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The Entrepreneurial Exchange

Entrepreneurial Flame Burns Bright ... But Could Burn Brighter Still

CHARAN GILL Vice-chairman, Entrepreneurial Exchange

THOUSANDS of people across Scotland will travel to work this morning pondering how to turn their business dream into reality. For many, the answer to this potentially life-changing question will be as much about who they are as how brilliant their idea is. Many have grappled with the age-old conundrum of whether entrepreneurs are born or made.

I have my feet placed firmly in the "made" camp. When I came to Scotland from India more than 40 years ago, I never dreamed that I'd build up a multi-million restaurant business and earn the moniker "curry king of Glasgow". My first job, at 15, was in the shipyards on the Clyde. As an immigrant apprentice at Yarrows Shipbuilders, I encountered many challenges and hurdles as I strived to be accepted in my adopted country. Opening my first Indian restaurant in the Kelvingrove area some 20 years later seemed simple in comparison. But, in truth, my experiences on the Clyde in the 1970s were instrumental in making me a successful entrepreneur.Just because I was of the made variety doesn't mean others don't have entrepreneurial spirit coursing through their veins from the moment they are born.

Yesterday, a trio of 23-year-old Glaswegians scooped the top prize for Scotland's best business competition for a revolutionary device to deliver clean water to the third world. Regional winners in the Business Gateway-backed awards ranged from a language academy for pre-school children to eco-friendly supermarket bags for fruit and vegetablesThe diverse range of business ideas got my entrepreneurial juices flowing and also showed me that Scotland's proud history of world-beating and innovative products is showing itself in the next generation.However, just as intriguing was the make-up of the entrants, which reflected the mark a new wave of immigrants are making on Scottish business life: 7 per cent of those who put their ideas under the microscope in the best business competition came from Poland. As an immigrant, it is fascinating to see others overcoming adversity to make a better life for themselves, while also enriching the cultural diversity of Scotland. A recent study by Scottish Enterprise found in Scotland that white males over 35 are most likely to be entrepreneurs. But in my experience those from Asian, Chinese and other ethnic minority backgrounds continue to make a huge contribution to the Scottish business scene. The reason they do not tend to be represented well in studies is that they tend to prefer to get funding for ventures from their families.Organisations such as Business Gateway provide a key source of support and advice, dealing with 50,000 start-up inquiries every year across Scotland and helping a new business start up every hour.

Entrepreneurs are the life-blood of the Scottish economy. The more people we can encourage to start their own business, the better chance of Scotland achieving a diverse, vibrant business landscape.

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