In this series we ask key figures in the region and from our core sectors to share their insights.
This time, we spoke to Sharon Jandu, Founder of the Yorkshire Asian Business Association (YABA) and Project Director of Northern Asian Power (NAP), about her vision for a flourishing regional economy and the major opportunities she sees for international trade.
You have leadership roles across a number of business associations in our region, including YABA, NAP and the Federation of Small Businesses – what’s your take on the current challenges and opportunities?
The Asian business community is really flying at the moment.
The pandemic, of course, brought incredible challenges and in many cases personal tragedy – I lost family members in India and have been heavily involved in fund-raising for the major impact COVID is having there – but second and third generation Asian businesses have shown great resilience and many are really coming into their own.
There are now three and a half thousand members of the Yorkshire Asian Business Association and I was delighted to celebrate the work of some phenomenally successful Asian business people in the Northern Asian Power list last year, profiling the top 100 Asian businesses and professional influencers across the Northern Powerhouse.
In March we also held a hugely successful five-day virtual trade mission – attracting non-Asian as well as Asian businesses looking to do business on the sub-continent.
What is your current focus in terms of supporting the Asian business community?
I’m incredibly excited about scaling up my own business, developed from the tremendous success of YABA, which I founded five years ago.
My aim is to further connect the business community with the right advice, mainstream contacts, professional services and business networks, using a bank of key professionals, mentors and advisors.
I now have a team of ten young Kickstarters working with me here in Leeds and a growing team of interns, based in India, gathering data and forging partnerships, focused on building business in the Asian sub-continent.
My previous corporate experience, working with Santander and Microsoft, has been invaluable, but I’ve taken an MBA at Bradford University and plan to take my PhD at the University of Delhi, to ensure I’m even better prepared for the challenge.
There are major opportunities to do more trade with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and I want to showcase the great things that are being done in the UK.
In one of my other roles, as a local magistrate, I’m also incredibly aware of the many vulnerable people who do not see those opportunities. We must be inclusive and do everything we can to reach out to those people, providing support, role models and mentoring.
How can business communities like Nexus and wider support networks help?
We’re showing businesses who have never previously thought of doing business in India just what incredible opportunities exist. Collaboration between business and academia is critical to attracting the right talent, employers and inward investment to help drive that showcase and we have cracking universities in our region and some incredible people behind that collaboration.
What we must do is make it relevant. Messages need to be simplified and contextualised, so that businesses who are not from the academic community do not feel alienated. We need to open our doors to small and medium-sized businesses from multiple sectors and disciplines and ensure they understand that they have access to advice they can trust and shared knowledge and experience.
We’re fortunate to have a hugely supportive local government who are helping to drive partnerships and networks. I was privileged to meet our new West Yorkshire Mayor, Tracy Brabin, recently, who has a clear vision for inclusive growth in the region and Sir Roger Marsh, who is driving change through Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and the Northern Powerhouse.
What would you most like to see happen to support the continued growth and development of Asian businesses?
Those businesses continue to inspire and motivate other businesses, so showcasing their talent and achievements is critical.
We also need all our leaders to get together – locally, regionally and nationally – to pool their expertise and resources and be the catalyst for change and growth.
The digital age has empowered young people to be at the forefront of new developments and innovation, but we all have responsibility to help harness and direct that empowerment. How we speak, interact and every action we take has resonance and potential value.
I’m also looking forward to being able to get back to actual networking events and trade missions – there is a wealth of opportunity to do business with the Asian sub-continent and it will be a privilege to make the introductions and help forge the partnerships to optimise that success.
Explore more insights from our ‘the view from here’ series:
The view from here – Will Schaffer, Mercia
We catch-up with Will who is an Investment Manager with the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. Will shares his insights on what the investment landscape holds for 2021 and how business owners can best present themselves to potential investors.