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Indians teach UK how to do business

London, Oct. 24: Britain second, India third.

Once derided as the 'sick man of Europe', the UK now has more successful 'small-sized' businesses than any other country in the world after the US, a survey revealed today. Britain is followed immediately by India.

Britain's surprise performance has served to hammer home a point that many businessmen of Indian origin have been striving to highlight: the British Asian community in the UK in general, and Indians in particular, have 'totally transformed the business culture of Britain'.

The survey published by the New York-based Forbes magazine lists Britain and India at number two and three in the league of countries with the most successful 'small-sized businesses'.

This definition of 'best under a billion' includes publicly trading firms with revenues of under $1 billion and a five-year return on capital of, at least, 5 per cent. The companies were then ranked by sustained gains in sales and returns and on the latest-year market momentum.

The list of 105 such companies has 31 entries from the UK, followed by 24 from India. France has 19, while Italy manages one only.

Tim Ferguson, international editions editor of Forbes, said: 'What emerges is the cream. A country's climate for entrepreneurism is reflected in these ranks.'

Accessory and clothes chain Monsoon, which gets many of its garments from India, is on the British list.

Srichand Hinduja, the head of the Hinduja group of companies which has businesses in America, Britain and India, said people tracing their roots to India have helped change the way the British think about business.

Britain may have once been branded 'a nation of shopkeepers' but over a period of time, business was hemmed in by trade union-driven working practices, much like in Bengal.

Redemption appears to have washed ashore in the shape of Asian immigrants, who have taught their former colonial master a few tricks of the trade.

'The whole attitude to work has changed,' Hinduja said. 'Before they (Indians from Uganda as well as India) came, it was unknown for small cornershops and businesses to stay open seven days a week. Now, it is common practice. The big supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury have been trying to swallow the Asian businesses whose practices they copied.'

Asians have ushered in another quality. 'They have brought a spirit of competition which was lacking before, a competitive edge in all their dealings.'

While not wishing to exaggerate the value of the Asian contribution, Hinduja said: 'The spirit of competition is most important.'

He picked out information technology, retails and wholesale sales, consumer goods and cash & carry as areas in which Indians have made a big impact. 'Before they came, cash & carry was unknown,' Hinduja pointed out.

The days when Indians were lumped with other 'coloured immigrants' in the UK as being a drain on the British welfare state by the Right-wing have long since gone.

Most fair-minded analysts also recognise that Indians have prospered in Britain because they were allowed to do so under Margaret Thatcher, who, whatever her other faults, introduced radical economic reforms.

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