BUSINESS NETWORKS - ARE THEY ANY GOOD?
(20 May 2005)
unattached start-up seeks like-minded spirit for mutually profitable
relationship'. Does this sound a like your business
approach? If so, you'll undoubtedly have been networking. The mantra
for the masses, networking has now seemingly replaced other methods
as the principal source for new customers, business contacts and,
for some at least, a new way to meet that some special to share
their life with. Business networking is the new Asian Dating, but
are Britain's Asian Business Networks any good?
the Asian scene, one can hardly move for the number of networking
groups. Established organisations like London's Asian Business Association
have been quick to capitalise on the new vibrancy among the capital's
ethnic community. Their events regularly draw large audiences. High
profile speakers like film director Shekhar Kapur and the Leader
of Conservative Party, Michael Howard may be an obvious reason,
but an enthusiastic Chairman helps too. Tony Sarin, who took over
from the former chairman Sir G K Noon as the Chairman of the ABA
hopes that in a few years time "there will be no need for a
specific Asian Business Association". Presumably the UK's ethnic
business community will be fully integrated by then.
that Mr Sarin's words come at a time when more Asian businesspeople
want to work with others from their own community. This new cohesiveness
cannot be understated. Traditionally Asian businessmen have relied
on family contacts or friends from their own religious groupings,
preferring to treat others in the same market sector with a healthy
dose of cynicism preferably dished out at "arms length".
The concept of actually meeting at events and working with suppliers,
customers and competitors for mutual benefit is new.
"dot com" euphoria of the late 1990's saw many new groups
like TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) launch branches in the UK. Emulating
the format of the eponymous 'First Tuesday' club, TiE-UK sought
to match-make wannabe dot-commers with venture capitalists in search
of the next big thing. The first few TiE-UK events drew hundreds
and needed organisation on the scale of an Indian wedding!
"dot com" crash saw a refinement of the TiE-UK mission
and the group is now more focussed on mentoring and encouraging
entrepreneurship, particularly among Asian women. But not even TiE's
Julie Meyer (formerly of First Tuesday and later from Ariadne Capital)
could win over the hearts of Asian Women, leaving a gap in the market
for the formation of DAWN.
acronym for the Dynamic Asian Women's Network, DAWN launched in
2003 and focuses on encouraging women entrepreneurs. However, its
softly-softly life-balance, coaching style doesn't suit everyone
and could prove to be its undoing. Women in the City have their
own club. Women in Film & TV and many more, non-ethnic groups
like High Tech Women and the Aurora Network have all helped fill
the burgeoning women's networking gap.
where does that leave you - would-be networker and soul-mate seeker?
to all networks, groups and clubs is the weakness that they become
the "tool" for the interests of an individual or small
group of people, inevitably becoming a clique and alienating a vast
majority of members. Empowerment and empathy may have been the founding
principles, but disenfranchisement and apathy the result.
the business and personal needs of individuals is something that
professional networks feel that they can do better. After all, meeting
over cocktails and canapés is far easier than having to sit
through presentations and Q&A before hurriedly catching the
last train home. The Institute of Asian Professionals bridges the
business and pleasure networking goals comfortably, in addition
to hosting the well-known Asian Jewel Awards. The Society of Asian
Lawyer's is another that fulfils the same role for the country's
drawback of such groups is that the very same business-cum-pleasure
advantages can so readily become weaknesses. What if you'd rather
date someone than do business with them? What if you split up personally
after having agreed a partnership agreement between your two firms?
very BEST GROUPS are, of course, the smallest of personal cliques
that one fits into the clique! Apart from Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs
and The Freemasons, Community Associations may have all the answers.
Groups like the Lohana Community Association, The Patidar Samaj,
the Oshwal Group are all valuable social groups, but perhaps lack
the breadth of user base to function as business networks. Specialist
groups like the Vanik Business Group - created primarily for the
Vania Community - may also become victims of their own success.
The principle benefit of networking within one's own community groups
may eventually prove to be too limiting when members find that most
of their clients are from outside this group, and indeed the dynamism
of a multi-ethnic, vibrant group proves too much of a draw.
perfect business networking group would be global-yet-local, multicultural,
open to all but one that only attracts senior decision makers; is
chock-a-block full of potential customers, but excludes all pesky
salespeople, is representative of all ages but is full of bright,
young things going places. Hardly surprising then that Alumni Associations
are rapidly becoming popular. Not only do you get a chance to meet
the student you always fancied, but also the possibility of catching
a CEO of the company you're trying to land a job/contract/partnership
agreement with. But before you venture into this nirvana of networking,
be warned that these people might still be all those whom you wanted
to avoid in the first place - a "friends un-reunited"
so to speak.
of the best-kept secrets are the "private networks" run
by specialist companies like Ram Gidoomal and Deepak Mahtani's South
Asian Development Partnership. Vijay Amin's Abi Group is flourishing
in North London with a range of services for would-be entrepreneurs.
Others, like Manoj Ladwa's SaffronChase group have such a large
pool of contacts that they can even launch new services like the
FTSE Executive Resource to share skills and personnel with the mainstream
community. The knack to private networks is in building one-to-one
relationships and still being able to capitalise on these contacts
at the right time. A skill that "serial networkers" employ
networkers - you know, the ones you seem to innocently bump into
at all sorts of events - can certainly teach us a thing or two.
They seem to possess that enviable technique for making us feel
included in their world, the focus of their attention, for a precious
few moments before extracting a promise to meet for lunch/dinner/two
weeks in Hawaii! If business networking is your goal, then brushing
up on your dating skills might be just what is needed.
ASIAN BUSINESS NETWORKING GROUPS
Neasden Lane, London, NW10 1QB
Tel: 0208 438 4550
Fax: 0208 438 4551
London Chamber of Commerce and Industry
33 Queen Street, London EC4R 1AP
Tel: 020 7203 1870, Fax: 0207 7203 1893
Business Federation (Blackburn)
ABF Ltd, Suite 4
Shadsworth Business Park
Lions Drive, Blackburn BB1 2QS
Tel: 0845 607 0786
Fax: 01254 694999
Bangladeshi Professionals Association
74 Highgate Hill
London N19 5NQ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7272 4669
of Asian Businesses
75 Harborne Road
of Asian Business Networks
C/o Dalmia Media
The Nova Building
Herschel Street, Slough SL1 1XS
Tel: 01753 701 110
Fax: 01753 890 988
of Asian Professionals
Contact: Mr Khalid Darr or Tahira Shamim
Asian Business Association Limited
207 Melton Road,
Belgrave, Leicester LE4 6QT
Tel: 0116 222 9600,
Fax: 0116 222 9601
of Asian Lawyers
c/o Mr Ali Zaidi
2 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn
London WC2A 3TH
Tel : 020 7691 4074
Fax : 020 7691 4050
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Asian Development Partnership
PO Box 43, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5WL
Tel: 020 8770 9717
Fax: 020 8770 9747
50 Albemarle Street,
London, W1S 4BD
Tel: 020 7297 4311
Fax 020 7504 8550
1 Penfold Place
Tel / Fax: + 44 (0)20 7723 7260