Wednesday, November 7th saw the launch of a new initiative by the UKTSU in association with Ratheesan Yoganathan, co-founder of the Lebara group. Conceived by the businessman as a way to provide guidance for aspiring entrepreneurs from the Tamil community, The Entrepreneurial Way is a valuable opportunity for a number of people who don’t know where to begin when it comes to setting up a business.
The launch event took place at CASS Business School in London, and attracted a great turnout. Ratheesan was joined by owner of the Arora group of hotels, Surinder Arora. The two talented businessmen shared their phenomenal success stories with the audience – from their humble beginnings, to how they built businesses worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
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Surinder moved to London at the age of about 13, with barely any knowledge of English and no real education to boot. He shared with everyone how he began learning how to fly – with the intention of becoming a pilot – and also worked as a waiter. He later worked as an advisor at Abbey Life before he opened a Bed and Breakfast for airline staff at London’s Heathrow Airport in 1993. Since then, his hard work and perseverance has led him to become an incredibly successful business owner – winning a franchise from Accor Sofitel group of hotels, and more recently, beating out top hotel players such as the Marriott to build the flagship Sofitel London at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Despite his incredible success (and the fortune that came with it), he remains an incredibly humble gentleman who is sure to have been an inspiration to everyone in attendance at the event.
Tamil entrepreneur Ratheesan’s story is also an inspirational one. On the insistence of his father, he went to university, choosing to study aeronautical engineering “because it had more numbers than letters in it”. He took a job selling calling cards to help fund his Master’s, but eventually got involved with the nitty-gritty of the company, working at head office. Then in 2001, along with Leon Rasiah and Baskaran Kandiah, he set up Lebara in Norway. Ratheesh says that it was the sight of the Telenor communications tower that really brought things together – “Imagine how hard someone must have worked to build something like that?” he’d asked, to which his friend responded “Why can’t we do something like that?”
With a call-centre based in the UK to ensure instantaneous results for customers, a strict policy to ensure that employees are always paid on time and Ratheesh’s strong work ethic, it’s no wonder than the company has rocketed to such heights.
So, why – despite already doing a lot of charity work, and mentoring for aspiring entrepreneurs – has Ratheesh decided to do something aimed specifically at the Tamil community?
“Tamil parents want their children to be doctors or accountants or engineers,” he says. “They only see the risks and negative side of going into business, so they don’t encourage their children to do it. I want to provide the support and guidance that people like myself and Surinder didn’t get when we were starting out.”
And the businessman has a clear vision for the young Tamil entrepreneurs out there: “In 25 years, I want the Tamil community to be contributing at least 1% towards the UK GDP.” High hopes indeed, but Ratheesh seems confident that it can be done.
So, if you’re a young Tamil entrepreneur with a business idea, why not get involved with The Entrepreneurial Way? Submit your own 250-word business proposal here, and you will be entered to the next phase where you will be able to partake in workshops about various aspects of running a business from HR to legal.
To read more about The Entrepreneurial Way, visit dreamitachieveit.co.uk