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The Entrepreneurial Exchange

Charan Gill Plans Venture To Help Families In India

Curry restaurant chain owner Charan Gill has launched a venture aimed at providing 400 needy families with milk in his native Punjab.

In the latest example of the thriving culture of business philanthropy to emerge from Scotland's Entrepreneurial Exchange, the idea is to fund a dairy farm with a difference in the remote Indian village of Rajiana.

The new dairy farm, to be called Scotia Farm, will be built on six acres of arable land in the region - but it will be unrecognisable to most Scottish farmers because the milk will be produced by a herd of water buffalo, rather than cows.

Mr Gill, one of Scotland's most celebrated businessmen, built the Harlequin restaurant chain which includes the Ashoka brand. He sold it in 2005 for £8m.

The charitable venture was born out of a recent trip to India by various members of the Entrepreneurial Exchange organised by Gill, the group's vice-chairman, to seek Scottish business opportunities within the emerging Indian economy.

However, during the course of the trip the entrepreneurs heard about the dire predicament of the villagers of Rajiana, and their urgent need for milk.

Mr Gill said: "When I visited Rajiana with Iain Graham of Graham Technologies, we discovered that there are many families with young children as well as the elderly going without any milk because they just don't have the money.

"After meeting the village council, it was decided that the best solution to this problem would be to set up a dairy farm which would provide free milk to around 400 needy families every day."

Two other entrepreneurs from the delegation - venture capitalist Mike Rutterford and Alan Revie of National Tyres - have so far pledged £5500 each to meet the construction costs for the various sheds and buildings on the farm. Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers and Billy Lowe of Saltire Taverns have agreed to cover the £5000 cost of the plant and machinery.

Alan Revie has also pledged the first £2000 for two water buffalo to kick-start the farm.

Construction work on Scotia Farm is scheduled to start on November 1 to coincide with the Hottest Night of the Year, the annual charity fundraiser in Glasgow hosted and organised by Mr Gill.

He added that the aim is to get Scotia Farm opened for the start of February 2008, when the entrepreneur will return to the Punjab to help buy the water buffalo from the local market.

Mr Gill has now launched an appeal for donations of £1000 per person or organisation to fund each water buffalo, and said he now has pledges amounting to £26,000 for 26 buffalo.

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