I came to the UK from India in 1961. After a number of different jobs, I established East End Foods with three of my four brothers in the mid 1960s. My youngest brother joined the business later, so we say that five brothers formed the company in 1972.
Tell us a bit about East End Foods
East End Foods is an Indian food specialist with an annual turnover of £98m. We supply high-quality ethnic foods to a wide range of markets. More than 80% of Asian independents stock East End's range as well as Morrisons, Asda, Somerfield, Kwik Save, Aldi and Tesco. We have more than 1,250 lines sourced from around the globe, including spices, lentils, rice and chutneys. The purity of our products is of paramount importance to us, and when we formed the company we felt that we could make our name in that direction. We guarantee that all of our products are free from Sudan 1 and we are now successfully pioneering the reduction of pesticides and aflatoxins to levels below detection.
How have you managed to do this?
For the past ten years we have been working with farmers on research and development to control aflatoxin and pesticide residues. We found that if you do not separate aflatoxins at the time of harvest, they are likely to multiply and grow quickly. Farmers could lose 15-20% of their produce if they don't separate right away, so to protect themselves they were using too much pesticide. We went out to the farmers and educated them in other ways. We have good relationships with our farmers and have eliminated the money men so that their products are sent straight to us.
What has been keeping you busy lately?
Earlier this year we invested more than £6m in a new rice mill at our factory in West Bromwich. The machinery will allow us to increase rice production by more than 40% this year and is an indication of how seriously we take production here. It is also the type of investment that we will continue to make. We are also currently working on getting listings in Sainsbury and I also want the big boys to understand how much of a difference we have made. Our next project is to show people that Indian food can be very healthy and can be prepared in less than half an hour. However, my long-term aim is the globalisation of the company.