Sunday, 22 June 2008

Curry King To Lager Lord

FIRST he put the spice into our curries and now he's giving our lager a bit of kick.
Indian entrepreneur Charan Gill knows what makes the Scots tick.
Having arrived in Glasgow from a tiny Punjab village at the age of nine with virtually no English he went on to build a multi-million pound empire as our undisputed curry king. He sold his Ashoka chain for £16million and has now teamed up with a Bavarian premium lager brewer in Glasgow's East End.
He said: "It is a really exciting new venture. I heard about the West Brewing Company from boss Petra Wetzel and when she told me she needed investment I was delighted to get involved. West is the only Scottish lager brewer apart from Tennent's and is at the premium end of the market.
"We have six different kinds of lager and the on-site bar restaurant is going well. We are developing off-site sales by getting the lager into bars around Glasgow and are negotiating with a major distribution firm.
Charan, 54, encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian subcontinent. It is on course to overtake Japan as the world's third biggest economies within a decade.
Critics see outsourcing call centre jobs to India as the death knell for our service industries.
But thousands of Scots are taking advantage of increasingly strong trade links between the countries.
Charan was brought here by his father but it was his grandfather that inspired him to become a millionaire.
He said: "He told me that success was measured in terms of money and it stuck with me all my life.
"Things were tough when I was growing up. My father had left the village a few years before us to move to Scotland and work on the buses.
"My earliest memory was landing at the airport and seeing this bleak, grey sky and feeling the rain." Charan was so eager to earn a wage he ignored the advice of his headmaster and got a job at a Clyde shipyard.
He said: "Eight years at Yarrow's made me streetwise and introduced me to the Glaswegian culture. It was a great experience but I always knew one day I would work for myself."
By 1974 he was working in the Ashoka restaurant in the evenings after his shift at the yard.
By 1983 he was employed full-time there. He used wacky marketing ploys like finding a man called Rick Shaw to deliver takeaways and having a curry delivered by helicopter as he walked the West Highland Way.
He became a partner in the business and bought out most of the others. By 2005, the chain had 17 restaurants and was turning over £12million a year.
Charan sold up to concentrate on property development.
He said: "I just woke up and felt I had done what I set out to do."
Source : SundayMail

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