South Asians are typically under-represented in the UK business community, says Shamraz Begum, global co-chair of the Multicultural Network and co-lead of the BAME taskforce at NatWest. “This is a feature we have in common with other ethnic minorities in the UK,” she adds.
“Recent data showed that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic [BAME] people hold just 4.6% of the UK's most powerful roles. Within business and finance, only 5% of the most senior roles are held by BAME people. That means, ultimately, that business is lacking in the strength that diversity brings. This presents us with a great opportunity to be more representative of our diverse communities and champion the potential of under-represented groups in the UK.”
Begum adds: “The bank has a large and thriving South Asian community thanks to our presence in India, as well as our South Asian colleagues in the UK and elsewhere. It’s so important to recognise and celebrate each other’s heritage, to help us all to learn about each other and understand our cultures.
“My parents came to the UK from Pakistan, and, of course, my roots go back to India. I’m a British Asian with proud South Asian heritage so it’s great to celebrate with my fellow South Asians and share our history with my colleagues.”
Parm Bhangal, managing director of Bhangals Construction Consultants, says his South Asian heritage was one of the decisive factors in becoming an entrepreneur. “I think a lot of people with our background tend to own businesses – my uncles and other family members have businesses – so, growing up, it was natural to be steered towards doing that.
“I got a lot of advice from my family network – and I still do. It is a very supportive community, including business owners who aren’t friends or family.”
Bhangal believes this entrepreneurial spirit can be linked to the history of South Asian immigrants. “My grandparents always owned their own land, for example, so you often find people with Asian backgrounds in the UK are looking to buy property because that is the way we have been brought up in India and so on. Owning your own business is a logical extension of that.”