Wake Up and Smell the Curry

May 15, 2012, 06:56 IST | Amit Roy

Money, money, money, it's not so funny but very serious business in the world of wealthy Indians in Britain

The Duchess of Cambridge may not be aware of this but she has been a Godsend for, at least, one enterprising Asian businessman who has become richer by £50m during the recession, partly by exploiting the ‘Kate Middleton effect’. Indian-origin Mike Jatania, 47, who is the chief executive of Lornamead which makes personal care products, introduced ‘Royal English Daisy’ Eau de Toilette, body spray and moisturising body lotion as temporary lines last year to cash in on, “Princess Kate’s wedding to William”. His products, packed in fetching yellow — “we think it’s a young colour” — have proved such a hit worldwide that his net worth has climbed to £625m, placing him 8th on Eastern Eye’s Asian Rich List 2012. “The Princess Kate and Prince William story is great for Britain because it is projecting a more youthful, evolved image of Britain and what Britain stands for and the new face of the British monarchy,” he suggests.

Trio triumph: Mike (Mitesh) Jatania, CEO, Lornamead (extreme l) with his three brothers (from l) Danny (Bharat), Vin (Vibhaker) and George (Pravin). The brothers anglicised their names to ease their business

Mike Jatania and his three brothers behind Lornamead and other family businesses see the whole world as their potential market place. “We are seeing growth coming through from developing and emerging markets so we are active in Africa, in the Middle East, and we are active in Asia in countries like India, Indonesia, (South) Korea, China, and Brazil.” He goes on, “In Brazil the growth is just phenomenal — Brazil is destined to become the world's biggest beauty care market. In the emerging and developing markets, we are seeing the new, more affluent consumer upgrading from products in their local markets to imported products.” He is also expanding into India. “I go to India four or five times a year, and we have just recruited a whole team of senior people — we have offices in Mumbai and also in Chennai. We cannot sell under the Yardley name in India as we sold that part of the business to Wipro in December 2009. But we have over 35 other brands and will focus on Finesse, Witch, Woods of Windsor, Lypsyl and Vosene.”

Out of the 101 wealthiest Asians featured on the list this year, 13 saw their values dip in 2011 compared with 2010, while 19 remained unchanged. However, no fewer than 69 out of the 101 — 68 per cent or two in every three — were able to increase their net worth. Jatania, who was born in Uganda, came to Britain as a small boy, attended Dulwich College and runs his business with his three brothers, explained, “The Princess Kate and Prince William story is great for Britain because it is projecting a more youthful, evolved image of Britain and what Britain stands for and the new face of the British monarchy.”

Culture conscious: David Cameron being gifted a statue of Ganesh by Smriti Irani, BJP Rajya Sabha member who happened to be in London. Left of picture, Indian millionaires Ramesh Sachdev and Lord (Dolar) Popat, chairman of Conservative Friends of India

The list of the UK’s wealthiest 101 businessmen and women — 101 is an auspicious number for Hindus rather than 100 — was released on in March in London at a dinner for 700 with Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, as chief guest. “Asians have shown themselves to be remarkably resilient during the recession,” said Shailesh Solanki, Eastern Eye’s executive editor. The fastest riser is Ranjit Boparan who is sometimes referred to in the north of England as the “chicken king”. He has been able to break through into the top 10 at No 4, from 14th last year, thanks to his acquisition of Northern Foods through Boparan Holdings. Boparan, who employs 18,000 people and provides chickens to supermarkets and also owns the iconic Harry Ramsden’s Fish & Chips chain, has seen his value go up by £600m to £950m. Lakshmi Mittal, who lives in Kensington Palace Gardens, has a 80 meter yacht, the Amevi; Lord (Swraj) Paul spends his weekends at his 250-acre country estate in Buckinghamshire; the Hindujas have spread their wings and own even more of Carlton House Terrace overlooking the Mall in London.

Hought-a-yacht: Srichand Hinduja among the yachts in Cannes. His is called Param Jamuna after his father and his mother. The Hindujas are now on their fourth yacht, the Param Jamuna IV. Pic/Amit Roy

At the top of the Rich List, Lakshmi Mittal, the chairman and chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal, is assessed at £13.5 billion, down £2.5 billion compared with the previous year, a reflection of the vagaries of the steel market. With the eyes of the world focused on the London Olympics this summer, 2012 is going to be a big year for Lakshmi Mittal. The chances are that the ArcelorMittal, Orbit, which he immediately agreed to finance when first approached over three years ago by Boris Johnson — apparently in a loo in Davos — will probably come to be known as the “Mittal Monument”. According to official figures from the company, “ArcelorMittal will fund up to £19.6 million of the £22.7 million project with the outstanding £3.1 million provided by the Greater London Authority.” It was also his personal decision to put money into a sculpture to commemorate the London Olympics and that, too, looks like paying off.

Mittal metal: Lakshmi Mittal and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, view the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the biggest piece of public sculpture in Britain designed by Bombay-born Anish Kapoor

After an open competition, Anish Kapoor, who has now probably pipped Anthony Gormley as Britain’s most successful contemporary sculptor, was picked to design the monument. He always works with the brilliant Sri Lankan-born engineer, Cecil Balmond. Mittal’s job was to provide the steel —and it came from every continent as a way of embracing the Olympic dream. There will be two lifts to take up to 5,000 visitors to the top where they will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of rich chocolate cake. The monument has consumed 2,200 tonnes of steel. It will be 22 metres taller than the Statue of Liberty. To paint it red has required 19,000 litres of paint. The spiral staircase will be 1,150 ft and have 455 steps, so visitors will be encouraged to walk down rather than up.

The 2nd ranked Hindujas, whose interests in banking to oil and vehicles, span the globe, are put at £9.5 billion, up £500 million on the previous year. Their acquisition of a majority stake in Optare, a British bus maker, means they are “making things” in this country. In January this year, they took a controlling stake in Optare, a British bus maker. SP, at 76, the head of the family, runs the business with the help of his three brothers. There is Gopi, who lives with him in London; Prakash, who is based in Switzerland; and the youngest, Ashok, who stays in Mumbai. It is especially encouraging that the women are also being brought into the picture. Of SP’s daughters, Shanu has taken charge of the many charitable activities run by the Hinduja Foundation, while Vinoo looks after healthcare and the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. Of the other members of the third generation, of Gopi’s sons, Sanjay is responsible for Gulf Oil, while Dheeraj is chairman of Ashok Leyland. Of Prakash’s sons, Ajay, based in Geneva, looks after the Hinduja Bank, and Ramkrishan (“Remi”), based in New York, is responsible for the group's IT and BPO activities.

Lord Paul
Lord (Swraj) Paul has looked into the future and what he sees is carbon fibre - or “composites” to use the correct technical term. Objects that are constructed today from steel could tomorrow be made from carbon fibre, says the chairman of the Caparo steel group. 

Walk along: Lord (Swraj) Paul enjoying a walk on his 250-acre country estate. Pic/Amit Roy

Caparo is in the business of making parts for cars, an area that has been a passion with his youngest son, Angad, Caparo’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). “We are big in automobile components — by and large, every car in Europe has some parts from us.” He goes on, “Caparo steel products are also going into high tech —we make very fine wire for all sorts of purpose. We don’t make surgical equipment but we make strips for surgical equipment.”

Hotels constitute another sector that has performed well and with the Olympics, those in London should do even better. Surinder Arora, who is ranked 16th, is developing prestige projects at Royal Ascot and at the Oval cricket ground. His valuation has gone up by £175m to £325m.

Bombay Boys
Kishore Lulla: What next for Kishore Lulla, who has pretty much established himself as the UK’s ‘Mr. Bollywood’? Is it hype when the 49-year-old executive chairman of Eros International, says he foresees a future, which may not be long in coming, when Bollywood will be level pegging with Hollywood? Lulla has been distributing Hindi films in the UK since he moved to London in 1980. The company was set up by his father, Arjan Lulla, in Bombay in 1977. What was once essentially an ethnic business with Hindi films shown in dilapidated cinemas in the immigrant areas of Britain, is now a reflection of the brisker, new India. An important change occurred in 2006 when Eros International was floated on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange. So far as business is concerned, Lulla tells one interviewer of “Rule number one — don’t lose money. Rule two — follow Rule one. There is nothing else, right?”

Lord Gulam Noon: The most significant business decision Lord (Gulam) Noon has taken over the past 12 months has been to launch halal frozen curries — initially for the UK market but with the Middle East and France and Germany also in mind. “This is a very challenging job I have on my hand because we have pumped in a lot of money into buying equipment — I have built a separate factory for this in Southall,” he says. After extensive market research and getting, “Muslims ladies to test the meals to make sure they were like home-cooked food,” Noon began retailing the halal range in March 2012. The entrepreneur, who is known as “the Curry King”, says, “As founder of Noon Products we had done ready meals for the mass community but over a period of time I felt that a lot of Muslims were sticking to halal meals. But they were unable to find good quality halal meals.” 

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