Top 50: Hi-tech firms are leading the way

GEOGRAPHICAL ANALYSIS

FURTHER EVIDENCE of London and the South-east's domination of the UK economy is revealed by a geographical analysis of the latest Independent on Sunday listing of fastest-growing private companies.

The league table, compiled in association with KITE, the forum where chief executives of growing companies meet to share their business experiences, shows that the region accounted for 22 of the 50 listed companies, among them the London-based Carphone Warehouse, which has appeared in several previous listings. Add in the seven from the South and South-west and the bias becomes even more apparent.

But it is not all bad news for the regions. The West Midlands shows signs of shrugging off its traditional industry past by supplying seven companies to the listing, including - in fourth position - last year's top-ranked company, the direct mail computer supplier the Software Warehouse. Among the other companies from the region associated with "metal-bashing" and other dying industries are the recruitment business Extra Personnel and the Caudwell Group, an international mobile phones business that has featured in the upper reaches of past listings.

The East Midlands did not do so well, but its three entries include last year's second-placed company, Prime Time Recruitment, which saw its annual growth rate more than halve, but which is still a significant business, with a turnover of nearly pounds 27m.

In common with past years, neither the north of England nor Wales accounts for many of the companies in this year's listing. However, the north has provided the third-ranked business, Rotrax Engineering Services, which according to its founders has succeeded by applying a service mentality to the engineering work that it carries out.

Scotland, meanwhile, though also traditionally an underperformer in this respect, has this time supplied the top company. By any standards, the growth of Glasgow's DX Communications has been phenomenal, with its 164 per cent annual growth rate comfortably exceeding the 132 per cent recorded last year by Software Warehouse.

Moreover, the Scots managed to cover both their traditional industry - in the shape of Fresh Catch - and the modem, through the computer company KSCL as well as DX.

SECTORAL ANALYSIS

THE UK'S steady shift from a manufacturing to a service economy is well and truly demonstrated by the Independent on Sunday's latest survey of the country's fastest-growing private companies.

As might have been expected, telecommunications, computers and recruitment are well to the fore, together accounting for nearly 20 out of the total. In fact, those sectors can increasingly be seen to be working together, since telecommunications and IT are becoming more and more closely integrated, while much of the growth in the recruitment market is caused by the shortage of appropriately skilled people in those two fields.

As Bill Bottriell, joint chief executive of second-placed Computer Futures, says, the fundamental changes in IT in recent years mean that it is permeating all walks of life. Moreover, with the rapid expansion of the Internet and the imminent arrival of products and services dependent upon it, that demand is likely to increase rather than diminish.

Again unsurprisingly, there are two pharmaceuticals companies in the listing. Pharmaceuticals - and in particular those based on biotechnology - is one area that has attracted a huge amount of interest and more than a little venture capital funding lately. This is partly a side-effect of Britain's strong position at the top end of the sector thanks to Glaxo Wellcome, SmithKline Beecham and AstraZeneca, but it is also connected with the strength of parts of the UK scientific community and the readiness of certain academic institutions to encourage research staff to commercially exploit their findings by establishing their own companies.

However, the Independent on Sunday's annual survey of fast-growing businesses has never been just about high-tech. Plenty of entrepreneurs find niches in the least likely of places and profit handsomely from them. For example, Card Protection Plan is - as its name suggests - an insurance service that provides cover in cases of the loss of credit or charge cards.

Or else they just find a way of doing it better than the established players. Consequently, Charlton House is one of several catering companies to have made the listing over the years. Equally, at a time when the top end of the brewing business, appears to be consolidating with increasing speed, there seems to be room for a smaller concern like George Gale & Co to grow at what is a perfectly respectable rate of 10 per cent.

Moreover, there is no more obvious a service industry than retail. And again, though sections of the high street have been hurting of late, there is still room for young upstarts to have a period of rapidly expanding sales, as northern-based Sportasia and London's Faith Shoes have demonstrated.

One of the reasons perhaps for the struggles at certain household-name stores has been the growth in popularity of mail order. And one of the increasingly important players in the clothing sector has been Boden, a catalogue company founded in the early Nineties by Johnnie Boden with the aim of supplying well-made basic garments for all the family at reasonable prices. After a difficult start, it has now struck such a chord that it often has trouble keeping up with demand.

And, increasingly sophisticated as the business environment has become, there is room this year - as in the past - for more traditional industries, such as engineering and vehicle manufacture as well as transport and haulage. This year's third-ranked company is an engineering business from the North- east.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor