Celebrating St Lucia National Day
Here is my speech from the St Lucia National Day celebration event at East Ham Town Hall on 11 December:
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to join you and celebrate St Lucia National Day.
I’d like to thank my good friend Justin Moore MBE for inviting me to share my journey with you at this prestigious occasion.
I’ve known Justin for more than 5 years as we both met in as fellow magistrates in Stratford Court.
As a Justice of the Peace for over 25 years and the Founder of Greenlight Youth Club, Justin is fighting to repeal stop and search every day. He has made a positive and lasting contribution to young people and their families across London. This has been possible because of his dedicate, personal sacrifices and passion to make a real difference. I call this leadership in action.
Please join me in giving him a huge round of applause.
‘The best way to predict your future is to create it.’ These are the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, which I remember and follow everyday in my own life.
So I would like to reflect on how I created my own future by sharing my journey from Delhi to London. You’ll hear how I fulfilled my dream of owning a successful global business – while at the same time making a positive difference to the lives of Londoners. My story began 7,000 kilometres away from here in Delhi, where I grew up the youngest of 11 children and went to state schools.
During my summers as a child, I would stay at my sister’s house. Her place had no bathroom, no running water and one electric light. I remember collecting five buckets of buffalo dung everyday, which I’d shape into pancakes, slap them on walls to dry and then use for fuel. I’m pleased to share that I was the dung collector champion!
Through hard work at school, I won entry to the Indian Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading engineering universities. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1986.
Afterwards, I obtained a scholarship for a Masters’ degree from Clarkson University and went to New York to pursue higher education.
My excitement of flying for the first time at the age of 22 however was short-lived. The second I stepped off the plane I was a fish out of water, faced with a different culture, a different language and a different socio-economic level. I was dirt poor.
But I reminded myself that I had come to New York to fulfil my dream of having a global business. And I would work day and night to achieve this goal.
At this time I realised that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, I needed to acquire a combination of three ingredients at the same time. They are top business skills, substantial savings and a global profile. I understood that it would require determination, a razor-sharp focus and making sacrifices for 10 years.
I immediately decided to save 50% of my monthly scholarship, which was no easy feat, I assure you. I never ate out in New York for the first 12 months, but I still had the most delicious food everyday… Because I cooked it myself!
As I got a grip on my life, I suffered a brain haemorrhage. But I recovered from this setback with the help of my wonderful roommates and stayed focused on my education, graduating with a Masters’ degree in engineering.
Afterwards, I got a job as a project engineer and set a goal of saving $50,000 in three years. I worked overtime all the time. When not working 60 hours per week, I would use my time to volunteer as a fire-fighter and work on my funny accent. By the way, I never had any accent problems in India!
I can’t tell you how happy I felt when I had saved 50,000 dollars, enough to pursue my next dream of studying at a top business school.In 1992, I graduated with an MBA from UCLA with the Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest honour given to any student. And I had no outstanding student loans.
After graduation, I joined Sales and Trading at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street. I immediately set a goal of saving one million dollars in ten years. By the way, I was interviewed 31 times before I got that job!
Having worked for Goldman Sachs, I decided to build a global profile. In subsequent years, I lived in London, Tokyo and Zurich while consulting with senior bankers and travelled to about 50 countries. After working for 80 hours a week for seven years, I saved one million dollars three years earlier than planned.
Armed with my business education, savings and global profile, I launched Global Markets Consultants in the City of London in 2002. I am proud that my company has created hundreds of management jobs and contributed millions in corporate and individual taxes to HMRC. It was a Preferred Supplier of Deutsche Bank every year from 2005 to 2013. Most importantly, my company promotes diversity at all levels and encourages staff to build bridges between communities.
Furthermore, my significant savings has enabled me to retire at the age of 45, and pursue charitable, travelling and community endeavours. I’ve gained the Freeman of the City of London and served as a JP for five years. I support 20 charities as a patron or a board member. I’ve raised £200,000 for charities by completing challenges, such as the London Marathon and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I love travelling. I’ve been to 100 countries and far flung places such as the North Pole and the South Pole. I also visited St Lucia a few years ago and saw the beautiful Pitons. I encourage everyone who hasn’t been to St Lucia to make it your next holiday destination. But remember to take it easy on the rum punch or don’t blame me afterwards!
I’m passionate about my community. To date, I’ve delivered inspiring talks to thousands of young people in the House of Commons, the House of Lords and community events. I’ve also created opportunities for 20 community champions to contest in our recent UK elections as Councillor and MP candidates. This has brought their unrecognised leadership skills into the limelight.
To recognise my services to the economy and for promoting charitable giving, I was awarded an OBE. Additionally, I was chosen to have a lunch with the Queen on the top table for a Diamond Jubilee celebration event. And just last year, Mayor Boris Johnson presented 2014 Individual Community Spirit Award to me for building One London.
On reflection, this has all been possible because of the opportunities provided to me by England. After coming here on a business trip in 1999, I fell in love with London overnight because of its diversity, cricket and …. Curry! I am extremely grateful to the UK for embracing me and giving me the chance to start my global business.
I’ve lived in London for 16 years, and for the last 10 years right next to Tower Bridge. Would you believe that this is the same bridge that was plastered on my bedroom wall back in India!?
In closing, I want to give back to London and England what it has given me over the years. I’ve already committed three million pounds of my savings, my talent and 60 hours per week of my time to promote diversity, equality and inclusiveness in London.
Because of the talent, time and effort leaders such as Justin and you make, London has always led and the UK in everything it does. I hope that we will also lead our nation in achieving still further diversity, equality and inclusion at the top.
Together we can make this happen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is my dream.