You don’t have to be born in Cardiff to love it. In this series we talk to three very successful entrepreneurs whose original home is far away.
Raj you first came to the capital to study pharmacy at Cardiff University, so why did you decide to stay?
I really enjoyed my time between 1969 and 1972 at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy, which has a world class reputation and is ranked number one in the Guardian’s University Guide 2014.
I was very, very happy here and saw no reason to leave. There is no other city in the UK I would rather live. It was a tremendously exciting time for me after leaving university and embarking on a career with Boots.
I started as a relief manager in Boots’ stores in Cardiff before taking on senior management duties. Cardiff in the early 70s was a very friendly, very compact and a great place to live.
My career with Boots took me away from Cardiff to London to work for several years, but I always saw the Welsh capital as my home. It was destiny when an opportunity arose to return to Cardiff where I have remained ever since.
You have numerous business interests from pharmacy to property. So how good is the city’s workforce?
One word describes the Cardiff workforce: brilliant. They are very loyal, dedicated and adaptable. We’re very fortunate to be able to draw on such a vast pool of international talent from our universities, and all Welsh people know the meaning of hard work.
Recruitment is easy and, perhaps more importantly, so is retention. When people start working or living in Cardiff, they never want to leave. No other city in UK can beat it for its friendliness, family life and the wonderful range of sporting, shopping and cultural facilities.
As the recently appointed Indian honorary Consul for Wales, how can the commercial ties between Wales, and in particular its capital, and India be deepened?
By maintaining and growing the positive relationships we already enjoy. Trade missions are important – we need to go to India and stress the advantages of Wales and Cardiff in particular.
We need to show how other firms who have moved to Cardiff have thrived. We also need to stress the quality of life people enjoy here, the amazing workforce and the practical benefits of moving to Cardiff such as its enterprise zone for financial and professional services which makes it such an attractive economic destination.
Cardiff Council does a fantastic job with these incentives, making it as easy as possible for firms from India and all over the world to start trading in Cardiff. The First Minister, and his team have done a wonderful job in promoting Wales internationally, particularly in India.His trade mission there recently was a huge success and created a real aura right across India with a clear message: Wales is open for business.
His trade mission there recently was a huge success and created a real aura right across India with a clear message: Wales is open for business.
Indians are also quick to pick up on Cardiff’s cricket connections and millions in India enjoyed the recent ICC Cricket Champions Trophy which saw games played at the SWALEC Stadium.
How important are the city’s universities to driving its economic competitiveness?
The universities are the backbone of our economic development. We have three world recognised teaching and research universities: Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University and South Wales University.
That’s an enormous pool of international talent – I would estimate around 80,000 students. Over 15% of those will be international students. Put simply, Cardiff is a wonderful hub of intelligent young people eager to start out on their careers and bring more economic benefits to the city and stronger international relationships. Higher education certainly enhances the huge Cardiff brand.
Cardiff has a long tradition of welcoming many nationalities from around the world.
What do you think this says about the city?
I remember well the warm welcome I received when I came here in 1969, and that friendliness is still evident today. It’s why I’m proud to call Cardiff my home. Cardiff is truly an international city where anyone can thrive and prosper.
The same welcome I received was extended to my family. My son Rakesh loves Cardiff, too, and also studied at the university, leaving with a distinction. He embarked on his own successful business career here, founding the online beauty retailer; Escentual.com. His children are growing up in the city too and are very proud of their Welsh roots.
Read about the other entrepreneurs in part two and part three of this series.