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Meet Pravin Patel—Overseas Indian who has made it big in the UK

Pravin Patel is one of the many active leaders among a strong Indian diaspora in London

Indians in the UK are known for their professional success and the 'can-do' spirit. They are also getting culturally and politically assertive as the community integrates itself globally and finds new confidence.

India Narrative catches up with Pravin Patel, director of Spark Capital, a finance and infrastructure company based in London with worldwide interests. One of Patel's tasks is to scout for businesses to invest in India while his colleagues do the same for Africa. Patel works with investment platforms in the UK, USA and Europe.

A shop selling Indian wares in Cardiff, the capital of Wales (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

Amid all the gloom and doom sparked by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the debilitating Covid-19 and a general slowdown, Patel is surprisingly upbeat about the India growth story. He says that the Indian economy is one of the powerful economies of the world and will remain so for a long time.

"The Indian economy is thriving. The country is receiving a lot of investment. In the global economic picture, India is playing a significant role. When India grows, it inspires people. When China grows it does not inspire. I noticed that the Indian economy was going up during the Covid-19 years also. Many in the world expected India to hit the rocks because of Covid but the country has come out faily well from those problems".

He believes that Indians have an edge. "We are blessed with the understanding of maths, science and medicine. This makes us different from other people. Just look at the Mars probe that India sent at a fraction of the cost incurred by the US. Indians are smart but they need self-belief that was shattered due to centuries of foreign rule".Giving an example of the determination of the diaspora, Patel says: "Our contribution to the British economy is one of the successful stories of this country. It began in 1967 after the Kenyan Asian exodus which brought the first wave of Indians into the UK. Indians started retail shops and began buying homes".

Then the big boost happened when Idi Amin drove more than 80,000 Indians out of Uganda. Of these, nearly 50,000 came to the UK. At that time Leicester was going down as industry was shutting down and people were leaving the city. The Ugandan Indians were pushed to Leicester. They were given government homes which were in poor condition. But the Indians put in hard work and eventually bought these homes. By 1976-77, the city was thriving. The Indians had opened up cash and carry shops, they were into retail and selling fashion products. They kept their shops open for long hours.

Asked to detail this bounce back, Patel said:  "The Indians lived in small accommodations but ensured education for children. These children gave another boost to the city once they finished education and took up professional jobs which gave another filip to the city.

Highly networked with the community, Patel is one of the leaders at the Sardar Patel Memorial Society UK (SPMSUK) along with several eminent personalities from the Indian diaspora. While keeping Sardar Patel's legacy of unifying the country alive, SPMSUK also forges unity between the Indian diaspora in the UK.

"When I see the Indian diaspora, I find that we are ambitious, confident and taking on the world. In the UK, I see that we are moving out of corner shops and moving into IT, medicine and engineering".

Talking about Indian youth, Patel says that he is very proud of one fact–that Indians in the 25-50 age group are very dynamic and ambitious with clarity of ideas. "Their key interest is to develop businesses. They are different from the older generation in that now they want to develop global companies. The youth want to become supply chain providers to large companies".

The younger generation wants to go all over the world. It wants to expand, says Patel, adding that they are playing a big role in the development of the Indian economy.

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