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June - July 2008
LCNL Seminar & Annual Dinner 2008 at Edwardian - Hounslow
It was the most prominent day in the annual calendar of the Lohana Community of North London, an organisation who can claim to have one of the largest enrolled membership among Asian communities in Britain. Within Gujarati diaspora, the Lohanas may easily claim to have the richest membership with great influence within Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom.
To quote Rakhee Hinducha, the delectable introducer of the Seminar: “Lohanas and Business go together like horse and carriage. It seems to be part of our DNA. Tracing back thousands of years to India, our ancestors were tradesmen and we have continued this appetite for business and commerce up to the present day. Lohanas in the UK have contributed a huge amount to the British economy. Looking around the room tonight I think it’s true to say that every single table has a business or professional person of Lohana origin who is highly regarded by their peers and colleagues from the wider community.”
Lohanas trace their origin to Raghuvanshi dynasty founded by King Raghu, from whom descended Lord Rama. Lohanas, thus, call themselves Suryavanshi. They are part of Indo-Aryan tribes who migrated to Northern India, around modern day Punjab and South West Pakistan. From Sindh they moved to Kutch and Gujarat about 800 years ago. Muslim community of Khojas and Memons were also once Lohanas converted to Islam.
A large number of Hindu Lohanas from Gujarat migrated to the British colonies of East Africa during the early part of the 20th century. The descendents of these settlers have moved to Great Britain in recent decades. The Lohanas in East Africa were great entrepreneurs. The Madhwani and Mehta families being the prominent industrialists.
How and why the Lohanas turned themselves from Kshatriyas (the warrior class) to business community (Vaishyas) is a good subject for research by students of history or economics in Gujarat or even in Britain.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that the business ethos of the Lohanas are no less laudable than that of ancient Kshatriyas who fought for their king and country with unflinching dedication and devotion. Today, the Lohana community members love business and its fruit, the money power, as the ultimate aim of their existence. It is their dedication to business ethos of hard work, honesty in business deals and almost religious fervour that make Lohanas so successful.
If business is the religion of Lohanas, its fruit i.e. wealth is also a donation, to God. They love to donate for good causes, whether it is in India or in Britain. For them wealth is not for personal use only. For them it is like a trust given by God so that they can support the community, country and their dharma.
The sponsors for the evening were the Allied Irish Bank. An award-winning bank, they pride themselves on customer service.
The guest speaker for the even was Mr Sanjeev Shah. Sanjeev manages Fidelity’s flagship fund, the Special Situations fund valued at approximately £3.2 billion. He is now in his 12th year at Fidelity, a tribute to his loyalty to his employers in the present climate of short term contracts and moving jobs.
Sanjeev gave an excellent presentation of his work at the Fidelity. It was an inspiring talk giving new ideals to the investors present in the seminar.
Sudhir Karia, the President of the community, asked the audience to raise glasses for the loyal toast.
In a short interview, Sudhir Karia confided in me the origin of Lohana community; and the work their organisation is doing in the United Kingdom. The community organisation has 2,000 family members. They run Raghuvanshi Charitable Trust, based in Harrow. Sudhir Karia also emphasised the networking aspect of the organisation. It helps members of the community in expanding their businesses. Their membership consists of businessmen and professional; and they all like to support each other so that the community as a whole prospers.
Another important task of the organisation to imbibe the values of the Lohana community to the next generation of Lohanas now living in the United Kingdom. “We are not an exclusive community”, said Sudhir. “We work with members of other communities, Gujaratis, Punjabis and the British.” Sudhir Karia also pointed out that the Lohanas also take active part in sports. The organisation provides various sports facilities. Networking for marriages and religious ceremonies is also an important duty of the Lohana community organisation. Sudhir emphasised the democratic process within the organisation which enables them to get participation of grass root members more enthusiastically. Even the younger is not excluded. “We have various group organisations within the main organisation. There is ‘Ladies Group, Senior Citizens group and Youth group. They work autonomously but within the overall direction of the main executive committee”, explained Sudhir Karia, President of the organisation this year. In his message to Lohana community, Sudhir thanked the community which has given a lot to the organisation during his tenure and he hoped that the next president would get the same cooperation from the community members.