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Story So Far

My story so far…

My story began 7,000 kilometres away from here in India, where I grew up the youngest of 11 children and attended state schools in Delhi. During my summers as a child, I would stay at my sister’s house. Her place had no bathroom, no running water and just one electric light. I remember spending several hours a day collecting buckets of buffalo dung which I’d shape into pancakes, slap them on walls to dry and then use for fuel. Back then I was the dung collector champion!

My mum instilled in me the value of giving back. She followed her desire to help others by cooking ten evening meals daily for the homeless. Every evening she would ask me to walk one kilometre each day to distribute the meals to them. In spite of my initial grumbling, I always felt great seeing their sunny smiles.

Through hard work at school I won entry to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) near Kolkata, West Bengal, one of the world’s leading universities, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in engineering. On the back of that I encouraged my family to send two of my nieces to university. They were the first women from my family to take higher education.

I was then luck enough to go to New York on a teaching scholarship to study for a Masters’ in engineering at Clarkson University. But my excitement of flying for the first time at the age of 22 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.

Even worse, I only had $20 to get me through my first seven days! But I reminded myself that I had come to New York to fulfil my dream of having a global business. I would work day and night to achieve this goal.  I realised then that if I was to become a successful entrepreneur, I needed to acquire a combination of three ingredients at the same time: top business skills, substantial savings and the profile of a global manager. I understood that it would require self-discipline, a razor-sharp focus and making sacrifices for 10-15 years.

Visualising my goal every day, I focused on my studies.  I 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, not even at McDonalds, but I still had the most delicious food everyday…because I cooked it myself!

 

Prem charity endeavours
Raising money for charity by completing the London Marathon and team triathlon

 

Just as I was starting to get a grip on my life, I suffered a brain haemorrhage. However, with the help of my wonderful roommates and financial support from the local community during this ordeal, I stayed glued to my education and graduated with a Masters’ degree. I then got a job as a professional transport engineer and set a goal of saving $50,000 in three years. I constantly worked overtime. 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, enough to pursue my next dream of studying at a top business school.  In 1992, I graduated with an MBA from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with the Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest honour given to any student. I also had no outstanding debts.

I then 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! From day one, I started working at least 80 hours a week, but I enjoyed the nonstop, intense competition.

 

Interfaith-knowledge-secret-to-global-business
Inspiring young leaders at the House of Lords

 

Having worked for Goldman Sachs, I decided to build the profile of a global manager. In subsequent years, I went on to work alongside senior bankers at Lehman Bros, Deutsche Bank and Citibank in New York, Tokyo and Zurich and travelled to about 50 countries. I achieved my goal of saving one million dollars three years earlier than planned but continued to work 80 hours every week, just as my mum did to raise 11 kids.

After living and working in three continents, I settled in the City of London in 1999 where I also rediscovered my love for curry, cricket and Tower Bridge! Living on Minories and Wormwood Street near Portsoken, I started consulting with Deutsche Bank in the City.

Then armed with my business education, savings and global work experience, in 2002 I launched Global Markets Consultants (GMC), a management consulting firm, in the City of London and New York.  With GMC Offices in the Portsoken area on Liverpool Street and Houndsditch, and later in Devonshire Square and now near Tower Hill, I was a business consultant and led project teams in global banks.

I’m proud that GMC won Preferred Supplier recognition from Deutsche Bank every year from 2005 to 2013. But, I am even more proud that we have also created hundreds of management and business consulting jobs and contributed millions in corporate and individual taxes to HMRC. Most importantly, we’ve promoted diversity at all levels and encouraged staff to give back to their communities.

 

Receiving my OBE from HRH Prince Charles
Receiving my OBE from HRH Prince Charles

 

Having retired in 2010 at the age of 45, I now spend my time, business expertise and savings to pursue my charitable, travelling and community interests. I have been a magistrate for the past eight years and support over 20 charities which care for the elderly, promote diversity and help young people find jobs and fulfil their potential.  To date, I’ve delivered inspiring talks to thousands of young people in the House of Commons, the House of Lords and at community events. I’ve also mentored hundreds of young people in one-to-one sessions on higher education, careers and jobs advice, including c.20 young people in Portsoken.

I have also raised over £250,000 for charitable causes, including £25,000 for the Attlee Foundation in Tower Hamlets, by completing challenges such as the London Marathon, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and cycling 500 kilometres across Vietnam and Cambodia.

I enjoy travelling and have visited about 135 countries including Bangladesh and Colombia.  But I cherish the lifelong friendships I’ve made with local business owners and other residents in the Portsoken area, where I’ve lived and worked for 18 years.

 

Prem travelling
Visiting Colombia and Ghana

 

I’m passionate about my community. I’ve already committed three million pounds of my savings, my talent and 50 hours per week of my time to grow the talent of others, promote diversity, provide leadership opportunities and care the elderly less able. I also participate, support and contribute to community events that bring our diverse communities together, with a focus in Portsoken, the City of London and Tower Hamlets.

My company periodically recognises our community’s unsung heroes with GMC Young Leader, Community Champion and Life Achievement Awards. GMC Award recipients include Portsoken champions Henry Jones CC, Ivan Kingsley, Rina Begum, Ayesha Azad, Nicki Matthew and Luz Amparo Fletcher.

 

Ayesha Azad GMC Award
Ayesha Azad receiving her GMC Award

 

I’ve also created opportunities for 28 community champions to contest in our recent UK elections as Councillor, MP and London Assembly candidates.  This has brought their unrecognised leadership skills into the limelight.

To recognise my entrepreneurial contributions, I was thrilled to be invited to have lunch on the top table with HM The Queen at a Diamond Jubilee celebration. In 2013 I was awarded an OBE for services to the economy and promoting charitable giving. A year later, I was presented the Individual Community Spirit Award by Boris Johnson at the London Leadership and Peace Awards. This year, I was shortlisted for the Beacon City Philanthropy Award.

Furthermore, I actively participate in City life: I was elected a Common Councilman in the City of London. I’m also a Committee Member of Portsoken Ward Club and a Board Member of Aldgate Community Events.

I was made a Freeman of the City of London in 2011 and recently became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. I’m also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of World Traders and a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD). I have sponsored and participated in the City’s annual events including the Lord Mayor’s Parade, the Big Curry Lunch to support ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the Sheriff’s Ball and the Lord Mayor’s City Giving Day. I am also a supporter of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Barbican Centre.

 

Portsoken community trip
Enjoying a community trip with Portsoken residents

 

On reflection, my achievements have only been possible because of the opportunities provided to me by the City of London and the Portsoken community since 2000.  I am extremely grateful to the City and its people, especially Portsoken residents, for embracing me and making me feel welcome.

Following the values instilled in me by my mum, I want to continue giving back to the City of London and my Portsoken community what it has given me over the years with my talent, time and savings. My dream is to ensure my community prosper too.