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Cofresh crowned Business of the Year at glittering Midlands Awards ceremony

Asian entrepreneurship and business success were honoured on Friday 27th April at the Asian Business Awards Midlands, the annual gathering of the region’s wealthiest and most successful Asian businessmen and women.

The gala event, attended by Chief Guest Heather Wheeler, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government, saw her honour the outstanding business achievements across industries.

Cofresh, one of Britain’s leading Indian snacks brand, collected the coveted Asian Business of the Year Award. The company operates out of a state of the art 140,000 sq ft factory in Leicester and is led by founder Dineshbhai Patel’s two sons Priyesh and Minesh. Its products are consumed by more than 1.5 million UK consumers every week. The company makes more than 200 different products and is available in all major supermarkets and exports to more than 28 countries.

Cofresh founder Dineshbhai Patel collects the Business of the Year Award

A further seven awards were handed out glittering ceremony, held at the Winstanley House, Leicester, including Keith and Maria Bastian, Managing Directors of Fischer Future Heat, were recognised for their passion for bringing efficient and economical heating to the British market as the collected the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Keith Bastian was award the Entrepreneur of the Year accolade

Gurvinder Singh Birk, Founder of Fast Despatch Transport Ltd, won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Birk started a small transport logistics company with a vehicle fleet of just two. Today it operates more than 600 vehicles and has become one of the leading last mile delivery experts in the UK. Its clients include manufacturers and international parcel carriers.

Gurvinder Singh Birk won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

The Community Champion Award was presented to Randhir Singh Heer and Parmjit Singh Bahyia, founders of Midlands Langar Seva Society, for their charitable venture MLSS which is one of the biggest homeless street charities in the UK.

Randhir Singh Heer and Parmjit Singh Bahyia and took home the Community Award for their incredible charitable work

AJB Group, founded by managing director Amarjit Binji won the Manufacturing Award. The business operates from a 40,000 sq ft factory and supplies joinery to the most iconic buildings across Britain, from the RBS headquarters in Edinburgh to the Shard in London which boasts no fewer than 500 of AJB’s exquisite door frames.

The Food and Drink Business Award – Sponsored by HKS Holdings, went to Simtom Foods, whose products such as cooking sauces, seasonings, marinades and pickles used in the preparation of Indian foods.

The Healthcare Business Award – Sponsored by Citi Private Bank was awarded to pharmacy chain Jhoots Group, with CEO Manjit Singh Jhooty collecting the award. Headquartered in the Midlands, the group employs more than 450 staff across 90 pharmacies. The group operates from new purpose-built headquarters in the heart of Walsall’s town centre.

The Garavi Gujarat Pioneer Award, in recognition of 50th anniversary of Garavi Gujarat publication, was posthumously given to Bhagwanjibhai Lakhani, founder of Bobby’s restaurant in Leicester. Lakhani founded Bobby’s in Belgrave Road in 1976, just four years after arriving in Leicester having been thrown out of Uganda by the dictator Idi Amin, along with thousands of other Asians. Despite having no restaurant experience, he turned Bobby’s into a lasting success and helped cement the reputation of the Golden Mile for quality food, as well as jewellery and clothing.

The children of the late Bhagwanjibhai Lakhani collected the award on his behalf

Also in attendance was Mayor of West Midlands, Andy Street, who paid tribute to the dedication and hard work of the business community and also unveiled the Asian Rich List Midlands 2018.

The Asian Rich List Midlands the biggest and most prestigious celebration of Asian business success in the region. Published by Asian Media Group (AMG), it shows the combined overall net worth of the featured 51 Midlands-based millionaires has topped the £5 billion mark (an increase of £400 million over the past 12 months), with the top 10 being valued at over £3 billion.

After dominating the Asian Rich List Midlands since its inception in 2014, Ranjit Boparan has slipped from the top spot and replaced by Lord Swraj Paul, whose unmatched work ethic continues to see him lead the Caparo Group to worldwide success.

Speaking to the Asian Rich List Midlands, Lord Paul revealed he continues to be ‘traumatised’ by the tragic of death of his son Angad in 2015, so it’s a testament to the 87-year-old’s drive, leadership and passion for business that has seen him maintain his £800 million net worth. Lord Paul sights Caparo Group’s business in the US, which he says is ‘doing extremely well’ and their expansion into the Indian market, as key to the company’s growth.

Lord Swarj Paul said his son had a great love for India.

It’s been a tough 12 months for Boparan, who has seen £160 million wiped form his net worth which now stands at £740 million. His 2 Sisters Food Group, which reportedly manufactures a third of all poultry products in the UK, was hit hard by a joint Guardian newspaper and ITV News investigation in September 2017, which found alleged malpractice at the 2 Sisters factory in West Bromwich. Furthermore, in February, the company announced that restructuring would lead to 900 job losses in three plants, including two in the Midlands.

One thing stands out and that is the pride and passion of people in business in the Midlands itself. There’s a vibrancy that comes from an area that appears on the move.

Shane Thakrar, 34, and named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the national Asian Business Awards 2018, and whose family firm, HKS Retail, who are number 12 on the list, he has helped to create into the multi-million-pound business he now leads, told the Asian Rich List Midlands, there was a lot to be proud of, both generally and for the region itself.

Shane Thakrar spoke at the Asian Business Awards Midlands

“It’s been a great home to us,” he said of Leicester. “The Midlands is a diverse area with a great economy and it’s a powerful place with so many pockets of different trades.”

There are seven new entries in this year’s list.

Straight in at number 14 and the highest new entry – is Bobby Kalar with an estimated wealth of £95 million. An unlikely energy tycoon who started out his entrepreneurial life in care homes. His sale of Redrose Care in 2002, led to him investing his cash in the energy sector, creating Yu Energy.

Nottingham-headquartered Yu Energy focuses more on the business end of the trade and reckons that it can beat its threefold revenue increase in 2017 this year.

Bobby Kalar was the highest new entry on the Rich List

Pritpal Singh Landa is another one of new entries at number 41. He runs DSL Group, a petrol forecourt promotions company. Landa works with all the big players in the field and has over 30 years’ experience; his three brothers are involved too and the four have investments in other sectors such as property, both commercial and domestic and document storage and management business through an entity called Docubank.

It’s not just the new entries to the list that draw our attention – among the fast risers are Kailash and Suman Suri who have a remarkable and unusual tale to tell – Kailash having started out in farming – but now expanding as the owner of a rather innovative and forward-looking independent cinema chain. This year they have risen up the Asian Rich List Midlands from 34 to number 21.

Though the Suris have a chain of 15, the Reel Cinemas business is not cinema as you might understand it. The Suris put their cinemas at the heart of communities and often offer a very personal touch.

Another one of the big risers is Joginder Pal and Harjot Singh Anand, who own Anand International, a wholesale trade distribution business in batteries and electronics. Based in Melton Road, Leicester, the two are been honing their business and reaping the rewards since 1981. With revenue rising to £43m last year (till June), the operating profit of £2 million might not seem enormous, but the business has no debt, and strong cash reserves. One to keep looking out for – next year as they move from 44 to number 36.

Another enterprise that continues to make headway and is of particular regional pride is the trio of entrepreneurs – Sant, Parveen, and Sudhir Mehta (number 20)– all directors of fruit and vegetable specialists Minor Weir Willis (MWW).

One of the most respected figures of region, property magnate Paul Bassi (number 16) had another solid business year and he sees a bright future for the Midlands, saying: “The regions, in particular Birmingham and the West Midlands, look set to enter a new golden era.”

Shailesh Solanki, executive editor of AMG and one of a panel of four experts who has examined British Asian wealth over the last year for the Asian Rich List Midlands, said: “The Midlands has for a long time been a beacon of success for the UK. The list shows the remarkable strength and diversity of Asian businesses in the region. And with Brexit on the horizon, and uncertainty over future trading relationships with Europe and the world, this comprehensive list proves that British Asian businesses in the Midlands have the desire, flair and know-how to continue to flourish.”

Winners of the Asian Business Awards this year were:

Healthcare Business Award

Jhoots Group of Companies (Manjit Singh Jhooty, Chief Executive Officer)

Food and Drink Business Award

Simtom Food Products Ltd (Jaisukh Chandarana, Chairman)

Manufacturing Award

AJB Group (Amarjit Binji, Managing Director)

Community Champion Award

Randhir Singh Heer and Parmjit Singh Bahyia, Founders Midland Langar Seva Society

Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Gurvinder Singh Birk, Founder Fast Despatch Transport Ltd

Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Keith and Maria Bastian ,Managing Directors at Fischer Future Heat

Asian Business of the Year

Cofresh Snack Foods (Dinesh Patel, Founder and Chairman)

The Garavi Gujarat Pioneer Award

Bhagwanjibhai Lakhani (Founder of Bobby’s restaurant in Leicester)