Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

Interested parties are invited to comment.

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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Watching Reena and Rami Ranger


I am watching the rise of Reena and Rami Ranger on the London scene. They make a really interesting father-daughter pair. Both have a natural air, a Punjabi wholeheartedness and business acumen. But there’s still something quite down to earth about them.

Recently, Rami Ranger MBE, FRSA, Chairman, Sun Mark Ltd won an unprecedented fifth consecutive Queen's Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

Prime Minister David Cameron visited the headquarters of Sun Mark Ltd. in Greenford on Friday 18th July 2014 to present the award.

Rami Ranger connects Britain to 115 countries through trade.

He built his empire in the UK from the ground up. His son-in-law Harmeet Ahuja is the Sun Mark CEO.

Dr. Ranger oftentimes pays tribute to his mother; he says she taught him the values which have been the bedrock of his success. She brought Rami and  his siblings up to be wholesome people despite having lost her husband during the partition of India and despite having to live in abject poverty in a refugee camp. 

Reena Ranger is making a name for herself by expending energy in the right sort of ways if public service is her goal.

She has worked very hard and is now a councillor. She’s Dr. Rami Ranger’s eldest daughter and Chairwoman-Founder of the social organisation, Women Empowered. She worked for the family business from a young age and learnt to deal with all aspects of the company under the guidance and support of her father.

What is unusual about Reena is that she is steadily and consistently creating formats through Women Empowered for people to connect and to learn. The sessions always incorporate a questions and answer session where the questions are not controlled in any way.

And in the recent Vivek Oberoi event that I attended, Reena quite patiently waited until well after most of the guests had got their photos with the star guests before politely and quietly asking if one could be taken of her husband and herself with Vivek.

I know Reena is making waves because many women I meet swear by Women Empowered and tell me it makes a difference to their lives. I like the notion of giving in this fashion rather than doggedly working at being a councillor as a career step to becoming an MP with little else apart from work.

And the talk is that it won’t be long before Reena is given a seat to fight. Her family is behind her all the way.
As for Rami, he supports where he can and many events I attend bear the discreet hallmark of his backing.
He is pioneering  and a  nice story of a successful immigrant. He doesn’t ever dwell on current success, rather on how he and his family struggled to build from nothing.

I don't normally single out people who host events or businessmen on their own in this site but I feel I need to make an exception in the case of these two people. One, a well known face in the community, has made a massive contribution to trade and industry, the other, definitely on her way up the political ladder- and doing it with  a fair amount of grace. 

Full disclosure; Rami happens to be a friend of my late father's. But he has taken a lead among the current generation of business owners that is worth noting. 



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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Reena Ranger's Women Empowered, Sewa Day, Movie Star Vivek Oberoi and Director Gurinder Chadha

Reena and her father Rami Ranger were kind enough to invite me along with my son and a friend to a spectacular evening recently held at the Bright Courtyard  Club in Baker Street earlier this month as their guests.

The event venue was light, bright and packed out, with well behaved audience members politely assembling in anticipation. Director Gurinder Chadha was there nice and early, amiable and chatty. Her husband Paul was in watchful attendance. It was good to catch up with her. They are preparing the West End opening of their musical "Bend in Like Bekham" and trying  to fit in a film (about Partitition)  before then.

People drank wine, ate canapes and mingled. As soon as the star guest, Vivek Oberoi, entered the room, there was a frisson with camera phones suddenly clicking away.

Reena confidently opened proceedings with a welcome address. Manoj Ladwa, Trustee of Sewa Day, a charity effort to serve the community round the world, talked about how he feels the need for service and shocked me with some heartfelt honesty about his relationship with his mother. Manoj handled communications for Indian PM Narendra Modi election campaign recently and is a quiet presence on the London scene. Other Sewa Day founders were also present.

Gurinder and Vivek took to the stage and Gurinder started asking the gently spoken, slim actor her questions.
Vivek has a stellar Bollywood career but he has devoted a huge amount of his time and energy to doing good. He was awarded the Red and White Bravery Award for helping rebuild a tsunami-hit village. He is the WHO's anti-tobacco spokesperson, and supports a whole host of charities including Banyan, which works towards rehabilitating mentally challenged, homeless women.
His passion for helping others was palpable and confounded expectation. At times, he became emotional when discussing service to others and the joy he derives from sharing with those perhaps less fortunate than himself.

While our photos were being taken I was able to ask Vivek an exclusive  question on tape, about why he felt it was important to attend the event. He told me,

"It almost didn't happen, actually. I was pretty busy at work, and I called up Manoj, and I was like, "Is it OK if I postpone this?" [He replied] "You have to make it." "And I just decided on the spur of the moment that no, I should come out here and reach out to people. I'm actually heading back tomorrow. I just came in only for this. To reach out to people and make a difference. That's why it's so important. The kind of people that were here today can have a very deep impact on a much larger society. I think we can take the flame forwards."

Of the Indian film stars I have interviewed over the past year or two, Vivek Oberoi impressed me as the one most committed to service. He clearly forms a special bond with those he meets through this work and they, in turn, have an impact on him.









Sunday, 20 July 2014

UK-Based Indian Diplomats Becoming More Media-Friendly

There's definitely a warmer, more inclusive approach to journalists from India House these days- at least those journalists who regularly report on matters Indian. There are more media briefings being organised, with the High Commissioner making himself more available to answer questions.

I've noticed that some senior officers have their favourites amongst the Indian  journalists.

There is also a seeming increase in events these days, though that could be due to the time of the year (Delhi is hot these days) and a new government in place. One such happening was a talk by former Indian Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi. The grand Gandhi Hall was packed out and Quraishi held the audience with a kind of magnetism. His personality and delivery  lifted this event away from the normal standard and made it fun.

Report here; Quraishi does good interviews, too.


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Greenwich School of Management; Exec MBAs with a Difference

I regularly interact with business and management schools in some sort of speaking capacity at various conferences, and some of them have stand out features.

The independent higher education provider, GSM London opened up in the former GlaxoSmithKline building in Greenford, west London, not long ago and I was invited by our MP to a dinner to meet with its senior team . One of them is Brian Buckley, one of the school’s directors and heading up different departments; Recruitment, the Executive MBAs, Executive Masters, etc. He invited me over to the Greenwich campus one recent Saturday and as I jauntily sat on the theme- park like Docklands Light Railway for the last part of my journey, I noticed two glamorous Qatari ladies in my carriage. I discovered that they were coming to the GSM too; they had travelled across from the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane for the purpose. That set the tone; as among the delegates I later discovered a bishop, a psychiatrist, and interesting others.
Brian showed me round the excellent facilities and lecture rooms with names like “Admiralty Theatre” reflecting the fact that we were in the vicinity of the Royal Naval College.

The Executive MBA and postgraduate courses attract senior managers and professionals and GSM has constructed courses to fit with those at that level who are probably working much of the week. In a rare composite, the executive courses happen on weekends. People travel in from all over the world and the UK to study for three days with first class tutors in small classes. Different courses converge during lunch and break times for networking and I certainly broke my calorie count on chocolate brownies that day. I sat in on Dr Jag Kundi’s entertaining talk on accountancy and finance and learnt about cash flows. GSM is able to leverage visiting faculties from other universities so makes sure that he gets some hot talent. Jag was flown in from the University of Hong Kong and Brian regularly calls on Stirling Management School and St Andrews.

I also sat in on David Schofield talking about leadership styles. Clearly the level of debate is high with key decision makers from public and private programmes engaging with GSM. Sometimes the delegates know more than the tutors so there is learning on both sides.

It’s a way of sharing best practise. The school is rapidly gaining in popularity just on word of mouth.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Anniversary of suffragette Emily Davison; Why #Emilymatters

Actress/Writer Kate Willoughby


Today is the 101st anniversary of Emily Davison's most famous protest at the Epsom Derby. Actress Kate Willoughby wrote a play that has the relationship between Emily and her mother at its heart.

On Epsom Derby Day, 1913, Emily was gravely injured during her protest and her mother pointed out that whereas Emily was passionate about the suffragette cause, she also suffered for it. She wrote a letter to Emily about this that Kate discovered and this is what opened up the story for her:

"I cannot believe that you could have done such a dreadful act. Even for the Cause, which I know you have given up your whole heart & soul to & it has done so little in return for you."

The public perception of Emily was of an austere person but in reality, Kate told me, she was big-hearted, larger than life and had a great sense of humour.

Emily Davison campaigned for a serious cause but used inventive tactics and public correspondence with detractors.

Kate created #Emilymatters to highlight and support gender equality campaigns, such as No More Page 3, which use creativity as a means to communicate and has had great success.

She wrote a play called "To Freedom's Cause" which played at the House of Commons earlier this year. as part of a special event sponsored by Emily Thornberry MP, founder of the Emily Davison statue campaign. Kate starred in this five hander, which was directed by Brian Astbury.

Kate is a dab hand at social media and I'm learning a thing or two from her.  She uses social media to promote the missions that she is involved with and is focusing hard on gender equality. She gets high profile support from people like BBC broadcaster Jane Garvey and Helen Pankhurst (great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the militant suffragette movement).




Kate is building on a campaign she worked on for the May elections about voting and is now working on an expanded project for the 2015 general election.

For more info see http://www.katewilloughby.co.uk/


















Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Susheela Raman at the Alchemy Festival on the South Bank

I was excited about attending Susheela Rama's concert at the Purcell  Rooms last Thursday 22nd May 2014. I had interviewed the lady and listened to her music but never before had the opportunity to see her perform live. 

You know Susheela because her first album, Salt Rain, was  shortlisted for a Mercury Prize.
She has always been a brave and confident performer, striking out with a style that is gently connected with her Tamil roots. 
Susheela's work is universal and the fact that she has lived in Australia and the UK is clear; she takes and gives to a host of cultures and disciplines and doesn't seem trammelled by any narrow boxes or definitions that critics would like to place her in.  It doesn't take any time to warm to her or for her to warm up; audiences engage and are mesmerised instantly. 
While she is the star performer and we go to see her, she blends with her band members and seems seemlessly tied in with them, so that the strength and power can emanate from any part of the whole ensemble during the evening. It makes for a surprising and delicious musical event; vocals and a virtuoso drum solo  can take you to the edge of your seat. And back again!
It also shows a remarkable absence of ego. In fact, when I first met her, she was more interested in talking about my book than herself!

I know Susheela is an utterly committed performer because my first interview with her happened over several days when she was in intense rehearsal preparing for another concert and I could feel the creative electricity being given off through her work with her fellow artist, an accomplished guitarist, at the time. I could feel the dedication every time I spoke with her. 

What I find exciting about Susheela is that it is impossible to compartmentalise her. She blends jazz, folk, Indian classical and African styles and deserves her place in the sun. 
The Purcell Rooms was the perfect homore to show Susheela Raman at her best, and the packed audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It was an eclectic mix and I was very pleased to see so many Asian faces in this bastion of white man's culture. 


The concert was part of the Alchemy Festival at Southbank Centre, and was an intimate preview of Susheela Raman's new disc Queen Between, which is currently world wide available in strictly limited number via the Songlines CD shop -  http://songlinescdshop.co.uk/ . Please catch a concert if you can and meantime, the CD is a beautiful and evocative listen. 






Sunday, 25 May 2014

More from Chris Kosovich and the Astana Economic Forum, Kazakhstan


After Chris landed back in the US, he hotfooted to an interview with me to tell me more.
The title of the session he participated in was called "The Place of Social Media in Journalism" and more information is at the http://g-globalmediasummit.org/index.php?id=2&lang=en website.

The First International Summit of Journalism was held within the framework of the VII Astana Economic Forum with a main goal of creating an information platform to further enhance collaboration between global journalism and media, the economic sector and latest technological achievements.

The event included media workers, bloggers, experts, academics, veteran journalists, international media companies.

The summit was organized by the government of Kazakhstan, G-Global Communication Platform, the Eurasian Economic Club of Scientists Association, and the Success K Media Agency.

Chris told me,

"This was an exciting opportunity to be a part of this first International Summit of Journalism because it was a chance to showcase how media can begin to establish a definitive, factual quantitative data about social media impact."

"Social Media Benchmarking will continue to become a critical data point for businesses in many sectors including media, banking, retail, industrial, and even among non-profits and non-governmental agencies."

"It is important for every organization to not only disseminate and seek to advance their messages through social media, but to measure the effectiveness of these tools so they can be more successful and begin to find ways of articulating their return on investment."

"Kosovich Media Group has been working diligently at refining the technical processes to quantify measurable outcomes with social media. I think what really differentiates what we do is with the contextualization of the quantitative data with actual unique business processes as it relates to social media and communication plans of our clients."

"It is one thing to have a mountain of quantitative data about one's own social media, but quite another to turn that data into solid communication and business process interventions that helps the organization to become stronger overall."

"It was an honor to be a part of the First International Journalism Summit at the VII Astana Economic Forum. I have a lot of respect for the vision the organizers, the government of Kazakhstan, G-Global Communication Platform, the Eurasian Economic Club of Scientists Association, and the Success K Media Agency have had with their implementation of the Summit and the Astana Economic Forum overall."

Chris's talk had the snappy title "Social Media Benchmarking, Journalism, and Media Distribution: Assessing and Adapting Behaviors Among Content Consumers and Producers."