While Mumbai-born Sarosh Zaiwalla was the first Asian man to establish a London city law firm in 1982, Rishi Saha is the head of public policy at Facebook UK; Samir Desai is director at Funding Circle, a fintech ‘unicorn’
India At Large staff
In 1982, Zaiwalla became the first Asian man to establish a London city law firm. Born and raised in Mumbai, the lawyer left India for London to become a solicitor, just like his father.
After qualifying, he trained at Stocken and Co, a maritime law firm in Fleet Street. Among Zaiwalla’s most renowned early interns was a young Tony Blair. Over the course of his illustrious career, Zaiwalla has represented a number high-profile names, including the Gandhi family, the Dalai Lama, Benazir Bhutto, the ruler of Dubai, Tchenguiz brothers and the Chinese government, to name just a few.
Zaiwalla successfully represented the case between Iran’s largest private bank, Bank Mellat, in its highly-profiled sanctions litigation with the European Council. Zaiwalla’s firm had successfully challenged the ruling, whereby the European Court of Justice upheld the decision that Bank Mellat did unfairly have sanctions placed upon it by the European Council. The European Court of Justice confirmed the annulment of the fund-freezing measures in place against Bank Mellat since 2010 and also ruled that the European Council failed to provide sufficient grounds or evidence.
Saha is the head of public policy for Facebook in the UK. He previously led digital communications at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, with responsibility for online outreach and citizen engagement on behalf of the Prime Minister. The 36-year-old Saha joined Facebook from the WPP consulting firm, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where he served as the Dubai-based regional director for the Middle-East, India, Africa and Turkey region.
A born-and-bred Londoner of Indian-origin, Rishi also serves as a trustee of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity that addresses the need for greater diversity in the communications industry through the delivery of a training and personal development programme for black and minority ethnic graduates. He is the one behind the ‘Pimp My Party’ Internet game for David Cameron.
Desai is the co-founder and director of Funding Circle, the largest peer-to-peer lender in the UK that focuses on SMEs. Founded in 2010, the platform recently topped £1 billion in lending. Operations have expanded into the US as well as parts of Europe and is one of the largest Fintech successes in the country. Desai is responsible for driving the company strategy, overseeing the company’s finances and managing the day-to-day operations at Funding Circle. He has worked extensively in the financial services sector. Before founding Funding Circle, he was an executive at Olivant, a private equity investor in financial services businesses in Europe, the Middle-East and Asia. Prior to this, Desai was a management consultant at BCG, advising a number of major UK and global banks and insurers on strategy, new product initiatives, and operational efficiency.
In December last year, Desai was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Desai said: “I am honoured to have been awarded a CBE. This honour is testament to the hard work of the Funding Circle team who have helped originate £1.25 billion of loans from thousands of investors to small businesses in the last five years – creating over 50,000 new jobs globally.” A CBE is one of the UK’s most prestigious awards, and sits just one rung below a knighthood in the order of heraldry in the UK.
Photos courtesy: Tom Stockill; YouTube, The Sunday Times, UK