Some of the brightest stars of the British Asian community were recognised this weekend at the Lloyds TSB Jewel Awards.
The winners of the awards, now in its seventh year, were chosen from thousands of nominations from across the region, spanning business, education, politics and the charity sector.
Judges, including business entrepreneur and star of Dragon’s Den James Caan, picked winners for nine awards in categories including business and commerce, professional services, healthcare, education and public life.
It was a particularly strong night for the West Midands region with a host of winners based in Birmingham.
The Professional Jewel Award went to Bavita Rai – partner and head of litigation at Weightmans – who has been instrumental in setting up fast track legal teams with a focus on IT led solutions. Prior to Weightmans, Bavita was Head of RAC Solicitors’ Practice and managed a vigorous period of growth and a 300 per cent increase in fee income.
Vij Randeniya, chief fire officer in Birmingham, and Jehangir Malik and Ajaz Ahmed Khan, from Islamic Relief UK based in the city, were all winners of the Public Service Award.
Mr Randeniya joined the London Fire Brigade in 1983 and was promoted through the ranks before being promoted in 1998 to Head of Operations for Nottinghamshire Fire Service.
In 2000 he was promoted to Assistant Chief Fire Officer at West Midlands Fire Service, Deputy Chief in 2003 and Chief Fire Officer in March 2009. He was also made an OBE in 2006.
Mr Malik joined Islamic Relief as a fundraising co-ordinator and was then offered a posting to initiate the Islamic Relief USA operation where he became the Development Director until 2001.
In 2002 he moved to Afghanistan before returning to the UK where he is currently the UK Director of Islamic Relief UK based in London. Mr Khan is senior policy advisor for Islamic Relief.
The Retail, Food and Franchise Award went to Mohammad Afzal Butt, the founder of Imrans Restaurant.
Mr Butt is a well-known figure in the local community and has many years experience in the restaurant trade.
He came to the UK in the late 1960s and by 1969 was involved in the Ghazala Restaurant in Stoney Lane with his elder brother Nazir.
In 1977, he opened the Butt Sweet Centre & Restaurant and then moved onto Imrans Restaurant current site in 1981, named after his eldest son.
Imran’s had a seating capacity for 50 people when it first opened – it now boasts close to 400 seats over two floors.
The Healthcare and Education Award was awarded to Masoud Afnan, a consultant at Birmingham Women’s Hospital.
Mr Afnan has been a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the hospital since 1992, where he is currently Clinical Director of Gynaecology.
He has specialised in the field of infertility and is an internationally recognised infertility consultant. He has chaired the training committee of the British Fertility Society and authored more than 60 publications.
The Future Leaders category was Leela Widger, a law graduate who was elected at the age of 23 as a councillor for the Solihull ward of Sillhill in 2000 for the Liberal Democrats.
Kamel Hothi, Asian Markets Director, Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets, said: “For over half a century, the Asian community in Britain has been making a huge contribution to all aspects of life, not least the economy.
“I would like to congratulate all of the winners on their outstanding achievement as they continue to set a benchmark in these challenging economic times, when their abilities and acumen are truly put to the test. Through our sponsorship of the Jewel Awards, we have had the opportunity to honour and celebrate the many achievements that make the Asian business community a source of inspiration to us all.
“We’re working hard to make sure that the Asian firms get all the help they need from us during these difficult times and in the future.”