Colin Page, by e-mail

Why so little asian representation?

from Shamus Lehel, director, PALS (Preferred Alliance of Londis


Sir; I have been intrigued with the flurry of recent letters regarding ageism in the grocery industry. I can claim raising this issue in The Grocer circa 1981, when, at the tender age of 35, I was finding it very difficult to secure an interview, let alone an offer of employment.
I wrote again to The Grocer in 1998 after reading another spate of “ageism” problems, and placed an ad offering those over 35 seeking employment to forward their CVs. At the same time I placed an ad for companies to respond if they could use well-seasoned professionals in their firms.
Guess what - I had hundreds of responses from applicants all over the country, but just two or three responses from potential employers. I recall achieving one interview for an applicant but, unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.
With contacts gained from this exercise, an action group was formed and several meetings took place in an effort to attack employer apathy. But after a great deal of time, money and effort, this project was dropped due to lack of success!
Let’s not kid ourselves, even with legislation, employers aren’t going to recruit the mature sales person. For myself, although I still read The Grocer, I made a career change and am now a mortgage advisor with my own brokerage. It’s great that grey hair/self-motivation/dedication/ loyalty and experience are welcomed in this industry!
Sir; I attended the Londis show at Sandown and was introduced to Bharathari Patel (Londis non-executive director of 16 years) who until recently was the token Asian on the Londis board.
What I found amazing was that Patel had never heard of PALS (Preferred Alliance of Londis Shopkeepers) or of me.
While it is true that I don’t have the profile of David Beckham, although I am arguably better looking, has Patel been living in a time warp for the last four months?
What I find equally amazing is that from a retailer base that comprises more than 75% Asians, there are not more of us in the highest echelons of power at Londis. We are patronisingly
told how very industrial and entrepreneurial we are, yet our skills are not required at board level. Why?