A former Indian dancer is hoping to improve links between the Midlands and emerging Asian markets with a new series of awards presented later this week.

Harj Sandher, aged 52, came to England from Northern Punjab in India with his parents in the 1960s and has been living in the Leamington Spa area ever since.

And he has now invited Indian and Chinese companies to mix with the winners of the first Midlands Business Awards for companies and entrepreneurs this Friday.

The awards are aimed primarily at small and medium enterprises, but also include corporate bodies, and attracted hundreds of entries from across the Midlands region from a variety of enterprises, ranging from financial services to manufacturing.

During 2007 dozens of companies and individuals in the Midlands were nominated for awards or nominated themselves for one or more of ten categories, recognising achieve-ment in networking, enterprise and company growth.

Five companies based in Birmingham are in the running for awards, led by Bean2Bed, the brainchild of entrepreneur Matt Roberts.

The company sells bean bags, which convert to beds. Mr Roberts was nominated in the Midlands young networker, young entrepreneur, best business person and best innovation of the year categories.

Also nominated for multiple awards was Gary Taylor, of Taylor Bain mortgage brokers, (Midlands young networker of the year and the Midlands young entrepreneur of the year).

Mr Sandher, who is managing director of UK Special Events which is behind the awards, said: "The awards have attracted a great level of interest. They give an excellent opportunity for the business talent of the region to demonstrate what it can offer.

"We've already got hundreds of people coming along to the evening, and there have been dozens of great companies nominated.

"And we have representatives coming in from China and India, which will hopefully be an opportunity to network and share skills, with the winners."

Mr Sandher has spent much of his business career trying to create more trade links between the business community in India and the Midlands.

He has worked in a number of different areas since he moved to the Midlands, including a spell at Automotive Products, a professional dancer with his own dance troupe, the Jasmin Dancers, and as a theatrical agent.

His latest venture, Special Events, is an event management business.

The Midlands Business Awards will be held at the NEC Birmingham Metropole Hotel on Friday. For more information on the awards log on to www.ukspecialevents.com.