After fears that it may close, the Institute of Asian Businesses (IAB) has agreed a five-year investment plan with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce to bolster the influence of Asian business leaders on regional economic policy.

Senior figures and members of the IAB have spent the past 12 months considering its future and how to ensure it provides the right kind of support to Asian-owned businesses and maximise the potential of emerging Asian businesses and entrepreneurs.

It is hoped the cash boost will also pave the way for a rise in the number of Asian business leaders promoted to the higher echelons of major public sector agencies and companies in the West Midlands.

Addressing more than 700 business delegates at the recent IAB awards dinner in Birmingham, chairman Arun Bhajaj said: “For the past twelve months we, as an organisation, have been examining ourselves very closely to ensure the offering is still relevant and make sure the IAB and the Chamber still have a good strategic fit.

“We are still relevant and we do still fit. I am pleased to be able to dispel any rumours that the Chamber is looking to end the IAB.

“Our members have told us that while today’s Asian business person feels very much part of a mainstreamed Birmingham, there is still an appetite for opportunities to celebrate the special qualities of an Asian heritage.

“In particular, there is a new breed of younger, high-achieving and seriously aspiring Asian professional and businessperson.

“The Chamber is now working with the IAB on investing further over the next five years in our capability to deliver a range of services that matches the ambitions of these new Asian entrepreneurs.

“We are in interesting times. A time that if we are honest very few have experienced in our careers – the collapse of confidence in the banking system, the massive fluctuations in exchange and interest rates, sharp drops in valuations of share prices and property assets.

“But out of this chaos and uncertainty arise opportunities.

“It is the entrepreneurs, the business leaders, who will identify these and expand their businesses in new directions, creating further wealth and

While steps are being taken to tackle under-representation of ethnic minorities in key decision-making within the public sector, particularly as Birmingham prepares to become one of the first ethnic majority cities in the UK, it’s commonly accepted that more needs to be done.

Dr Sarindar Singh Sahota, vice-chairman of the West Midlands Regional Assembly, has called on Asian businessmen to adopt a more positive approach when applying for the top jobs.

He said: “Things have moved on a lot in the past few years ,but there is still a perception among Asian businesses that they don’t get the same opportunities.

“It’s that perception which is stopping Asian businessmen from applying for the top jobs because they feel they will never get them.

“This has to be addressed in two ways. We as Asians have to start changing the perception that we can’t succeed and feel out of place but we also need mainstream organisations to allow this to take place.”

Andy Mangle, who last year was appointed the first Asian president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, says progress is slowly being made but not properly publicised.

He said: “There is a lack of representation – no one disputes that. But there have been successes not effectively communicated to the wider business and civic community.

“You have got to be conscious not to promote success in the ethnic communities over those in other communities.

“Things are slowly changing and people are being given opportunities based on their experience and talent rather than the colour of their skin.

“Our responsibility now as a community is to recognise our leaders, nurture them and present opportunities for them.”