Integrity hard work, sweat and luck

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The Independent Online
There is no great mystique; the secret behind the success of Britain's Asian business moguls is hard work, long hours and a burning desire to succeed.

In the 50 years since the first Asian influx to Britain, Asians have moved on from the old stereotyped image of the struggling corner-shop businessman. There are now more than 300 Asian millionaires among the estimated 1.5 million Asian community in Britain. Their combined buying power is more than pounds 6bn.

Although Asians own half the country's independent shops, their business activities have versified into most spheres of commerce, ranging from heavy industry to serious property investment. The Census analysis, which forecasts that Asians face a "Jewish future" of being self-employed, owner-occupiers and white-collar workers with professional qualifications, is no surprise to the leading Asian businessmen.

In one of the most recent surveys of Britain's richest 500 people, Dr Swraj Paul, 65, the head of the Caparo steel empire, is estimated to be worth pounds 500m. He came to Britain from India in 1966. Last year he did what would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, when he bought a steel mill in Pennsylvania. Regarded as a "shrewd operator", he lists three key qualities that Asians bring to the market place: "There is no secret, but three things; hard work and being prepared to sweat it out, integrity and luck."

Dr Paul, a close confidant of the shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said: "The Indian is a big saver. He doesn't waste, doesn't spend. And he likes to be self-employed. And success is not for the individual, but for the whole family."

Chambers of Commerce, Masonic Lodges, Round Tables and Lions Clubs in certain areas have become Asian-dominated. There is also the "Durbar Club", a secretive dinner-party set of very rich Asians who back the Conservative Party. Few admit to being members.

Britain's banks have begun to acknowledge the potential of winning Asian business. When many Asians were hurt by the collapse of BCCI in 1990, the major clearing banks were given a chance to step in.

Nirmal Singh, chairman of the Bradford Asian Business Association who runs a quilt and textile business, agrees with Dr Paul. "Hard work, seven days" is the secret. Arriving from the Punjab 30 years ago, he says many Indians who owned a small plot of land came to England and only wanted to work for themselves. His own rise, he says, went "slowly, slowly".

Mr Singh's son, Iqbal, soon to qualify as a lawyer, backs up the Census's findings about the next generation of Asians. "He has been to private school, university, is highly ambitious, is a Young Conservative chairman ... this is the kind of opportunity I never had."

Other Asians among Britain's rich elite include Tom Singh, 45, whose New Look fashion retail business, based in Dorset, attracted institutional investors at the beginning of this year to the tune of pounds 170m.