Chartered accountant, and business magnate, Thakrar, is truly a guardian of British-Asian entrepreneurship. He has had a strong hand in strengthening economic ties within the two communities and across the respective continents. In recent years, he has been part of international trade missions under Prime Ministers Cameron and Blair and Mayor Johnson, having promoted the political move of “choosing targeted countries to appoint commercial ambassadors to actively promote business across the world. Now, there has been appointment of various trade envoys to different parts of the world.” Together with the late Lord Noon, who widely commercialised curry in British supermarkets, the trailblazing community professional also founded the Asian Business Association as part of the London Chamber of Commerce. Described by Thakrar as a ‘real jewel in the crown of the Chamber’, this has helped boost many British Asian businesses over the last twenty years. Thakrar had been Chairman of the LCC prior.
However, what makes Thakrar’ s leadership special is the current of social consciousness which carries his remarkable achievements. As Apparent in his collected yet warm demeanour, the desire to do well by his fellow man, or human, and forward ethical values has been the primary drive through his vast fiscal career: “I started out training as a chartered accountant, and an early highlight was being made partner just two years after I’d qualified. This was at a reputable English firm at a time when visibility of Asians in higher positions was uncommon. This meant a lot. I subsequently developed myself to become the managing partner where I led the landmark merger between accountants Blackstone Franks and CBW.” Thakrar elaborated on his time at the former company: “I travelled abroad to India many times during this chapter, and also founded the oldest Indian equity fund outside India back in 1996. This was INVIL or India Value Investments Limited.
After its establishment, it became unprecedently oversubscribed, created at a time when Indian economy was just beginning to open up in the mid-nineties. It was great to be able to identify the potential and talent of India at an early stage and participate with its wave of growth and development not only by this fund but also by being there in India and setting up a number of business interests working face to face with the country’s talent.” Expecting the responses to mimic the slower economy, Thakrar had initially put out a cursory ad in Economic Times of India, giving flexible dates for availability and offering simple consultation at his hotel. “The diary just rapidly filled up, with appointments being made back to back every day. This showed that there were many budding entrepreneurs who had ideas and energy but not necessarily the money. Later, when Manmohan Singh was forced to open up the economy, restrictions came down and keen Indian business people did have more access to capital.
Additionally, at that time, Indian locals didn’t know much outside of India and this resulted in limited vision. Indian exports were less than 10% of the GDP and they needed outside help learning the modern skills. This is why I could achieve a reasonable degree of success – I was bringing these ideas and avenues. We brought companies from countries such as the UK, Australia, and South Africa into India for the first time. We introduced toll road management, real estate management,professional car parking services, banking services and partnered with international companies to help them do business in India. It has been a pleasure to watch this generation of entrepreneurs and businesses grow since. Anyone who invested in the mid-nineties and stayed on would have benefitted.”
Today, on the philanthropic social front, Thakrar sits on the boards of three charities and has founded a fourth: The Atlee Centre. This helps youths in the poorer parts of London, which includes many children in the Bangladeshi community to gain confidence and achieve equality “as well as success in their careers.” Other organisations include, the Three R’s Trust, “which effectively runs over 2500 schools with each school of 35 students in Nepal for as little as £350 a year” as well as a charity called Jaspar Centre which helps elderly Asian people feel comfort and companionship and away from loneliness in the North London area. “I am proud of our South Asian community and culture, and have always enjoyed adding value in different ways.”
Thakrar aptly finished by commenting on the contemporary Indian business landscape, which is soon set to become the world’s fifth largest economy: “it is wonderful to see the country now producing world-class businesses of their own, such as Flipkart. 25 years later, and Indians are well-travelled and informed with skill bases that are strong. These are ideas that Indian entrepreneurs have picked up from what’s happening in the world and contributed to themselves. Of course, huge credit goes to the present Indian government whose business policies have moved the economy forward.”
Thakrar then not only embodies a time when the generation of wealth is becoming more democratic across the globe, but where more of its citizens have been a meaningful part of this pivotal shift. Rather than just a veneer of progress, there are deep and measurable changes substantiating it. The personal reflected the political as Thakrar gave a final piece of advice: “if you are a budding businessman whose passionate about their business and still having a tough time, consider finding a mentor who can help you open up new avenues and doors – it is very possible to seek and grow from such help.” Because of exceptionally hardworking role models such as Thakrar, we are today living in a safer professional climate where individual grit is more likely to reach its desired outcome. We need only commit to our passions and continue aiming high.
Tell us a bit more on the state of Indian economy?
I recently presented at the World Economic Forum in Chicago, and spoke of the poverty line in India being reduced quite a lot. There are also more wealthy Indians today: more acquisitions are being made abroad. India is one of the biggest investors in the UK. Offshoring has progressed and export goods have increased. The quality in the standard of Indian companies is also very good. Many listed companies in India are on healthy growth trajectory.
You run an organisation called Charity Clarity. Please tell us more?
Charity Clarity is a unique idea and the only such entity existing in the UK. It gives an independent rating to charities, from 0-5, where 5 indicates the best governed charity. We go through about five years of data and consider about fourteen different variables into an algorithm to create a score. If you want your donations to be more effective then chose the charity with a higher score.
Finally, you have co-authored books such as How to Make Money and UK as a Tax Haven. Can you give a few general business observations?
Business houses and entrepreneurs should not lose confidence in what they do. Having passion for ideas and concept and working hard is the best way to achieve success.