Category Archives: Businesss

Indore-born Rajesh Agrawal appointed chair of London & Partners

The British-Indian entrepreneur and philanthropist was appointed deputy mayor of London for business in June

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London & Partners, the mayor of London’s official promotional company, has announced the appointment of Rajesh Agrawal, the deputy mayor, business and enterprise, as its new chairman to help drive tourists, events, inward investment and international students to the city.

Born and brought up in Indore, Agrawal arrived in London in 2001, and grew a two-person enterprise working from one small office into a multi-million-pound business based in London, with offices in Birmingham, France and Spain.

As an entrepreneur he founded RationalFX in 2005, and Xendpay in 2014, both companies utilising technology to reduce the cost of international money transfer for businesses and individuals. Agrawal is passionate about promoting entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for young people. He was appointed chair of Oxfam’s Enterprise Development Programme in 2015 and has been a patron of the Prince’s Trust for many years.

Agrawal, 39, an experienced international businessman and technology entrepreneur, will lead on helping London & Partners attract international trade and investment to London. He will also play an important role as an advisor and champion of London as a global city for business, including spearheading international trade visits. He will also be pivotal in helping the company promote the city as a leading destination for tourism, students, culture and major events, with the overall aim of creating jobs and growth for the capital.

Commenting on his appointment, Agrawal said: “I look forward to leading the London & Partners Board to build on the company’s successful work in promoting London as a leading destination for inward investment, tourism, higher education and culture. Having moved to London to set up my own business 15 years ago, I know how important it is to make sure that London remains open to entrepreneurs and businesses from all over the world. It is vital that we continue to shine a spotlight on London’s talent, innovation and other assets that make it the world’s leading city in which to do business.”

Since 2011, London & Partners has added £1.2 billion GVA to London’s economy while creating or supporting an additional 38,000 jobs in the capital. In addition, the company has also helped 1,244 overseas companies setup or expand in London.

London & Partners work has also contributed to the success of London as one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, with a record 31.6 million visitors to the capital last year. Additionally, the organisation has helped to bring major cultural and sporting events to the capital such as the Lumiere festival, the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the upcoming UEFA European Champions Final and Semi-finals in 2020.


These four Indian-origin persons are among America’s top wealth advisors

They have been named on a list of 200 members who collectively manage $675 billion

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Four Indian-origin persons have been named among America’s top wealth advisors by Forbes on a list of 200 members who collectively manage $675 billion. These four Indians are Raj Sharma, Ash Chopra, Sonny Kothari, and Raj Pathak.

While Sharma and Chopra have been ranked 17th and 129th, respectively, on the 2016 Forbes ‘America’s Top Wealth Advisors’ list, Kothari has been ranked 176th. The trio work for private banking & investment group, Merrill Lynch.

Pathak, who works for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, is placed at the 184th rank.

Forbes said the 200 members on the list serves clients that range from Silicon Valley billionaires and Wall Street titans to small business owners and family fortunes.

Move over Barbie, check out Willowbrook Girls

Indian-American Harvard grad Neha Chauhan Woodward is the creator of a new series of dolls that represent ‘common’ girls with a diverse array of ethnicities and backgrounds


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Each of Neha Chauhan Woodward’s seven dolls has a different story to tell. While Cara, the first doll produced in full, is half-Latina and wants to be a CEO when she grows up; Rory taught herself how to code and finds a similar solace in choreographing dances for her friends.

In addition, Chauhan Woodward has made a concerted effort to create a friend group with a diverse array of ethnicities and backgrounds: Anjali is Indian-American, Maya is Colombian, Mackenzie is African-American, and Perry is Asian-American.

These dolls are providing more than entertainment; they are fighting against stereotypes, and providing girls the tools to shatter glass ceilings. They represent common girls with ethnic diversity and are celebrated for their brains, talents and leadership.

Chauhan Woodward is the founder of Willowbrook Girls, the toy start-up that’s behind the new doll series. Prior to Willowbrook Girls, the Staten Island native built her career in e-commerce, working at companies like Blue Apron, (Amazon), and DANNIJO. She named Willowbrook Girls after her elementary school, Public School 54, which was located on Willowbrook Road in New York.

“The toys I played with had such an impact on me, but they weren’t a great reflection of me or my friends, who were so smart and so diverse in their interests and backgrounds. I knew we needed to do better,” Chauhan Woodward, who now lives in Manhattan with her husband, told

Chauhan Woodward, 29, said the idea came to her while she was a Stanford MBA student — a degree she pursued after studying economics at Harvard and then working as an investment banking analyst at JPMorgan.

“Next door to the coffee shop I studied in was a very popular doll store,” she was quoted as saying, declining to name names. “The emphasis on appearances, with these doll hair salons and doll tea parties that parents were expected to bring their kids to really upset me. If anything, this company had a huge opportunity to empower girls,” she added.

When fully funded, each doll will have a corresponding book about their endeavours. The first one is about the Willowbrook girls starting a business at their school. The stories will give further depth to the characters, Chauhan Woodward said.

Growing up Indian-American, Chauhan Woodward also wanted to make sure the dolls appeared diverse. It was something lacking in the toys she grew up with, and hasn’t gone unnoticed by young people of color, she told

“A lot of girls I spoke to said that they wanted dolls that looked like them,” she said. “They wanted characters that were relatable. You have to see something to know that you can be it.”

Though Willowbrook Girls dolls aren’t for sale yet, Chauhan Woodward is nearing the end of her Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for the first doll, Cara. After that, Cara will be sold online. Chauhan Woodward hopes that sales from that and other sources will enable her to release more of the dolls.

Meet the ‘Masala King’ of Dubai

51-year-old Maharashtrian Dhananjay Datar’s journey to the top is a typical rag- to-riches story

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In 1984, Dhananjay Datar arrived in Dubai from Mumbai with nothing more than dreams in his eyes. He opened a small kirana shop with his late father in Bur Dubai with just about 5,000 dirhams in hand. Dubai was developing fast and the small store kept pace with it, evolving into a specialist supermarket chain.

Today, the 51-year-old grocery store magnate is the chairman and managing director of Al Adil, a trading company that has become a household name in the UAE, selling everything from masalas to chutneys, from rice to tea and coffee. Its clientele includes leading five- star hotels, catering companies and some of the most recognised names in the business firmament, such as Dubai Duty Free, Emirates in- Flight Catering, Jumeirah Hospitality, Sheraton Group, Al Habtoor Group, and so on. Al Adil opened its 30th outlet in the UAE recently.

Christened ‘Masala King’ by the Sultan of Dubai, Datar is ranked 45th on the Forbes Middle-East rich list.


“Initially, it was to be just a grocery store but we soon realised that Indian expats were pining for the flavours and tastes of things they had enjoyed as kids – poppadoms, liquorice, herbal shampoos, sundried mango candy, hair oils, and spice mixes. Gradually we established our name as being the grocery store that stocked authentic Indian foodstuff,” Datar told Gulf News.

The business tycoon likes to be in the news. In 2009, he made public relations history when he held a press conference 40,000 feet above sea level on board a Royal Jet Airways Boeing 737 to celebrate his company’s 25th anniversary. A few years ago, he held his younger son Rohan’s thread ceremony too, 40,000 feet in the air.

At the special press conference, Datar was accompanied by his wife, Vandana, whom he had gifted a customised Rolls Royce Phantom that cost Rs 8 crore to toast the occasion, and 50 mediapersons and business associates. The Rolls Royce that he gifted to his wife, he said, was the 18th ‘special edition’ Phantom in the world and the first in Dubai.

According to reports, guests were taken in three stretch limousines from the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, Bur Dubai, to the airport, where the chartered jet awaited them. Datar did the cake- cutting midair and popped champagne as the guests were taken on a three-hour tour over the UAE.

But he doesn’t forget his humble beginnings in a small village in Maharashtra. Datar ensures that he extends his support to the Indian community through various CSR activities, making notable contributions towards his community and the Marathi language. All of Al Adil’s super markets employ an 100% Indian workforce. He actively helps to provide an overseas platform for programmes like ‘Marathi Vishwa Sahitya Sammelan’ and ‘Gaurav Maharashtracha’. Datar says sustainable and rapid growth is the mantra for the Al Adil Group.

“Never forget your humility, even when you are very rich. Learn every day from your employees, customers and your children and be open-minded to receive those lessons when they come your way. Your client gave you the profits you enjoy, never forget that. Try and be modest about your achievements and never be ashamed of doing any kind of work, whatever it may be,” Datar told Gulf News.

So what is his mantra for success? “Business has no caste or religion. If you have the determination to face a challenge, you must take a plunge. A new business is like a newborn where you have to continuously nurture it without expecting a return. Be patient and continue to build it with love and sweat and eventually it will yield profits,” he told Gulf News.

Pics courtesy: Gulf News

This Indian American woman’s first startup was barely out of the gate when global markets crashed. Her latest venture defies all traditional definitions of success

Rohini Shah’s Blu Salt combines fashion with function to create sustainable products – handbags made from organic and recyclable materials

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Rohini Shah runs a successful design company focused on combining form, function and fashion – an idea that was born in 2013, motivated by the sheer lack of utility in women’s luxury accessories.

But success can be a tricky affair. The Michigan State University graduate’s first startup, Bacche Inc — a line of organic cotton children’s clothing that featured Indian-inspired colours and designs — was barely out of the gate in 2008 when global financial markets crashed.

“It took us about two years to educate ourselves about the market and get the product ready for market,” she told India-West, adding that the timeline brought them right into the heart of the recession.

The business was just getting traction, she said, when consumers stopped spending, retailers faced a liquidity crunch, and many of the independent boutique owners who had enthusiastically placed orders called her in tears to say they could no longer carry the clothes.

By 2010, with all the financial restraints, Shah and her partners decided to close the US operations and transferred the day-to-day operations to their partners in India.

The 39-year-old Shah, however, doesn’t regret the experience. “I wouldn’t have gotten here and I got to learn because of things that went wrong [in the economy],” Shah, who is originally from Andhra Pradesh but was raised mainly in Singapore, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This time around she’s marketing a line of handbags made from organic and recyclable materials. The bags are targeted primarily to women who want a luxury look combined with durability for daily use and travel.

Blu Salt – “Blu” meaning indigo, or a major export of the British Raj; “Salt” meaning the salt tax that Mahatma Gandhi opposed and used to galvanise India as a nation – offers wallets, tote bags, handbags, lunch bags, drawstring bags and even laptop sleeves, ranging in price from $18 to $610.

Besides sustainable materials, Blu Salt produces its bags and packaging at fair-wage factories in Vietnam and India, and donates part of its proceeds to the Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development, which supports women and youth in India.

“Business is a way for me to fulfill my responsibilities to society,” Shah, who also has a postgraduate diploma in marketing and finance from the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, and an MBA from Yale School of Management, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pic courtesy:

These three start-ups by Indian women are creating quite a buzz in the Bay Area. Here’s why

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Yosha Gupta
Founder, LafaLafa


Yosha Gupta started Lafalafa out of Hong Kong in 2014. The premise was simple — to create a seamless experience for shoppers looking for a platform offering them a range of ways to save money. Today, the e-coupon aggregator has tied up with 500 plus online brands, including all the top brands like Flipkart, Paytm, Snapdeal and Shopclues. Companies like MySmartPrice, CouponDunia, Grabon, Cashkaro, Pennyful are her competitors.

Gupta says she wanted “to create the best savings platform for customers in India and later Asia as well, to leverage all my experience across markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Hong Kong, where the scope for this proposition is also huge,” as per Forbes.

In September last year, she got picked up by Silicon Valley angel investor Dave McClure’s incubator, 500 Startups, which has offered her an initial investment of $125,000, apparently because her business was focused on mobile and the adoption was growing rapidly. Seventy percent of Lafalafa’s traffic came from the Android app. The company is also moving into offline business models, where in-store coupons and cashback will be a natural evolution.

“While we first thought of launching with just a web presence, within a month of launch we realized that more than 70 percent of our customers were accessing the mobile optimized version of our website,” says Gupta, “that was a clear indication of the power of mobile in India,” Gupta, a Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, and MDI Gurgaon alumna, was quoted as saying by Forbes.


Trisha Roy
Founder, Barn & Willow


Trisha Roy launched Menlo Park, California-based Barn & Willow – a vertically integrated home décor brand — with a simple idea to make window treatments more accessible. “I had never thought I would leave my comfortable job to start my own company. But my utter disappointment with the painful process of getting custom-made draperies for our home led me to start Barn & Willow,” says Roy, a Punjab University and University of Arizona, Eller College of Management alumna.

Her first order for Barn & Willow was fulfilled in December 2014. Now her company does monthly revenues of $50,000 and the business is growing by 45%, as per reports. Roy, too, was picked up by 500Startups with an initial investment of $125,000.

“We are questioning the obvious and disrupting traditional retail. We travel to cities to find the factories and the craftsmen producing the finest fabrics and build strong relationships with them,” explains Roy, who worked with several online tech companies like eBay and PayPal before starting Barn & Willow.


Rituparna Panda
Co-founder, Fulfil.IO


Rituparna Panda, along with co-founder Prakash Pandey and CEO Sharoon Thomas, says they are preventing spreadsheet abuse, one company at a time. They offer a bundle of software services that helps small businesses manage their inventory, accounting, manufacturing and purchasing.

Fulfil.IO was born in July 2015 to help small businesses migrate to cloud and mobile technology. In 2012, Rituparna finished her engineering and started work in a boutique consulting firm, before realising in 2014 that small and medium retailers, all over the world, do not have the platform to manage their inventory when selling on multiple channels. She went about building a system that could replace the old ERP systems and could use the cloud to track inventory and orders on multiple platforms, both online and offline.

“I grew up around different cities in India, which led to my love for travelling. My parents thought I was rebellious as a kid, but I liked to be independent. I was always attracted to new ideas and my curiosity to learn and explore landed me at my first start-up,” Panda, who studied at Jaipur Engineering College, Kukas, before working with companies such as Convergent Technologies and Openlabs and eventually co-founding Fulfil.IO, was quoted as saying by

Panda and her co-founders initially bootstrapped and had a revenue model from day 1. Later they raised their seed funds from 500 Startups.

Meet the Hindu couple of Indian descent who launched Malaysia’s first Islamic airline


Ravi Alagendrran and Karthiyani Govindan’s Rayani Air serves halal food but no alcohol, pork on board

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An ethnic Indian Hindu couple has launched Malaysia’s first Islamic airline offering Shariah compliant services including prayers before take-off, no on-flight serving of alcohol or meals with pork and a strict dress code for female flight attendants.

Rayani Air founders Ravi Alagendrran and his wife Karthiyani Govindan, who used parts of their first names for the airline’s name (‘Ra’ from ‘Ravi’ and ‘yani’ from ‘Karthiyani’), assured that passengers of all faiths would be welcome on the flights although they are primarily eyeing the Muslim market.

“This is not a matter of segregation. We have a target market and anyone wishing to travel in a modest and alcohol-free environment will feel right at home,” Alagendran told Malay Mail, adding, the Shariah-compliant industry had a huge potential for growth.

Another possible inspiration for the airline is the belief among some conservative Malaysian Muslims that the recent Malaysia Airlines disasters – the disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17 – were linked to Allah’s wrath, reported AP.

Rayani is a domestic airline based on the resort island of Langkawi, and currently flies to the capital Kuala Lumpur and the northern city of Kota Bahru.

It only has two Boeing 737-400 planes in its fleet, each able to carry about 180 passengers, and just eight pilots and 50 crew. But it has set its sights on rapid expansion, with plans to fly to more Malaysian cities – and eventually flights to Mecca, for umrah and hajj pilgrimages, reports The New Straits Times.

Rayani Air had its maiden flight on December 20 last year, becoming the fourth carrier to follow Islamic tenets after Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines and Iran Air.

The ethnic Indian couple, Alagendrran and Govindan, also control Terus Maju Metal, which has an iron ore mine and holds government contracts to salvage marine vessels. Rayani has paid-up capital of 5 million ringgit ($1.1 million) and wants to fly to Europe and take Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia within 10 years, reports Bloomberg.


Pics courtesy: Ravi Alagendrran’s Facebook page