A taste of the East
The Asian community is the UK has made a bg impact with many memers of this community topping world rich lists having built up successful businesses across all sectors of industry
The continued success of Asian entrepreneurs testifies to the staying power of the Asian business community.
Asian wealth in the UK has become more diverse. It now crosses from first through to second and third generations. We see an emerging and evolving Asian business community and it is worth noting the pace and direction.
It spans manufacturing and services, entertainment and fashion, hotels and property, food and pharmaceuticals. While programmes like The Apprentice and Dragon's Den have popularised the brash, go getting entrepreneur, in reality it is hard work, perseverance and true grit that has seen the Asian business community flourish in the UK.
But unlike Alan Sugar, Richard Branson or Duncan Bannatyne, a lot of the Asian-owned businesses are more famous than their owners. For example, not many people associate ebookers.com with its founder Dinesh Dhamija or Vitabiotics with Dr Kartar Lalvani. Both key players in the community but perhaps less well recognised outside.
So how did it all start? The first generation Asians arrived in the UK in the late 1960s and early 1970s from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, numbering about 1.5m, together with some 50,000 who were expelled from Uganda in 1972 during Idi Amin's rule. Success in business compensated, to some degree, for the initial lack of recognition from their new host country. The East African Asians, especially, tried to recapture some of the self-esteem they lost when they were forced to leave their businesses behind, only to realise that they had become an unexpected minority in the UK.
The first generation aimed primarily for economic comfort and security for the family while seizing the opportunities the UK presented. Some businesses were set up in order to keep the family members together and in employment and they enjoyed the status of being business people, which carried some weight in the community. Corner shops became their stronghold.
The Asian entrepreneur was held up as a role model highlighting the rags to riches story. They transformed the UK from an 8-hour working day to 24-hours, seven days a week. Indian cuisine and restaurants became a key part of the British lifestyle. The restaurants are responsible for the success of many of the key players in Asian enterprise. Gulam Noon, for example, credits the restaurants for opening the doors for his range of Indian chilled and frozen foods to be found in Sainsbury's and Waitrose among other stores.
The same is true for the success of Karan Bilimoria and Cobra lager. However, in reality, a few high fliers mask a proliferation of firms concentrated in sectors with low barriers to entry and a struggle for survival.