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June - July 2006


Business Forum

Himalayawalla in Southall: Energetic Entrepreneur with a playboy look - Surjit Phander

by Krishan Ralleigh


Surjit and Valvir Pandher, one of the most popular couples within the Punjabi community in London social circles are the very pivot of business community in Southall, Ealing, a suburb in West London, commonly known as ‘Little India’.

No longer a human dump as it had become in 70’s and early 80’s , Southall today is bursting with new business openings. A sense of community pervades among its residents, and there is gradual transformation of its infrastructure. For far too long it remained ignored by the Borough of Ealing of which it is a part. In no small measure, a major part of this transformation can be attributed to one Business House, that of the HIMALAYAS, the Himalaya Carpets, Himalaya Shopping Centre and Himalaya Palace Cinema, one of the most luxurious three screen cinema in West London.

Surjit Pandher hails from Jullundhar in Punjab where his father, a retired Indian army officer, had started a samll business. He moved to London in 1964. After his education, the yong son, Surjit began his carpet business from Carpet Warehouse and called it Saphire Carpets in 1972. The young entrepreneur got married to Valbir in 1974; “The greatest support in my life”, says Surjit of his beautiful wife’s contribution in his meteoric success.

Surjit, like many other Indians, has a sort of unexplainable faith in astrology. It was an Indian astrologer, a Pundit who suggested to Surjit the name ‘Himalaya’ for his business venture. That is how the Himalaya Carpets Ltd. came into existence. Since then, there has been no looking back.
In 1984, he bought the old dilapidated Liberty cinema in southhall and converted it into Himalaya Cinema, which has become virtually the home of new releases from Bollywood.

Surjit is quiet, soft spoken and of an unassuming personality. He is still a down to earth businessman who loves his customers and praises his benefactors. He has special word of praise for Mr Ian Brown, the manager of the local branch of Barclays Bank. According to Surjit, “Ian Brown helped almost all new businesses in Southall”. Whenever Surjit approached him with grand proposals for his business ventures, Ian Brown scrutinised them with sympathy and provided the necessary loans.

Surjit is essentially a famiy man who loves his wife and children and wants them to develop their own personality and intrinsic abilities whether they are in business or Bollywod films. One of his sons has become a successful film actor in Mumbai film industry; and the other has already mastered the family business.

Surjit and Valvir have themselves invested quite a large amount in Bollywood as producers of a few films which have been a success on the box office.

In Southall, his business has been gradually changing the ambience of the cosmopolitan shopping centre in Broadway Southall. Carpet and furniture business in Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, can easily compete with any large Carpet Centre down the road in posh Ealing Broadway or in South Kensington.

Surjit Pandher has, metaphorically, reached the heights of the Himalayas in business terms. Not unlike the mountaineers who conquered Himalayan peaks by sheer guts and endurance, Surjit Phander has conquered many business problems with a strong will power and stamina to sustain him through ups and downs of life.

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