What the success stories of Asian Business Awards winners have in common
Business of the Year Award: Bestway Group
One of Britain’s most successful companies, Bestway was founded by Sir Anwar Pervez and his school friends. The group today operates the UK’s second largest wholesale chain and the Well Pharmacy Group, as well as Pakistan’s second-largest cement business and the country’s third-largest bank.
Bestway Wholesale serves more than 130,000 retailers and 3,000 franchisees across the country through its 59 depots, delivery network and e-commerce channels.
In 2018, Bestway took over Conviviality Retail and acquired the Costcutter supermarket group this year. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the group adapted with agility and speed as it recognised the unique role that community retailers had to play during the lockdown.
Every year, the group donates 2.5 per cent of its profits to the Bestway Foundation, a charitable trust which has donated more than $40 million (about £30m) to worthy causes in the UK and Pakistan.
Businesswoman of the Year: Ritu Sethi, the Sethi Partner Solicitors
A solicitor by training, Ritu Sethi started her law practice in 1994 and has since created a legal practice that is both commercially successful and respected for the range and quality of its work.
Formed in 1994, as Sethi was expecting her second child, when her business partner Martin died from a heart attack, Sethi Partnership Solicitors is today one of the longest-established practices to be set up in Eastcote. The firm is known in west London among not only its clients but also the local community. It has more than 35 employees looking after 30,000 clients.
As senior partner, Sethi has overall responsibility for managing the practice, client care, ethical and professional standards, financial management and human resources. This includes being the compliance officer for legal oractice (COLP) and the compliance officer for finance and administration (COFA).
Sethi has appeared on BBC radio, and is also a motivational speaker and TV presenter. She has won several accolades in business and the legal profession.
Asian Business Philanthropy Award: Anil Agarwal and the Anil Agarwal Foundation
Anil Agarwal is the chairman of Vedanta Resources, a global leader in oil, gas and metals industries. Agarwal made a pledge in 2014 to donate three-fourths of his wealth to charity after meeting Bill Gates and after being inspired by the charity work of Andrew Carnegie and David Rockefeller.
In July this year, the Anil Agarwal Foundation unveiled a roadmap to strengthen India’s social development, pledging £500 million in the next five years for rural India.
Vedanta contributed £10m to the PM Cares Fund in India, created after the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in India. The company also established a special corpus of £10m for Covid-related initiatives to support daily wage earners and local communities.
Last year, Agarwal said his foundation, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will work to eradicate malnutrition in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Restoration of the Year: The Hinduja Group and Westminster Development Services for the Old War Office project
The building, which was used by Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War (and more recently in some Bond films), had historical significance.
It was acquired by the Hinduja Group in 2014 from the UK government on a 250-year lease for a reported £350 million.
Spread over seven floors, the Old War Office (OWO) will open next year as a 125-bedroom Raffles-managed luxury hotel, with nine restaurants and bars and a spa, plus 85 private apartments, which have gone on sale. The starting price for a two-bedroom apartment is £5.8m.
The lead architect of the OWO project said, “The building was vibrating with memories waiting to be reawakened.”
Gopi Hinduja (whose daughter-in-law Shalini was in charge of the interior decoration of the ultra-luxurious apartments) added, “It’s a trophy project. It will be a desirable destination. I wanted to leave a legacy in the UK, which has been my home country.”
Property Developer of the Year: Westcombe Group
The Westcombe Group, a UK residential developer with assets of £400 million, is led by Vraj Pankhania, chairman; CEO Kamal Pankhania; and operations director Sunil Pankhania.
Established in 1975, with its first development being a house in Westcombe Hill – hence the name – in southeast London, Westcombe specialises in taking on and converting Grade II listed buildings, such as schools, hospitals and army barracks, into luxury accommodation.
The group has developed properties across the southeast, with one of its major projects being the modification of former St Bernard’s Hospital in Ealing into a luxury residential development. It is now constructing a nine-storey hotel opposite Old Trafford, Manchester United’s football stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2024.
Westcombe launched a hospitality arm, Acre Hotels, and is diversifying into affordable housing with the company Dholak Partnership Homes Ltd.
During the pandemic, Westcombe purchased Kingston Bridge from Kingston University for £11.25 million. It will be developed into 90 apartments, including affordable units.
Last year, the group made a profit of £25m, and is targeting a £60m turnover by 2025, with £500m in assets, and aims to increase it to £650m by 2027.
Bank of the Year: State Bank of India
The State Bank of India (SBI) has been active in the UK since 1921, and is celebrating its centenary in the country this year.
The bank has continued its tradition of ensuring streamlined banking and financial services for its resident and non-resident Indian customers.
SBI UK currently has more than 100,000 retail customers who are served by 300 local employees. Although Covid restrictions posed a challenge in the past 18 months, SBI UK sought to support its customers and rolled out measures to help the community as a whole. During the height of the pandemic as well as early this year, the bank kept its branches open as an essential service, adjusting staff numbers as the law dictated.
Food & Drink Business of the Year: Sun Mark
Launched by entrepreneur Lord Rami Ranger with just £2 in capital and a £40 typewriter, Sun Mark grew out of a logistics company after the founder spotted a market to export well-known British brands to the developing world.
Today the business is led by the second generation of the family and exports products to more than 130 countries. Sun Mark has won five consecutive Queen’s Awards for enterprise, which remains a British record.
In recognition of his contribution to business, Lord Ranger was made a peer in 2019 and is the Baron of Mayfair. He recently sold a majority stake in Sun Mark to allow him to concentrate on his philanthropic and parliamentary activities.
Lord Ranger has now passed the baton onto his son-in-law Sunny Ahuja, who is the new CEO. He has worked with Lord Ranger for two decades, helping to grow turnover from £8 million to £200m and also expanded the business’s operations into the UAE, Netherlands and Nigeria.
Fast Growth Business of the Year: Star Pacific
Star Pacific, one of the fastest-growing FMCG export wholesalers, operates from its headquarters in Hayes, London.
Gajraj Singh Rathore, Shyam Bajaj and Satyam Ahuja are the joint chief executives of the firm which exports high-quality products. Star Pacific UK Ltd has been honoured with the UK’s most prestigious business award – the Queens Award for Enterprise, also known as the ‘Knighthood for Businesses’. The awardee is recommended by the prime minister.
CEO of the Year: Nish Kankiwala
The Hovis chief executive, Nish Kankiwala, is a successful businessman who has played a key role in popularising the bakery brand across the UK.
In addition to launching new products, he created the Hovis Academy for the company’s apprentices as he believes the attitude of workers matters a lot in the growth of a business.
Born in Surat in India and brought up in London, Kankiwala graduated as a chemical engineer. He began his career at Unilever and later joined Pepsi-Co where he became president of the soft drinks business in Europe and Africa, before arriving at Hovis in 2014. In 2021, he joined the John Lewis Partnership as a non-executive director.
Care Home Operator of the Year: Angel Care/MNS Care PLC
Angel Care/MNS Care operates the country’s leading care and nursing homes, including a purposebuilt home for elderly Asians in Harrow.
Set up in 1990, the company is motivated by the idea ‘a love for inspiring care’. Sandip Ruparelia is the managing director and Priti Ruparelia and Ravi Ruparelia are directors in the company. They are engaged in the operation, acquisition and development of specialist care and nursing homes.
During the pandemic, Angel Care/MNS Care provided more than 60,000 freshly cooked meals to frontline NHS workers at nearby hospitals, and also made home deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable.
The group is known as a care provider for the elderly who require nursing or dementia support. Its facilities are rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Its latest purpose-built care home in Suffolk, Cavell Manor Care Home in Woodbridge, already has residents waiting to move in.