Asians build fortunes in hi-tech and TV

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The Independent Online
ASIAN ENTREPRENEURS are abandoning the corner shops and clothing factories on which previous generations founded their business empires and are seeking their fortunes instead in computing, finance and the media, according to a survey published yesterday.

The list of Britain's 200 richest Asians, produced by Eastern Eye, a weekly London-based newspaper, provides a snapshot of how the country's most successful immigrant community is evolving.

The list, compiled annually for the past three years, shows that while British Asians are still making money in traditional sectors such as food, fashion and retailing, they are increasingly moving into more modern, dynamic industries.

The wealthiest 200 businessmen and women are worth a total of pounds 7.5bn, up from pounds 6bn last year. At the top of the tree are the Hinduja brothers, Srichand, 63, and Gopi, 59, whose finance, telecommunications and oil empire is valued at pounds 1.3bn. The Hindujas, whose offer to underwrite the Spirit Zone in the Millennium Dome caused a political storm last year, have supplanted Lakshmi Mittal, 48, the Bombay steel magnate who was number one in the league table last year.

Mr Mittal, whose value has dropped from pounds 2bn to pounds 1.2bn thanks to a slump in the share price of his company, Ispat International, is one of the big losers this year.

The list features a lottery winner, three peers - Lord Paul, the metals tycoon, Lord Bagri, chairman of the London Metal Exchange, and Lord Alli, co-owner of the television company Planet 24 - and, for the first time, the author Salman Rushdie. Mr Rushdie's personal fortune is estimated at pounds 5m and, as his agent, Andrew Wylie, pointed out recently, he has not had much opportunity to spend it, because of the fatwa imposed against him for nearly a decade.

Other new faces include Iqbal Ahmed, 42, whose shrimp processing company, Seamark, is valued at pounds 60m, Nissim Musry, 71, whose family owns pounds 35m of shares in Wrengate, a Manchester textiles importer, and Mohammed Sheikh, 62, a director of the Bestway cash-and-carry group, with pounds 26m of shares.

Youthful entrants account for the growing visibility of British Asians in the hi-tech industries. At 85, for instance, is Ajaz Ahmed, a 25-year- old tycoon who launched an Internet consultancy, AKQA New Media, in 1993 after dropping out of university and is now worth pounds 14m.

The highest climber from last year is 38-year-old James Caan, a recruitment consultant whose fortune is valued at pounds 61m, up from pounds 3.4m last year.

The most high-profile casualty is Reuben Singh, the flamboyant founder of the Miss Attitude fashion chain.

Last year he was valued at pounds 45m. This year he does not feature at all, thanks to doubts about the sum for which he sold the business.

Charan Sohal, founder of Orbit International, a fashion firm based in Birmingham, said yesterday: "The Asian philosophy is to work for the next generation. We [the elders] have laid down the foundation and it is up to our ambitious sons to build the skyscraper for the next generation."

Britain's Richest Asian Business People

1 Srichand (pictured) and Gopi Hinduja: pounds 1.3bn The brothers head a family firm with interests in banking and oil. They have offered to underwrite the Spirit Zone in the Millennium Dome.

2 Lakshmi Mittal: pounds 1.2bn

Owner of one of the world's biggest steel companies, he lives in Hampstead, north London, where he is said to entertain in style.

3 Subhash Chandra: pounds 450m

Mr Chandra, 48, made his fortune selling rice to the Russians. He owns Zee TV and is behind India's first Disney-style entertainment park.

4 Lord Paul: pounds 325m

Formerly Swraj Paul, he sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords. Built up his steel empire, Caparo, after coming to Britain 33 years ago.

5 Felix Grovit: pounds 300m

Mr Grovit, 56, made his fortune through the Chequepoint chain of bureaux de change. Born in India as Fareed Ismail, he left the Bar to move into property.

6= Jasminder Singh: pounds 200m

Mr Singh, 47, owns Edwardian Hotels, one of the country's biggest independent hotel groups. He came to London from Nairobi in 1970.

6= Tom Singh: pounds 200m

Mr Singh, 49, floated his fashion retail chain New Look on the stock market last year. His family emigrated to Weymouth from India in the late 1940s.

8 Manubhai Madhvani: pounds 150m

One of four brothers running business empire in Uganda till expelled in 1972. Their interests include breweries, sugar refineries and tea plantations.

9= Gulu Lalvani: pounds 120m

Came to Britain as a student. In 1960, he and his brother, Partrap, set up Binatone, a consumer electrics business, importing cheap radios from Hong Kong.

9= Sir Anwar Pervez: pounds 120m

Sir Anwar, 64, a farmer's son from Rawalpindi, left bus conducting in Bradford to found Bestway, the UK's second biggest cash and carry operation.