Asian Business Awards Midlands Judges

Baroness Sandip Verma // House of Lords European External Affairs Committee
Baroness Sandip Verma
House of Lords European External Affairs Committee

Baroness Sandip Verma is Chair of the House of Lords External Affairs Committee and a member of the Lords EU Select Committee. She served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development from May 2015 until July 2016 and was previously Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. She has been a Conservative member of the House of Lords since 2006. Baroness Verma is Non-Executive Director of the Renewable Energy Association (REA), Global Chair of Worldwide Generation, Chair of Nexus Green, Director of a social care business, an International Advisor to Amity University (India), and special adviser to Sir John Cass Foundation. Before turning her attention to politics on a national scale, she participated in community politics and began businesses in both the manufacturing and service sector. Born in Amritsar in Punjab, she moved to England as a baby in 1960. Baroness Verma has spoken widely on issues relating to diversity, gender and equality.

Cllr Manjula Sood // Community Involvement Partnership & Equalities
Cllr Manjula Sood
Assistant City Mayor
Community Involvement Partnership & Equalities

Cllr Sood holds BA, MA, LLD, and D.Litt. She was part of a high profile research programme with the world renowned John Hopkins University. She arrived in 1970, attended Leicester University and completed her Post graduate training. She was a primary school teacher for almost 20 years, a benchmark at the time, as she was one of the first Asian female teacher in Leicester in 1973. She entered politics after the sudden death of her late husband, Cllr Paul Sood. She won with an impressive majority setting precedence by becoming first female Hindu Councillor.

Benchmarks for Councillor Sood

  • 1st Asian Female primary school teacher
  • 1st Asian female LORD MAYOR/Deputy in Britain
  • Currently High Bailiff being elected 4th time
  • Assistant City Mayor for Communities and Equalities
  • Chair for Leicester Council of Faiths 7th Year running, fostering good relations among faith communities
  • Patron of St. Martin and Sound Café homeless charity, Bishop's Faith Forum
  • Recipient of MBE, one of the 1st Asian woman to receive the Honour
  • National Merit Award by Prime Minister Rt Hon Tony Blair 
  • Sport England’s and special Olympics East Midlands Ambassador
  • Carer for son with Asperger’s and elderly mother
Helen Dhaliwal // World Street Cafe Bar Ltd
Helen Dhaliwal
World Street Cafe Bar Ltd

Helen Dhaliwal was the co-founder of Red Hot World Buffet along with her husband Parmjit Dhaliwal, and late brother-in-law Kal Dhaliwal, in 2014. They established and exited Shimla Pinks and Jimmy Spices concepts in the Midlands, spotted the potential for a broader offering, invested their own money and bank borrowing of £400K to launch Red Hot Buffet. The Company had 7 restaurants of which Manchester was the biggest, employing over 750 people in the group. The turnover for each restaurant would average approximately £5m per site, around 11,000 people walked through the doors in Manchester each week in 2010. Dhaliwal is currently working on a new model in Leicester, called Rickshaw Ricks, which opened in July 2017 offering global cuisine, global cocktails, having teamed up with her children, they are still modifying the concept. Thus far, Helen have had a very positive response, for their food, cocktails and décor.

Kalpesh R Solanki // Asian Media Group
Kalpesh R Solanki
Group Managing Editor
Asian Media Group

Kalpesh is Group Managing Editor of Asian Media Group (AMG). He graduated with a law degree (LLB Hons) from Queen Mary University of London, and qualified as a barrister from the Inner Temple. Kalpesh is responsible for the strategy and growth of AMG operations over three countries: Britain, India and America.

Kashmir Uppal // Access Legal
Kashmir Uppal
Access Legal

Kashmir is a Partner at Shoosmiths Solicitors and works in the Medical Negligence team which is part of the Access Legal brand. She has specialised in Medical negligence since 1996 and is recognised in the Legal Directories who describe her as “handling pressure effortlessly”.

Most of Kashmir’s clients have suffered significant and serious injuries, including children who have suffered brain injury at the time of birth. Kashmir’s specialism however lies in multi-party actions relating to “rogue surgeons”, having been the lead solicitor in the very high profile litigation arising from the actions of the now notorious breast surgeon Mr Ian Paterson. She has been instrumental in the initiation of criminal and regulatory proceedings and has raised the profile of the issue to include campaigning to secure a change in the law to protect patients treated in private hospitals.

Mehmooda Duke // Moosa – Duke Solicitors
Mehmooda Duke
Managing Director
Moosa – Duke Solicitors

Mehmooda Duke is the Managing Director of Moosa – Duke Solicitors. Mehmooda has over 20 years’ experience in dealing with medical negligence claims. Mehmooda was appointed the President of Leicestershire Law Society in May 2015 and Chair in May 2017, the first Asian female in the Society’s 155 year history. She became the public face of the organisation and steered the strategic direction of the Society.

Mehmooda Duke graduated from Cambridge and began her career as a school teacher. However, after just a year she retrained as a lawyer and started her legal career in London in 1992. Mehmooda sits on the Executive committee of SCIL – The Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers and is the first female to sit on the Advisory Board of Leicestershire County Cricket Club. Mehmooda is the second Asian female to be appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Leicestershire and Rutland in the County’s history and the Council of the University of Leicester. In September 2017 she won Leicester Mercury Business Woman of the Year.

Mehmooda enjoys running and walking. For the last 3 years, she has organised a 10 mile charity walk for local lawyers and business people. Over the last few years, Mehmooda has raised over £35,000 for a number of charities including Cancer Research, The Rik Basra Leukaemia Foundation, and the Cauda Equina Syndrome UK charity. Reading, cooking, going to the Gym and the theatre are her favourite pastimes.

Mike Kapur OBE // National Space Centre
Mike Kapur OBE
National Space Centre

Mike Kapur is a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Leicestershire and a leading businessman who plays a keen and active part in developing and promoting the City and County he made his home 30 years ago. He has 23 successful years of Board Room experience in both private and public sector organisations recognised in his appointment in 2013 to one of the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) most important National roles as Head of its Enterprise Forum, a position from which he leads the CBI’s policy work in respect of SME’s and acts as the National figurehead for SME members and their issues including interfacing with Government and the European Commission on their behalf.
Mike started his career in 1985 at KPMG. In May 1993, he was “East Midlands Young Project Manager of the Year”. He then became the Director of Entrepreneurial Service at Ernst & Young and two years later, he moved to Parker Plant Limited, as Group Finance Director. In 2002 Mike founded Signum Corporate Communications Ltd where he retains responsibility for ensuring that all aspects of company strategy are implemented and performance managed.

From 1995 to 2009 he played a leading role in the development of the NHS locally, initially as a non-executive director at Leicester Royal Infirmary and, following its merger in 2000 with two other large hospitals he was retained as Deputy Chairman of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, then the third largest trust in the UK.

Mike joined the Board of Governors of De Montfort University in May 2009. He is Chair of the university’s Audit Committee, was appointed its Deputy Chairman in February 2012, and is a Pro Chancellor of the University, participating in key ceremonial events throughout the academic year.

Mike is Chairman of the National Space Centre where he has instilled a strong sense of world class standards and focus on the long term.

In 2014 Mike was named Non-Executive Director of the Year at the Leicestershire Business Awards. In November 2016 he became a Non-Executive Director of Learning & Work Institute, in January 2016 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Leicester City Football Club Trust becoming Chairman in March 2017, and in April 2016 he became a Trustee of Warning Zone.

In June this year Mike was awarded and OBE in the Queens Birthday Honours List for his services to Science, Technology, Business and Enterprise.

Professor Barnie Choudhury // Communications Division
Professor Barnie Choudhury
Director of Media and Public Relations
Communications Division

Professor Barnie Choudhury has been a broadcaster for more than 35 years. He was a BBC trainee and worked there for 24 years, winning several radio and television industry awards. Barnie joined academia in 1999 and is the University of Buckingham's first professor of professional practice in communications. He's the honorary secretary of the Royal Television Society Midlands. Barnie is the chair of a Black Asian Minority Ethnic mental health charity in Nottingham, a member of Ofcom's Advisory Committee for England and currently the director of media and PR for the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani // British Heart Foundation
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani
Medical Director
British Heart Foundation

Nilesh Samani is Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation. The BHF is an internationally-leading charity which funds over £100 million of life-saving research into heart and circulatory diseases each year and over £20 million in prevention, health care innovation, patient support and survival. The Medical Director is responsible for overseeing the BHF’s research funding and medical activities. Professor Samani is also Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester and Consultant Cardiologist at the Cardiac Centre, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester. Professor Samani is a Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire and was knighted for his contribution to medicine and medical research in 2015.

Shailesh R Solanki // Asian Media Group
Shailesh R Solanki
Executive Editor
Asian Media Group

Shailesh is executive editor of Asian Media Group (AMG). He has 30 years' experience in journalism, overseeing a raft of leading titles, including Eastern Eye, Garavi Gujarat, Asian Trader, Pharmacy Business, Asian Hospitality as well as the Asian Rich List and GG2 Power List. An economics graduate, Shailesh has chronicled the Asian community in the UK and US for nearly three decades. He has a strong interest in diversity, inclusion and integration sitting on the board of the think tank British Future and is an advisor to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on their south Asian strategy.

Shane Thakrar // HKS Holdings
Shane Thakrar
Chief Executive Officer
HKS Holdings

HKS Holdings started as a single location in Leicestershire in 1984 and now operates more than 70 roadside retail locations across the UK. The group has a focus on convenience retail and food, operating brands including Greggs, Costa, Subway, BP & Shell. It has grown its footprint via acquisitions and in 2015 bought seven Shell sites as well as Melton-based Brobot Group, which had 23 sites. It contributed funds for the construction of a £42m medical teaching and research building at the University of Leicester, which opened this month.

Shane Thakrar, chief executive, joined the family business in 2008 and assumed his current role in [2015], having previously been head of business development.