WHETHER he celebrated with a glass of nongassy Cobra, the beer he created, or a sip or two of champagne, Lord Karan Bilimoria has been decidedly effervescent in his response to the news that he is set to become the next president of the CBI, Britain’s largest and most influential employers’ organisation.
“I am humbled and honoured…deeply touched and inspired”, he tweeted after beingelected as the new vice-president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in June 2019. It also means, according to CBI tradition, that he is almost certain to take over as president next year when its current head, Tesco chairman John Allan, steps down.
The elevation of this India-born, self-made millionaire to this pivotal business role – he also has 13 years’ experience as a crossbench peer – marks a departure from tradition, as previous CBI bosses have generally been FTSE 100 chairmen. It is a recognition that his dual insight into the worlds of entrepreneurship and politics can play a key role in influencing government policy on business and industry.
Lord Bilimoria, who founded Cobra Beer in 1989 and remains its chairman, has said he wanted the CBI to shift its focus from being the ‘voice of big business’ to a body that represents smaller firms too.“The CBI represents 190,000 companies and should be perceived and seen as the voice of all business. I would like to champion SMEs(small and medium-size enterprises) in particular, and to make entrepreneurship a focus”, he said.As the first member of the Lords to lead the CBI, Lord Bilimoria would bring his understanding of the parliamentary process to bear as politicians battle over the UK’s future relationship with Europe.
A staunch Remainer, he has campaigned for a second referendum while the CBI has lobbied against a no deal while stopping short