Rags-to-riches Asians among Britain’s top 10 retailers

August 11th, 2008 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Aug 11 (IANS) Two retail empires built by an Indian and a Pakistani from humble beginnings have been named in a list of Britain’s top 10 privately-owned retail companies published Monday. Tom Singh’s New Look fashion chain and Anwar Pervez’s Bestway cash-and-carry grocery outlets figure in a Daily Telegraph list of Britain’s top 100 private companies to run over the coming weeks.

Urging its readers to “salute a nation of shopkeepers”, the paper said Tom Singh is “a trail-blazer in inventing the cheap, ‘fast’ fashion that now dominates the UK high street”.

Born in Thakarki, near Phagwara in Punjab, Singh came to Britain in 1950 at the age of one. His family went door-to-door selling from a suitcase and opened their first shop later in the 1950s.

Singh started his first shop with his wife in 1969, and in 1982 merged his stores with those of his parents to form New Look Retailers, a group of around 20 stores.

Entering the 1990s with some 40 shops in southwest England, the family became a strong regional retailer. It then began a period of rapid national expansion, growing to 200 stores by 1994.

Annual sales now are in the region of 1.2 billion pounds a year, and the company is now expanding overseas, particularly in France, where it has an established chain.

Singh is a founding member of the Social Investment Taskforce in Britain and supports education provision in India.

Bestway, which has annual sales of 1.42 billion pounds, began life as a specialist Asian food store in west London in 1962. By the early 1970s, the group had 10 stores and by the middle of that decade had branched out into wholesale.

The Bestway Group was founded and is led by Anwar Pervez, who was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and came to Britain at the age of 21 in 1956.

After working as a bus conductor in the northern city of Bradford, he opened his first corner shop - small convenience stores - in 1962 in London’s Earl’s Court area.

Pervez was quick to spot the potential of the wholesale market, and established the first of his many cash-and-carry outlets in 1976.

Like Singh, Pervez too is known for his charity work and was knighted by the Queen in 1999 for services to business and the world of charity.

Pervez’s group now consists of Bestway Cash & Carry and a raft of other businesses, including United Bank and Bestway Cement in Pakistan. The company remains one of the largest overseas investors in Pakistan and has ploughed more than $1 billion into the country.

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