• Friday, September 17, 2021
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Bangladesh Corona Update 
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UK Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
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Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
India corona update 
Total Fatalities 443,928
Total Cases 33,347,325
Today's Fatalities 431
Today's Cases 30,570

Business

Study finds ethnic minority businesses struggle to access loans, grants, and investment 

(Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images).

By: Radhakrishna N S

By Nadeem Badshah

AN URGENT investigation is needed on why ethnic mi­nority entrepreneurs often struggle to secure financial support to grow their firm, according to business lead­ers and experts.

They have expressed disap­pointment at the findings of a report which found that some BAME business owners are disproportionately unable to access loans, grants or invest­ment. The study, by the Feder­ation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Aston University in Bir­mingham, called on ministers to launch a scheme to improve ethnic minority access to finan­cial help. It also found that BAME businessmen and wom­en contributed £25 billion to the UK economy in 2018, equivalent to the economic contribution of Greater Manchester, despite being held back by barriers.

Ramesh Sharma, managing di­rector of Media Ventures Interna­tional, told Eastern Eye: “It is disap­pointing to see that ethnic minority businesses continue to be put at a disadvantage when trying to grow a business, despite their invaluable contribution to both society and the economy.

“To make matters worse, the coronavirus-induced uncertainty that continues to plague the econ­omy risks accentuating the dispro­portionate lack of investment that ethnic minority businesses receive.

“There is work to be done by the public and private sectors. The government ought to launch an in-depth investigation into the issues raised by the FSB’s research, while investors – from banks and private equity firms through to venture capitalists and angels – must ques­tion their own practices.

“I urge all those in positions of power to acknowledge that there is a problem with funding for ethnic minority businesses, and commit to ensuring that these innovative businesses are not left at a disad­vantage,” he said.

The Unlocking Opportunity re­port in July called for a regular na­tional study of BAME entrepre­neurship to assess trends and tar­get business support.

One unnamed British Pakistani woman, involved in building design, told researchers: “I was told by one of my business con­tacts that a local official told them not to do business with me be­cause I’m Asian”.

“In the past few years, I changed my business name which previ­ously included my surname. I’ve found the turnaround time between enquires and securing contracts is a lot faster now than with the previous business name. I no long­er receive questions about ‘where I’m from’ as I did previously.”

A British Pakistani business owner in north west England, also told researchers: “There is so much more the local council could do to let people know of the ser­vices that are out there.

“This has been a big issue dur­ing the coronavirus pandemic, with many businesses in the area not knowing what support is avail­able to them – information is sim­ply not accessible. We need to see more support for local advice cen­tres and ensure they continue to be accessible for all.”

Atul Bhakta, CEO of global logis­tics firm One World Express, said it has been positive to see diversity become a watchword within Brit­ish business over recent years but added that “statistics highlight just how far we still have to go”.

He told Eastern Eye: “I feel it is time we shone a light on the inno­vative, ambitious Ethnic Minority Businesses that are creating jobs and wealth here in the UK, ensur­ing they are not overlooked for funding that could help them take the next step in the journey.

“The UK must strive to create a truly level playing field for all entre­preneurs as they look to start and grow a business.

“A government support scheme coupled with open discussions about BAME issues within the pri­vate sector will be important steps as we look to combat the discrimi­nation and nepotism that is hold­ing so many back.”

Professor Sunitha Narendran, director of Roehampton Business School in London, said the report identifying barriers that continue to confront BAME firms is impor­tant and “also so very disappoint­ing, particularly since there is an extensive amount of existing re­search that confirms this problem.”

She said: “There are several poli­cy interventions and initiatives promulgated to mitigate this issue here in the UK. Why haven’t they worked? The social-psychologist in me is urging now for a focus on pinning down the processes that twist policy and well-intended interventions.

“We urgently need process-based evaluations that explain why something is not working rather than repeatedly reporting prob­lems that seem to continue to per­sist. It is not enough to treat the symptoms without addressing the real issue and its complexities.”

Tiba Raja, director of Market Fi­nancial Solutions, said: “Thankful­ly, conversations around BAME is­sues have never been more promi­nent. So, as the UK starts its eco­nomic recovery after the damaging effects of the coronavirus pandem­ic, now is the opportunity for the government to establish how eth­nic minority businesses can be bet­ter supported.

“We need to give ethnic minori­ties the confidence to aspire to and achieve great things in their ca­reers, be it attaining a senior man­agement position or successfully launching and scaling up a new business. To achieve this, we must focus on visibility – namely, cele­brating stories of successful ethnic minority business leaders and championing their role as vital in­novators, employers and contribu­tors to the economy.”

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy said the report highlights the vital contribution of ethnic mi­nority entrepreneurs to the econo­my and to our local communities.

“We are committed to support­ing business owners from all backgrounds during these chal­lenging times.

“Our Start Up Loans programme has delivered more than 71,500 loans worth £586 million, with 20 per cent of these going to business owners from Black, Asian and Mi­nority Ethnic backgrounds.”

Eastern Eye

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