May Fair Kitchen, Scoff & Banter, Annayu and Steak & Lobster. All outlets offer different genres of food, from British meals with a fresh take on the classics, to simple quality dining with a focus on provenance. In addition, the May Fair Bar has recently been refurbished, complete with new vision and service ethos. Inspired by splendour, the focus is on decadent cocktails, with an extensive menu offering small plates to complement not only the drinks, but the buzz of the district also. The evolution of the May Fair Bar is key to the future of the food and beverage offerings at Edwardian Hotels London and will be used to benchmark and inspire future concepts.

THE CARLSON REZIDOR CONNECTION The Chairman’s foresight may be highlighted by his excellent relationship with Carlson Hotels. In the early 1990’s this culminated in rebranding all its hotels to Radisson Edwardian properties and later to Radisson Blu Edwardian London. This has enabled Edwardian Hotels London to gain global distribution and access to global marketing programmes, without impacting on its individual identity. In 2012, in recognition of a 20-year partnership with Carlson Rezidor and for his integrity and exemplary work in the hotel industry, Jasminder received a Carlson Fellows Award.

FAMILY-BUSINESS WITH A DIFFERENCE One of the main differentiating factors of Edwardian

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Hotels London from other hospitality groups is that it is in the unique position of being a family-run business. However advancement within the company is strictly by merit – be it family or Hosts. The family work closely together with a shared vision for the business. Jasminder welcomed his son Inderneel into the group, who has moved from Group Corporate Development Manager to General Manager of the May Fair Hotel. Inderneel Singh says, “The May Fair hotel has such a rich heritage, going back to 1927. We’re particularly proud of our relationship with the film and fashion worlds within London. The hotel plays a key role within the Mayfair district and we are extremely excited by the changes happening in this area – from new places to eat and drink, to fashion stores opening. “Edwardian Hotels London continues to grow from strength to strength, with ambitious plans to keep building on our successes and raising the bar. As a privately owned business, we’re not liable to shareholders and that means we can remain nimble, react to the market and make smart, calculated decisions quickly.” Jasminder’s daughters Siraj and Krishma also work for the group. Siraj brings her vast knowledge of marketing and digital to her current role as Director of E-commerce and Krishma has spent the last year as Design Manager following her graduation from internationally renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City.

PEOPLE Edwardian Hotels London places huge emphasis on the importance of a unified culture, with all Hosts having access to and being made aware of the business financials. There is a collective responsibility for the future of the group and all staff (referred to as Hosts) are counselled on the difference they can make to the running of the business. One example of this is Responsible Business practices, where Hosts are asked to make recommendations which could help to improve the group’s environmental performance.

“Edwardian Hotels London continues to grow from strength to strength, with ambitious plans to keep building on our successes and raising the bar. As a privately owned business, we’re not liable to shareholders and that means we can remain nimble, react to the market and make smart, calculated decisions quickly.” JASMINDER SINGH

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Left: Scoff & Banter Kensington

for more than a decade; it is also an active member of London First, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Heart of London BidCo, the New West End Company and is a patron member of the Chambre du Commerce Francaise de Grande Bretagne – the largest Chamber of Commerce in the UK, first established in 1883. The group is also a long-standing member of the British Hospitality Association.

CONTRIBUTING TO ART AND CULTURE Jamsinder Singh has a keen interest in music and culture and that is reflected within the partnerships Edwardian Hotels London has made. The group is the Official Hotel Partner of the widely acclaimed National Theatre. The May Fair Hotel has also been the Official Hotel Partner of the British Film Institute for 8 years, as well as becoming the Official Hotel Partner for London Fashion Week for the last 7 years; the London Collection (Men’s Fashion) and the London Film Festival. In addition, the group has supported the Hallé Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra and the UK branch of the World Monuments Fund, raising awareness about sites affected by the forces of nature and impact of social, political and economic change.

CHARITY

Above: Lobby, Radisson Blu Edwardian, Manchester

Successful proposals are given financial reward, but Hosts may also see their suggestions put into practice. Hosts’ training and education is also incredibly important. ED.G.E, Edwardian Hotels London’s training academy, based at New Providence Wharf gives all new starters full induction and also offers in-depth Food and Beverage instruction. In February 2016, Edwardian Hotels London became the first hospitality group to collaborate with Imperial College Business School. It has pledged a 10-year alliance to create a development programme which intends to train over 250 people. As part of this commitment, the hospitality group will be working with Imperial’s Executive Education team to deliver a bespoke programme. The hospitality group has deep-rooted relationships with key London institutions and works alongside them to discuss relevant industry issues. It has maintained a strong connection to VisitBritain and London & Partners

The group’s support for charity extends across the UK and overseas. In January 2015, Edwardian Hotels London announced its commitment to Cancer Research UK by becoming the Francis Crick Institute’s ongoing corporate charity partner. The hospitality group has committed to raising funds for the Crick, which will see 1,200 scientists coming under one roof to accelerate the rate of progress in tackling major diseases, such as cancer, facing the global population. The pioneering project will improve global health for many generations to come, and create a world centre of excellence in London. All hotels are also encouraged to reach out to local charities in their area. The group is also dedicated to The Springboard Charity, helping young unemployed and disadvantaged children re-start their lives, whilst work done with homeless charity Centrepoint has led to work experience within the hotels and even permanent positions.

OBE As one of the UK’s most prominent Asian businessmen, Jasminder Singh was awarded an OBE in 2007 for services to the hotel industry and was honoured with a Doctorate by the University of Stirling in 2008. l

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Bristol Labs has the manufacturing capacity to produce up to nine billion tablets and two billion capsules a year and revenues have far surpassed expectation.

Thembalath Ramachandran Chairman and Managing Director Bristol Laboratories Ltd.

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ASIAN GIANT T RAMACHANDRAN

THE MAN WHO LOVES A CHALLENGE A MAN WHO LOVES A CHALLENGE, T RAMACHANDRAN’S BRISTOL LABORATORIES IS A NAME TO RECKON WITH IN PHARMACEUTICALS. BUT THE ROAD TO SUCCESS WOULD TEST HIS RESOLVE, CREATIVITY AND LEADERSHIP SKILLS.

Visionary. That sums up Thembalath Ramachandran in one word. He has an uncanny knack of identifying a business opportunity where lesser mortals see none. The antonym of daring has no place in his lexicon. If you asked him why he chose a sick unit in downtown Luton, Bedfordshire, to set up his first business venture, his reply may well be, “I saw an opportunity and took up the challenge”. That once derelict industrial unit, is sick no more. In its place stands Bristol Laboratories - one of the fastest growing British pharmaceutical companies engaged in the development, manufacture, marketing and distribution of generic medicines in the UK and Europe. Not satisfied with stamping his mark on the world of generic medicine within UK, recently his company has made forays in to other European markets like Spain and Germany. The world is indeed his oyster.

GOING BACK

TR, as he is known in the industry, comes with rich experience in pharmaceuticals. Before arriving in the UK in 1997, he was executive director at pharmaceutical giant Ipca Laboratories in Mumbai, India. This had given him enough experience and exposure to the challenges of the industry. In his dealings with business leaders’ world over, he had built his reputation by living up to his commitment and building mutual trust. He continues to maintain good relations with many of them. ‘I have close industry contacts the world over. Many suppliers have become personal friends. This discipline has helped me even during the infant days of Bristol Laboratories. It has enabled us to establish credibility in the industry,’ says TR with supreme confidence.

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Despite his spectacular success he modestly recalls the early days of Bristol Labs. ‘We started with one secretary and one director, PM Raju, in a small office in Harrow.’ “I took over an ailing unit of Wallis Laboratories, Luton, in 2004. In those days, most companies were going eastwards for getting their goods manufactured, due to lower cost of wages. The first few years were ‘bleeding years’ because I was pumping money into the business but the results were disappointing. People in the industry said that I had made a huge mistake. They said that it was akin to rowing a boat in the sand,’ he reminisces.

The master strategist, however, had other plans and decided to take the bull by the horns. ‘I took it as a challenge,’ he says. So he dug his heels in and the rest is history. “Many people who came with the factory are still working with me, and to me that is a sign that I am doing it right,” he adds.

MAKING GIANT STRIDES

Today, Bristol Labs has the manufacturing capacity to produce up to nine billion tablets and two billion capsules a year and revenues have far surpassed expectation. The company reported turnover of £90.4m for the year ended 31 March 2015, compared with £66.8m in the nine-month period from 1 July 2013 to 31 March 2014, according to its latest accounts. They attribute the increase in revenue to “strong underlying volume growth” as well as the introduction of new products for expanding markets in the UK and Europe. As a part of expansion of its infrastructure, recently the company has acquired a unit in Durham County in the north of England.

AFFILIATE COMPANIES

In line with his expansion plans to cover the rest of the world, a number of subsidiaries of Bristol Laboratories have been established. Brill Pharma, Spain – The Spanish subsidiary, based in Barcelona, was established in September 2012. It markets innovative niche products as brands in dermatology, ophthalmology, gynaecology, and

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ASIAN GIANT T RAMACHANDRAN

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rheumatology. The company employs over 70 representatives promoting brands across the country, and has shown a steady growth in a short span of time. Axcount Generika - Acquired in April 2013, the German subsidiary Axcount Generika is based in Friedrichsdorf. The company has over 130 registered products and has successfully participated in a number of tenders for pharmaceutical products and the business is growing to a plan. Brill Pharma India - The Brill Pharma operation in Mumbai was established in 2012 to provide logistic support and enhance their sourcing capabilities from Asia. Today Bristol Laboratories employs over 600 people.

CLEAR VISION AND A GOOD TEAM

‘I had a clear focus and vision of what I wanted to achieve. Also, I have a good team. It is the team that runs the show, not me. I provide some guidance. Even in my absence the show goes on. Over the years I have developed an acumen to select the right people who can fit into our system and deliver. Most of the team have been with the company for a long time .We are like a family, ‘ says TR. ‘We operate in a tightly regulated market where quality is of paramount importance. Therefore, our processes involve a high level of perfection, and we need to be technically sound. To achieve that we need highly qualified staff. Many of my technical heads enjoy their work here, due to their success achieved in the face of unique challenges. Monetary benefits though important, may not satisfy this need, ‘ he adds.

HIS SOURCE OF MOTIVATION

Innovation, looking at things differently, turning the impossible into possible are what motivates TR, and when that eventually results in success it gives him immense satisfaction. ‘Some time ago, we introduced an innovation in a dosage form of a product. After initial

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Above: At home in the lab

JAN 16 : WINNER OF HERTFORD-SHIRE LARGE BUSINESS OF TH E YEAR 2015 Bristol Laboratorie s Ltd WON the Hertfordshire Business Awards 2015 for th e Large Business of the Ye ar. The award was judged by KP MG for the Most Successful Large Business based in Hertfordshire. BUSINESS IS GREA T 2014 Bristol Laboratories was involved in the Business is Gr eat campaign. The campaign was a government initiative to encour age business development and en trepreneurial spirit.

struggle to establish it, today that product sells around 2.5 million packs and brings huge revenues to the company,” he recalls with pride. ‘Money and wealth have never motivated me. They never did, even during my difficult days. But give me a challenge and I will welcome it with open arms,’ he says.

HIS MESSAGE TO YOUNG ASPIRANTS

‘Focus on what you are doing. Be creative and do not imitate. To head a business, you have to be a good leader. A good leader should be an empathetic listener. While resolving issues do not get emotional. Concentrate on the issues causing the problem and not the person,” is TR’s mantra. ‘Whenever someone comes to me for a solution, I should be able offer a satisfactory one. If I can’t, I should have sufficient reason to tell them why I can’t. That is my approach to leadership and problem solving.’ he adds.

BALANCING FAMILY AND WORK

‘My family has always been supportive. Without their co-operation I would not have achieved what I have. By and large I do not take home work related issues. I try to make a clear division on that score. Yes, on the odd occasion I might take home some work pressures, but that comes with the responsibility and is an exception,’ says TR. ●

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ASIAN GIANT MONI VARMA

THE ‘NEVER SAY DIE’ MAN FROM STEEL TO RICE MONI VERMA’S PASSION FOR INNOVATION AND COMMITMENT TO HIS CUSTOMERS HAS SEEN VEETEE RICE SOAR TO THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE.

Moni Varma Managing Director, Veetee Rice

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ASIAN GIANT MONI VARMA

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e is a stickler for quality, obsessed with innovation and passionate about his consumers. Pursuing wealth is not on his agenda and the £150m group turnover that he has now established, is in Moni Varma’s own words “just a by-product of my efforts”. He dismisses any talk of wealth as inconsequential for he is a man who has had his fill of the trappings of wealth. Failure is not an option for him. “If one solution doesn’t work you have to be resilient enough to find another,” says the Managing Director of Veetee Rice. His fundamental belief is, “If my products are not good enough for my family’s consumption, then they are not good enough for my consumers.” A mantra that drives his obsession for product innovation and one that has made Veetee rice synonymous with quality. The company invests millions in innovation but the returns have been priceless and have given him leadership status.

FROM STEEL TO RICE The success story of the ‘Rice King’ did not begin with rice. It began with steel products, in his early days in Malawi. In partnership with a Welshman, he set up a company which in due course saw meteoric growth and was eventually bought up by the board. It was here that he met his first love, got married and decided to move to the UK. Here too, he traded in steel, picking up civil engineering contracts. “I said to myself that whatever I did I would not dip into my savings so I set a yearly target of £40 - £50,00 to fend for the family.” The overachiever that he is, his first deal fetched him £150,000! This was in 1980-81. During that time the demand for rice in the UK was rising and Moni’s tryst with it started in 1987 when Veetee Rice was founded in Perivale, London. It soon outgrew its premises, and in 1991 the company relocated to its current premises with a purpose built riverside facility in Rochester, Kent. While the dry rice business did well, Moni had other ideas. “I realised that dry rice was just a commodity no matter how big I got. The challenge was to find value addition. A good test for any organisation is innovation, doing something differently and challenging the status quo all the time. I considered several other products but because I had gained a certain expertise in rice, ideas and innovations pertaining to rice kept cropping up in my head.” Around 10 years ago one of the UK’s popular brands was selling rice in pouches using the retort process. Although the process ensured a long shelf life and convenience factor, Moni had other ideas. “In the retort process rice loses its aroma completely, especially fragrant varieties like Basmati and Thai. It becomes chewy. It is good for industrial catering and mass consumption. But if I am catering to an individual

consumer, I want to give them the real stuff. I could easily have fallen prey to copying others in the market. But I said to myself that I would do it my way and in a better way.”

VEETEE’S WINNING FORMULA – HURDLE TECHNOLOGY “I decided to challenge status quo. To do things better and not be different for the sake of being different. So we developed the aseptic process which is a hurdle technology. It is more expensive but the end product is the real stuff; what you and I would eat at home, as if it was rice cooked from scratch,” says Moni. “We soak rice for half an hour, drain it and subject it to 140 degrees of heat for 5 seconds at a time for 4 pulses. That goes to the core of the rice and kills the bacteria inside. Rice is a big offender when it comes to food poisoning. We also make sure that we kill the germs in the water before adding the rice and cooking it in a steam oven. All this is done in a surgical atmosphere without the presence of human beings. The engineers are covered from head to toe and the air is cleansed several times an hour. Once the rice is cooked it is transferred to an ultra clean area where we squirt nitrogen which is inert and so displaces oxygen. In the absence of oxygen the germs cannot survive. Then we seal it. The product now has a one-year shelf life. This process is head and shoulders above our competitors,” he continues. “Veetee does not sell its rice in pouches because they cannot withstand our stringent quality process,” says Moni. Rice is cooked in individual trays and then sold in the market. Currently they are working on pasta, lunchtime solutions.

“If one solution doesn’t work you have to be resilient enough to find another”

“Bad times and good times will both pass. Take the rough with the smooth. If you are a solution finder, eventually you will get there. There is always a solution. If nothing else, time alone is a great healer.”

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NEW PRODUCTS Veetee is also developing technology to add protein, such as shrimp and chicken, to rice. Also on the anvil are plans to cook and preserve food in a way that they retain their natural colour and texture. Shops will be able to display them in ambient shelves, not chillers. Says Moni, “A new factory is coming up for that product. There is a pilot plant that we are working on. Once we are sure of maintaining the quality and taste to our high standards then we are good to go.”

GOING STRONG “I am all of 67 years. And I have a long way to go.” says Moni, with youthful exuberance. He has now set his sights on the US market. Veetee’s products are now available in 10,000 US outlets, including major supermarkets. Enquiries are also pouring in from Mexico. “These are huge challenges but for me this is another game. You must enjoy what you do.” he says.

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ASIAN GIANT MONI VARMA

Left: Moni with his wife Shoba

His advice to youngsters is, “Back yourself in the early stage, because the risk you don’t take at an early stage may well cost you more than the risk you do take later.” “Money is not my motivating factor. I prefer to dream about new things and make them happen. That to me is gratifying. It is something I cannot fully explain. I am constantly thinking about how I can bring about a positive change and make things better for my colleagues and consumers.”

FEARS AND RISKS “I don’t take big risks so I have no big fears. Look, you can’t be in my position and not have something to worry about. You have to have a bull’s heart. I have often said to my colleagues that I could have died a thousand deaths. Bad times and good times will both pass. Take the rough with the smooth. If you are a solution finder, eventually you will get there. There is always a solution. If nothing else, time alone is a great healer. What is the point worrying about the things that you can’t control. If it is an act of God, it is beyond you,” says the Managing Director. A spiritual person? “Yes I believe in God – a super-

natural power. But I don’t believe that God will do my work for me. I need to get off my seat and do it myself.”

ROLE MODELS Early in life Moni looked up to his uncles for inspiration. But it wasn’t very long before he overtook them. Now the rest of the family looks up to him. His mother’s family were successful businessmen people and his father a professional. His family hails from Ludhiana, Punjab – a region from where some of India’s leading business families come from.

FAMILY There is warmth in his voice when he speaks about his family. His son Rajeev is being groomed for a bigger role in the company. His daughter is married to a wellknown business family and is settled in Mumbai.

PROUD TO BE BRITISH Says Moni, “The UK offers a level playing field regardless of your ethnicity and background. I owe a debt of gratitude to this country and I would like to repay, in my own small way, what it has offered me.” l

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ASIAN GIANT SANDY GUPTA

A GIANT AT HEART WITTY, SELF EFFACING AND CALM, CARDIOLOGIST SANDY GUPTA DIDN’T EXACTLY EXCEL IN HIS EARLY EDUCATION. BUT HE SOON REALISED THAT HE WAS MADE FOR BIGGER THINGS AND DECIDED TO PUT MEDIOCRITY BEHIND HIM. TODAY HE IS A LEADING CARDIOLOGIST, INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER AND AUTHOR. We are seated in nondescript surroundings somewhere in Whipps Cross University Hospital, north-east London. As one might expect there is no boardroom aura here and the furniture is basic. What seems to be a conference room, this is a place of healing and a place for learning. A place where the rich, the famous and the commoner come to place their very lives at the hands of those who have embarked on a lifelong mission to serve humanity in a way only they can. Before us sits a man with a disarming smile. For whom humour is the greatest weapon and laughter the best medicine. A cardiologist by profession, Dr Sandy Gupta never misses a chance to laugh. He loves to bring humour into his work. “I crack jokes all the time and use humour to help resolve matters,”he says.

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EARLY YEARS

CAREER AND PASSION

His ‘not so great’ beginnings are what makes his career amazing. Born in Amritsar, his parents came to London when he was two. Brought up in north London in an ordinary state school, he had average A-levels which was just good enough to get into medicine in St George’s Medical School in south London. “I wasn’t a high-flyer, didn’t study in a top public school or a grammar school, but I did what was needed to get in. In medical school I never won a single prize, but got 51% – just enough to stay in. I never got honours, but never failed my grades either. And then I got a key break in cardiology as a junior doctor. I worked for a cardiologist in Kent who thoroughly inspired me and I said to myself ‘this is my speciality”. I enjoyed what I was doing and that made a big difference. Later, I got a senior house officer job at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. From then on I did reasonably well. I did my post-graduate exams in general medicine, went to King’s College Hospital then came back to St George’s. And I did research work for an MD thesis plus completed Cardiology Speciality training in clinical work.”

It’s wonderful when a career (medicine) and a passion (teaching) come together. “I have the best job in London. The reason is, no two days are the same. I thoroughly enjoy my job. I have been a consultant for 17-odd years. I was one of the youngest cardiologist consultants in the UK at the time. The other bit of my job is that I teach. I have lectured in 70 different countries. So the diversity of roles makes my job highly satisfying.” He feels truly blessed because unlike many, he rarely feels the stress of his profession. “Well, stress is relative. There’s no magic to sort it. When you have a good family life, that helps to stay calm. To alleviate stress, I crack jokes all the time. I get on well with people at every level. I respect the whole team, be it the junior doctor, secretary, cleaner or manager.” When asked how important it is for a doctor to be a good human being, he says: “Well, that is fundamental to being a good doctor. Being a people person is the bottom line in healthcare.”

TURNING POINT

HEART HEALTH

His research got him his first brush with limelight. “I became a bit famous for my research. I did my thesis on infection in coronary disease and whether antibiotics could help. That made medical headlines in The New York Times, Daily Mail and Japan Times. I was also interviewed by the BBC and several international channels. I was in my early 30s then. And then my career in lecturing started. I was being invited because of my research. My first international lecture was in Bangalore in 1996. Then I got this consultant’s job at Whipps Cross/ Barts London in 1999 and I have been here ever since.”

An issue close to his heart, he has been a strong campaigner for the past 20 years. “If you are South Asian your death rate from coronary disease is 40% higher than white British. The focus should be on lifestyle. Don’t worry too much about vigorous exercise. Just doing routine physical activities for 30 minutes like dancing, hoovering, washing the car, walking the dog, etc. can be equally beneficial. We advise people to do 3 lots of 10 minutes a day if that is easier. If you do it during your working hours, it becomes a little less onerous.” His dietary advice also dishes out nourishing food

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“To alleviate stress, I crack jokes all the time. I get on well with people at every level. I respect the whole team, be it the junior doctor, secretary, cleaner or manager.”

Dr Sandy Gupta MBBS, MD FRCP, with wife Anuja

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for thought. “A vegetarian Asian diet is potentially healthy. The problem is if you ‘beat the vegetable to death’, you lose its benefit. You need to cook the vegetables the Mediterranean style (semi cook). Fish is fine but if you fry it then you are destroying the benefit. Excess salt and a sweet tooth are the other culprits. Alternate a glass of wine with a glass of water. If you are looking at calorie intake, try the Japanese way. The Japanese may eat six times a day but they do so in small portions. There are some 35,000 Japanese over the age of 100!”

COPING WITH PATIENTS’ DEATH

he says keeps him grounded.

PROUD MOMENTS Sandy’s greatest pride is having contributed to cardiovascular health or medicine – whether as an international speaker, in a local school or at a community centre. He prides on having received awards from the late president of India, Dr Abdul Kalam, the president of Mauritius, and having met the Queen at a local community health in East London. Sandy doesn’t have any regrets in life, but did he encounter any setback or failure? “Well, in my first year at St George’s, I did go astray a bit with late-nights, missing lectures, etc. which impacted my studies. But before things got worse a professor of anatomy told me that I was not doing well. That was the only time I was on shaky ground. But I soon pulled up my socks and never failed an exam.”

“There’s nothing more pleasurable than to hear patients say, ‘thank you Dr Gupta for suggesting surgery, I am so much better now.”

A patient’s death can be an emotional roller coaster, says Dr Gupta. “It’s a difficult aspect of our job. When things go wrong, the key is not to let it get personal. Often it is a team thing. We maintain communication with the patients’ family. When death is sudden it’s even worse. But we have to bounce back because that’s the nature of our profession.” Well, the world may think doctors are next to God, Dr Gupta thinks otherwise. “I don’t like that expression. We are foot soldiers. Yes, of all the professions, in terms of trust we are nearly always there at the top, but we need to earn it not expect it.”

FAMILY AND CULTURE Family is extremely important for Dr Gupta. “I love my time with family. I don’t push my children to follow in my footsteps. They do notice my constant passion for the job and show signs of interest.” Regarding his cultural background, he says: “I speak and understand a bit of Hindi and Punjabi. My wife originates from Sri Lanka but like me, grew up in the UK. She mainly takes care of the ‘cultural’ identity part. My daughter is learning South Indian dance. My son plays the South Indian drum. Sometimes my mother organises north Indian style ‘havans’ and ‘poojas’. Yes, it’s important to expose them to the wider family so they visit Colombo and Delhi.” He gives credit for success in his early years to his parents and later years to his charming wife Anuja, who,

DEFINING SUCCESS For him success is making patients come back feeling better. “There’s nothing more pleasurable than to hear patients say, ‘thank you Dr Gupta for suggesting surgery, I am so much better now.”

ADVICE TO ASPIRING DOCTORS Dr Gupta encourages aspiring doctors to take up this “wonderful speciality”. However, he cautions that it has its arduous moments. But the end result is worth it. “You have to put in long hours and deal with different aspects – clinical, research, communication, etc. Be realistic and find your niche areas. The days are gone of spinning multiple plates. Focus on one area and enrich yourself rather than being global.” Sandy is a formidable combination of a good head and a good heart. Starting from humble beginnings he soon realised that he was too good to date mediocrity. That belief paved the way for fulfilment, reward and international recognition. He may not be earning millions but is surely saving millions of lives which makes him a giant in his own right. l

Qualifications and accomplishments

H Specialty: Cardiology H Consultant Cardiologist, Whipps Cross and St Bartholomew’s Hospitals, London, UK since 1999. H Completed his undergraduate medical degree at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London in 1988. H Clinical training in cardiology and posts at St Bartholomew’s, King’s College and St George’s Hospitals, London. H Involved in research of ‘inflammation and heart disease’, awarded a British Heart Foundation research fellowship. H Delivered over 220 invited guest lectures in major scientific symposia in over 70 different countries. H Author of textbooks, numerous published papers, editorials and several book chapters. 1 Recipient of Lifetime Acheivement Award for Research and Practice in Prevention of CHD, bestowed by late Dr Abdul Kalam, President of India, New Delhi 2006 2 Keynote Lecture on Global CV Risk and Prevention, award received from Sir Anerood Jugnauth, President of Mauritius, Port Louis 2009 3 Nominee, Asian Achievers Award, ‘Professional of the Year’, London 2014

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ASIAN GIANT MAHMUD KAMANI

TRENDSETTER THE FASHION RETAIL BUSINESS IS A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE AND FAST CHANGING ONE. BUT THROUGH HARD WORK, DEDICATION AND FOCUS, CO FOUNDER MAHMUD KAMANI HAS ESTABLISHED BOOHOO AS A LEADING BRAND AND IS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT IT’S FUTURE.

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oohoo.com is one of UK’s fastest growing international etailers and has quickly evolved into a global fashion leader of its generation. Based in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter, the company has shown impressive growth. Financial Results for year ending 29 Feb, 2016, showed a revenue increase of 40% to £195.4m. Boohoo’s active customers for that period were up 34% to over 4.0 million. Boohoo offers a wide range of styles across women’s and mens’ wear. Staying ahead of the trends, it is a fashion sensation not just in the UK but across Europe, and is now making inroads into the US. Aimed at young, cost-conscious 16-24 year-olds, boohoo.com was set up in 2006 . Its co-founder Mahmud Kamani is an embodiment of how to fashion a success story by sheer hard work,

“Our business is online fashion and we offer products at affordable prices. Nobody else has this model. And we have now become an established brand in the etailer business. We try to stay ahead of the trends and have grown on the back of our impressive clothing range,”

dedication and focus. The fashion business suits him to a T and he has carved a niche for himself in the sector. “Our business is online fashion and we offer products at affordable prices. Nobody else has this model. And we have now become an established brand in the etailer business. We try to stay ahead of the trends and have grown on the back of our impressive clothing range,” says Mahmud.

WORK ETHIC Though married in the conventional sense of the term, Mahmud Kamani is also wedded to his business. But all work and no play has only made him a successful entrepreneur. “Well, I don’t have any hobbies. My life is all about work. Work is good for the soul and I believe in working hard. That is possible because I enjoy my work. It is a rarity when I don’t; but on the whole I enjoy my work. My work and family are

Co-Founder, Mahmud Kamani

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“You cannot build a business on your own. Great businesses are built by great teams and great partnership s. Everybody has to march in the same direction with the same goals. Everybody has to have the same ambition, the same focus, and if you can get your team to belie ve in that, half the battle is won.”

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ASIAN GIANT MAHMUD KAMANI

the two priceless treasures in my life. At times my family is upset with me because I am on my laptop or on the phone speaking to my staff, but I do my best to avoid it,” says Mahmud. So does it affect the work and family life balance? “At times, it does. It’s difficult to maintain a balance. Our business is 24/7. We sell to customers across the world. People think it’s easy to maintain work-family life balance, actually it is very difficult,” he adds.

EARLY DAYS Mahmud Kamani’s early days in the business go back to his father’s first foray into fashion. Soon after arriving from war-torn Kenya in the 1960s, his father Abdullah started off with a market store in Manchester, trading in handbags. Gradually he diversified into clothing and started supplying to high street retailers. Mahmud’s family is originally from Porbander in Gujarat, India. Interestingly, his grandfather went to school with Mahatma Gandhi. They moved to Kenya but in 1968 following the turmoil there, his father, Abdullah, with wife and four children relocated to the UK for good.

OVERCOMING STRESS Is there anything that keeps him awake at night? The Boohoo CEO says, “I guess all successful people have their own fears. But we overcome that with success. We keep going because we don’t want to fail, especially after we succeed. After success nobody wishes to fail. Fear has to be managed in a correct manner and it must drive you further.” “We have good days and bad. That’s what business is all about. But you learn to deal with it. My father used to say ‘A good businessman can handle the good and the bad. He should be able to handle the bad better than the good. That’s what makes a good businessman. So deal with everything’,” says Mahmud. “In business, you have to be determined and keep going and not give up. It’s a formula. If pushed down, you have to stand up and start again. You have to work hard. Sooner or later results will follow,” he adds.

FAMILY AND INSPIRATION In his early days, Mahmud looked up to his father for inspiration. “I was ambitious and wanted to become rich and successful. I admired my father’s business ethics, and the importance he gave to balancing family and work life. Today my father is 80. He still comes to the office every day and is very agile.” For Mahmud family life is priceless. “We are a strong family unit. Everyone understands the importance of working hard and the results it brings. But family has to be the most important part of your life. You can’t isolate family in the journey.” The winner of the Business Person of the Year category at the Asian Achievers Awards in 2014, Mahmud attributes his success to his family. “It is handed down from generations. My grandfather who was a businessman lived till 96. And then my father taught us some invaluable lessons. I guess these things

are somehow stored in the DNA. You can’t take away the glory from the previous generation. Yes, we learn from our experiences but our fathers and mothers are the people you spend most time with. They are our teachers, they are the ones who educated us and looked after us. So they are our biggest asset.” Mahmud has two brothers, Jalal and Nurez, and a sister, Rabia. Two of Mahmud’s three sons, Umar and Adam, have their own clothes retailer called PrettyLittleThing. “The children need to have a feeling of self-worth. We became successful but we have to make sure our children also have their own success. They don’t want hand downs. They want to build their own success. For this education is vital, because knowledge is power,” says Mahmud.

KEEPING ROOTS INTACT Despite his tremendous success Mahmud hasn’t forgotten his roots. He speaks Gujarati fluently and has ensured that his children also understand the language. His advice to youngsters who want to get into the fashion business is, “Be determined and don’t give up. Don’t be frightened of failure. Give it everything. Work hard. Believe in what you want to do. It should not be a 9am to 5pm kind of a job. It’s a lifelong challenge. It should be your priority. Focus on winning. For that matter in any career, you have to work hard, train hard, stay focused and believe in yourself. Go for it!” The 51-year-old entrepreneur says hard work, dedication, determination and focus are a must to become a successful entrepreneur. When asked how important is money in today’s world, he says, “Well, it would be stupid to say money is not important. Money is important for everybody, in every walk of life. Money is vital to many things in life. Money is equally important just as every thing else.”

THE TEAM AT BOOHOO Mahmud started off with just 2 employees and today he manages a dedicated workforce of 1,600. What does Mahmud look for in an employee? “They have to work hard as a team. You cannot build a business on your own. Great businesses are built by great teams and great partnerships. Everybody has to march in the same direction with the same goals. Everybody has to have the same ambition, the same focus, and if you can get your team to believe in that, half the battle is won.”

CONFIDENT OF THE FUTURE When asked where he sees the company heading to 5 years from now, he says, “It’s a long journey. Business is always changing but we will do our best to keep it a successful business. In the next 5 years we hope to become a global brand – that’s the ambition and that is possible.” Starting from humble beginnings Mahmud Kamani has built one of the leading fashion businesses of recent times. Today, it is a name to reckon with. l

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ASIAN GIANT ZAMEER CHOUDREY

KEY POINTS

Net Worth – US$1.4 billion (2015) Bestway is the seventh largest family owned business in the UK, with an annual turnover of £3.06 billion. Bestway was founded by Zameer’s uncle, Sir Anwar Pervez. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, in 2015 Zameer Choudrey’s net worth is £975 million, which makes him the second richest Pakistani in the UK. Zameer Choudrey was awarded CBE in 2016 for services to the UK wholesale industry and charity in the UK and abroad. In July 2014 Bestway Group acquired The Co-operative Pharmacy, the UK’s third largest pharmacy, for £620 million.

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MODERN, MODEST & MODERATE STARTING AS ITS FINANCIAL CONTROLLER, ZAMEER CHOUDREY ROSE THROUGH THE RANKS TO HEAD THE BESTWAY GROUP - ONE OF UK’S LARGEST GROCERY WHOLESALERS. MODEST AND SHY HE TAKES NO CREDIT FOR THE SUCCESS OF THE BUSINESS AND PREFERS TO SHUN THE LIMELIGHT.

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he head office of Bestway is certainly impressive – as is the group’s CEO Zameer Choudrey. However there is no façade to this straight-talking chief executive who has been at the helm of the Bestway business, at home and abroad, for over a decade.He was recently awarded a CBE but is surprisingly unassuming and wears his modesty on his sleeve. True to his name – Zameer means conscience or heart in Urdu – he had a heart-to-heart conversation with us. Born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan in 1958, Zameer moved to London in 1971 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant from the University of Kent, which later bestowed on him an honorary doctorate in Civil Law. He joined Bestway in 1984 as a financial controller rising through its ranks to become the CEO in 2004. The Bestway business spans many continents and a multitude of business sectors, including cement, financial services, food production, wholesale and retail pharmacy, the latter two making up the vast chunk of its UK business. As a private company, Bestway is not beholden to the City or external shareholders and Zameer stresses that this allows the group to embrace a long-term approach

to business. “As a group, we have never sold a company in our life. If we feel something is the right thing to do, we will invest to make it happen. You only need to look at the acquisition of Co-op Pharmacy in the UK and Lefarge Cement in Pakistan to realise that when we are convinced the fit is right, we will do everything we can to add to the business. We are in our sectors for the long haul and we believe in these sectors. If there are challenges along the way, we don’t panic. In business we understand nothing is constant – there will be ups and downs, highs and lows, so mentally you have to be attuned. “That’s one of the reasons the group has diversified so much. As a group our interest range from retailing, wholesale, property, rice, cement, banking, and pharmacy businesses. The lesson here is diversification. As a modern company, you can’t afford to put all your eggs in one basket.” And diversification seems to be suiting the company well. In the group’s last accounts turnover increased by 20%, topping £3bn for the first time, and profits climbed 40% to £373.8m with all group businesses continuing to be profitable.

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ASIAN GIANT ZAMEER CHOUDREY

DOWN TO EARTH Despite this success, Zameer is remarkably well grounded. “I am a shy and low-key person preferring to listen rather than talk – you learn much more that way. Much of the credit for Bestway’s continued success is owed to the chairman, Sir Anwar Pervez. It’s because of him we are all in Britain. He started the business from a convenience store 40 years ago with a trusted band of friends. My father, who was in Pakistan Army, joined him with the rest of the family joining up later. My role is continuing to develop the business with a sustainable business model that we can pass to future generations.”

FUTURE So are the future generations already in the business? “Some are, some aren’t. The priority for any father is to give your children the best possible start in life and then it’s up to them. They will have their own motivations and ambitions and if these can be met within the Bestway business then fantastic. Even if they want to enter the business it’s important for them to achieve the best possible educational and professional qualifications then work outside the business for some time. Working outside the business gives you different perspectives, skill sets and social circles which you can then use to develop the business once you are onboard.” When asked what advice he does give to his children, Zameer says: “I tell my children to have a balanced approach in everything. Don’t go to extremes. Have a balance between work life and family life – everything should be in moderation.” Success has not changed Zameer and he claims his lifestyle has remained the same throughout the past 35 years. “I use the same cars, have the same group of friends, the same house, etc. I have no regrets at all. I am a humble, but positive, guy with my feet on the ground. I don’t think I am exceptional in any way, maybe just lucky. I have been at the right place at the right time. I didn’t have to struggle much unlike my parents.”

PHILANTHROPY And it is this inequality that drives Zameer’s passion for philanthropy, heading up the Bestway Foundation – the group’s charitable arm that is committed to donating 2.5% of annual profits to good causes. “Education is a key pillar for our contributions. I believe we have to provide young people with the best possible grounding. That’s why we invest in schools, bursaries and community projects throughout the UK and in Pakistan. Young people are the future leaders and the more we provide them the self-belief, confidence, skill sets and other essentials the better people they will become.”

CONTRIBUTION TO PAKISTAN On Bestway’s business contribution to Pakistan, Zameer says: “We create employment, our businesses are transparent and we pay taxes to the government. We are the largest cement producer in Pakistan and our banking operation United Bank is the second largest in Pakistan. When we took over there were 9,000

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employees, now with its improved network it’s 18,000. In Pakistan we are providing employment to more than 22,000 people directly. We are helping in the growth of Pakistan, building the country and of course, helping charitable causes whenever and wherever we can.” His love of Pakistan is mirrored by his adoration to the UK of which he is full of praise. “Britain has been very kind to me. The British are accommodating, patient and tolerant and the country has provided my family and me with opportunities we never could have imagined.”

CULTURAL ROOTS Zameer’s family consists of his mother, five sisters and one brother. He is married and has two boys, Umair and Haider. Living in London has not disconnected him from his roots. “We came here by choice to have a better life and would now be considered economic migrants. Although we have integrated fully, we are still culturally rooted and have strong ties with Pakistan. I don’t insist that my children be culturally rooted but we create an environment for it. We go to Pakistan three times a year for holidays so there’s no fear of us losing our identity.” He says planning is the key to overcoming challenges. Zameer says: “I don’t have any negative life experiences. For me everything has been good. Of course, I have worries but I plan and conquer them. Worrying is good but then you should do something about it rather than let it take over. The key is to plan, organise and coordinate.” As we talk, we compare Zameer with Indian tycoon Ratan Tata, however he modestly responds: “Comparisons can’t really be drawn but I have the greatest respect for Ratan Tata. India is not an easy place to work in and the Tatas have done business the right way over the years; ethically and transparently. They have been growing, working in a tough environment, yet they are clean and above board.” They say success is where talent meets opportunity. Zameer knew he had the talent, he got the opportunity and he grasped it with both hands. And has never looked back. The best way to describe Zameer is by quoting the poet and philosopher Dr Allama Iqbal: “Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai.” (Raise yourself to such a level that when God wants to grant you fortune, he asks you what do you want?) Zameer in truth would ask for very little. He has what he wants from life – education, family, love, success and a strong set of values. Title, fame and wealth seem to sit a little less comfortably with him. However he is a man with the Midas touch and the key to his success is his humility. Despite scaling heights of success, he has stayed connected to his roots with his feet firmly on the ground. l

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ASIAN GIANT KIRIT PATEL

LIVING THE DREAM FROM OWNING ONE PHARMACY IN THE MID-SEVENTIES TO 277 CURRENTLY, KIRIT PATEL’S SUCCESS STORY HAS BEEN A THRILLING ONE. NEVER AFRAID OF FAILURE, A RISK TAKER WHO NEARLY WENT BUST, HE HAS PLANS TO FURTHER EXTEND HIS EMPIRE AND DIVERSIFY INTO NON PHARMACY BUSINESS.

He is not afraid of failure and never stops trying. For him the magic pill for success is perseverance. It is this attitude that has taken him places and made him a winner all the way.

HANDLING RISK AND FAILURE “I often say this – fail often, fail fast, fail cheap. If I fail, I get up and start again. If a project is a non-starter, I scrap it and try something different. But I don’t throw good money after bad. If I try something five times, I may fail thrice, but when I do get it right I earn far more money. That’s the entrepreneurship we drive in Day Lewis,” says Kirit. “Yes, for that you have to take calculated risks. If you don’t take risk, you can’t be a successful businessman,” he adds.

EARLY DAYS Kirit Patel started his career in Boots Pharmacy as a management trainee. He magnanimously acknowledges the excellent training he received in Boots. “I have a lot of respect for their training. At that time Boots was the only company that was offering training to pharmacists. They trained well. The experience was so good that when my son qualified as a pharmacist, I encouraged him to train at Boots which he did for a year,” says the CEO. Born in a Gujarati business family, his father left India for Kenya and set up a shop there. Young Kirit was sent to England in 1967 to become a doctor. “The swinging sixties was an era of hippies, rock & roll and long hair. Overindulging in worldly pleasures, I ended up with mediocre grades. I couldn’t get into medicine and decided to become a pharmacist. Six months after I qualified as a pharmacist in 1974, my father died of a heart attack. He was just 54 and I was only 24. In 1975 my family came over to England from Kenya and we bought a pharmacy in Kent. The name of the pharmacy was George Green Chemist. But the other shops I bought were Day Lewis pharmacies,” says Kirit.

is about winning people over – people in the organisation, people in the community and people in the wider world.

WHAT DOES HE LOOK FOR IN AN EMPLOYEE? Attitude and not skills, says Kirit. “Skills can be imparted, but the right attitude is key. If you haven’t got that, the rest does not matter. Imparting skills is the line manager’s problem. For us the right behaviour is critical.” Kirit says he learned his lessons the hard way. “Maslow’s theory of motivation says money is not the prime motivator. Empowerment is what works magic in people. I practise that. I had 32 shops in 1986 and by 1988 interest rates went up to 14% and I nearly went bust. I realised that I had lost my way. My style of management was autocratic. When things went wrong, many colleagues abandoned me. I had to sell all but 8 shops. In 1995 I started again. And this time I did it my father’s way which is people empowerment. He was an inclusive person. The whole focus was on people – treating people with respect, caring and empowering them. So the key to a successful organisation is its people. People in our pharmacies behave differently when compared to others .”

“Success to me is when people value my relationship with them. Success is about creating wider empowerment, wider engagement and paying back to socie ty. Creating wealth and not giving back is not my style.

A PEOPLE’S PERSON Kirit believes in investing in people. For him success

DEFINING SUCCESS When asked what success means to him, Kirit says, “Success to me is when people value my relationship with them. Success is about creating wider empowerment, wider engagement and paying back to society. Creating wealth and not giving back is not my style. I derive happiness from my family, my children playing key roles in my business, staff being treated as extended family members and they treating our family as their extended family.” Employees have stood by him during bad times. “It’s a fallacy that people are loyal to the organisation. That is not true. They are loyal to individuals. Be it a line manager

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TECHNOLOGY

CEO Day Lewis Pharmacy

Well, I don’t have any stress. I enjoy my life. It’s all about getting your work life balance right. I learned one thing – if I don’t like something I don’t do it.

or the business owner. If you look after staff they stay longer. If people are not happy, regardless of money they will leave. There are employees who have been with me for the past 35 years. In fact their children are also working with me.”

IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION Apart from qualification in pharmacy, Kirit also has three business degrees. However, he says education is a never ending process. Going to university is one thing, reading business books, attending seminars, conferences is another. “The moment you think you know everything, it’s time to retire. This is because environment, human behaviour, technology and products change. When changes take place if you don’t change, you don’t do so at your peril.” Kirit did his MBA in 1986-88. He was 30 then and had 3 young children to look after. He did it at a time when his pharmacy business had almost gone bust. He also did two years advanced management development programme in 1993-95. In 2007 he went to Wharton and finished an advanced management programme. “All my children are MBAs,” says the proud father.

MANAGEMENT STYLE How does he manage an empire of 277 pharmacies and 2,500-odd employees? “Well, I don’t have any stress. I enjoy my life. It’s all about getting your work life balance right. I learned one thing – if I don’t like something I don’t do it. I am the biggest delegator you can come across. I also advise my children to use their heads 80% of the time and their hands only 20% of the time. I spend most of my time thinking. “Also, the key is to play to people’s strength and support their weaknesses. As far as strength is concerned, keep pushing the bar. Widen people’s roles as much as they are comfortable with and make them multi-skilled. This is the philosophy at Day Lewis.”

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“Technology is a great enabler. Technology should empower people and make things easier and efficient. It should be used to connect various departments. As my eldest son Jay, who is a pharmacist and also the Chief Innovation Officer at Day Lewis, often says, ‘Using technology correctly is good. However, technology often fails because it is not people centric. People always come first. Then comes the process. Finally, you apply technology to help that process. So get the process right. Don’t change the process to suit technology. That’s a mistake’.” He says businesses often fail because of lack of understanding of finance and economics. “For example, recession does not creep up on you without a warning. You can foresee it, it’s cyclical and you can smell the symptoms. It just does not happen overnight. And you got to change with it. You have to learn to ride the cycles.”

NUGGETS FOR PHARMACISTS

His advice advice to upcoming pharmacists is, “Don’t do what others do which often is dispensing. Become clinicians, look after patients’ needs, offer advice about medication and healthy lifestyle. That is the future. Pharmacies fail because they don’t offer these services. Independents are lagging far behind multiples in terms of services. You don’t do a 5-year pharmacy course to count tablets. Soft skills and confidence to provide good services, apart from dispensing medicine, are vital.”

LOOKING AHEAD “The threat to any business comes in the form of interrupters. They come in 4-5 year gaps. We should avoid a ‘Kodak’ kind of a situation. Pharmacists should be able to adapt to the new idea that’s on the way,” says Kirit. How do you see the future of the company? “In 4 years’ time I will step down as CEO. I will be the chairman. My two sons, Jay and Sam, will be the joint MDs, and my daughter Rupa will be the People Director to ensure we build on our core values. We plan to have 400 pharmacies by 2021 and will diversify more into non-pharmacy business,” he adds.

“Follow your heart more than your head. Dreams are in your heart. If you wish for something, take the first step. If you fall, take another step.”

PARTING WORDS How does he want to be remembered? “I would like people to say that I made a difference to their lives. Someone who gave back to society.” His philosophy in life is to live one’s dream. “Follow your heart more than your head. Dreams are in your heart. If you wish for something, take the first step. If you fall, take another step.” l

ASIAN GIANTS SUMMER 2016

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