Describing him as a “role model” for the Indian community, London-based India International Foundation has felicitated Karan Billimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, for becoming the first Parsi and youngest member of the House of Lords.
Three other newly appointed NRI members of the Lords, Lord Kamlesh Patel, Lord Mohammed Sheikh, Baroness Sandip Varma also attended the function on Wednesday night.
An emotionally touched Billimoria, who is also chairman of the Indo-British Partnership Network and Chancellor of the Thames Valley University, said he felt “humbled” by the honour bestowed on him by the community.
“I am really proud of being an Indian, an Asian and most proud to be British. Nowhere else I could have built a Cobra Beer from scratch,” he said.
Started in 1990 with a loan of 20,000 pounds, the Cobra Beer today has markets in 45 countries and is worth 110 million pounds.
“Without the support of the Indian community, Cobra Beer could not have been what it is today,” he stated.
Hyderabad-born Billimoria said Parsis accounted for 0.0001 per cent in Britain but he found portraits of three Parsis in the gallery of British Parliament.
They are Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian and first Asian to be elected to the House of Commons winning on a Liberal ticket and serving a four-year term (1892 to 1895), Mancherjee Bhownagree, the second elected to the Commons from the Bethnal Green constituency on a Conservative ticket (1895-1906) and Shapurji Saklatvala, a communist elected from Battersea North in 1922 with Labour support.
“Your awards and honours are an inspiration to the whole community and the whole country,” Billimoria said.
Referring to India’s rapid economic growth, he said, “India’s importance will see a sustained increase in the decades to come.”
Ranjan Mathai, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to the UK lauded the positive contribution made by Parsis to India.
Hardyal S Luther, President of the India International Foundation, said the very fact that four of the nine newly appointed Lords were of Indian origin indicated the positive role played by NRIs in the UK and their contribution to the UK economy.
Rami Ranger, MBE, Patron of the Foundation said Lord Billimoria has become an icon not only in Britain but in India.
“He has become a role model,” Ranger, an industrialist and philanthropist said. He also added, “Karan is instrumental in bringing the two countries (India and the UK) together. “His name will go down in history for giving an Indian face to Britain,” he said.