MSDUK 2012 Conference and Award Ceremony

MSDUK 2012 Conference and Award Ceremony


The much anticipated MSDUK (Minority Suppliers Diversity UK) conference and award ceremony happened yesterday at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London. It was a day with a busy schedule efficiently mixing amusement with productivity and constructive debate.

At 8:30 in the morning, the event kicked off with a business exhibition where ethnic minority suppliers had booths next to global giants such as IBM, HP, GlaxoSmithKline, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs Foundation and  Cisco.

Networking, exchanging cards and opinions, all participants were enthusiastic about the new connections they made, and those who have been involved in previous years knew for a fact that MSDUK broadens a company’s horizons and is a great facilitator between corporates and ethnic suppliers. The team at Here and Now 365 also had a stall from where we promoted our leading multicultural marketing solutions, we met some interesting people and potential clients, but also took the time to interview others and get their opinion on the exhibition and the conference:

After an excellently cooked Indian lunch, the Knowledge Forum began, hosted by Director of Halebury and BBC Presenter, Denise Nurse. The theme of the forum was the socio-economic impact of supplier diversity and the talks were based around the groundbreaking Impact Report MSDUK prepared in conjunction with Yuki Lo, MD of TSIC (The Social Investment Consultancy). We will deal with the findings of the report on the blog soon, for now let us stick to the event itself.

Following this revealing speech, a bit of corporate comedy by a trio drama group tried to look at the stereotype of inferiority-complexed immigrant start-up owners, debate ways to improve this attitude and find methods of successfully getting corporate contracts. It was a light-hearted yet important point to make: don’t approach global corporations if you’re not fully confident and prepared for the challenge.

Three equally inspirational but simultaneous workshops from 15:00 – to 16:00 brought forth role models from the ranks of successful diversity suppliers,  worldwide experts in the field from North America, Australia and the UK to share knowledge and inspire the audience. The third workshop was about the necessity of aligning CSR (corporate social responsibility), sustainability and workforce diversity into one coherent action policy in order to maximise the impact of supplier diversity. A plenary session subsequent to the workshops brought everybody back together to draw the conclusions.

Sustainable procurement, CSR and workforce diversity are definitely the cornerstones of fruitful collaboration between corporations and ethnic businesses, as well as displaying an open-minded company culture, a flexible infrastructure and healthy appetite for variation and review. In the UK particularly, there is also the need of government action in the form of a “standard standard” – a legal quota for engaging minority-owned businesses into the supply chain, and also accurately measuring the levels of implication by business giants, the same way it’s being done in the USA.

In the words of Harish Bhayani of PRM Diversity consultants, “The longer we delay, the least likely the government is to do something on our behalf.”

More importantly, a businessperson of any background apparently has to take into account the so-called 5T rule: talent, technology, thoughtfulness, training and thankfulness. Although at first glance it might sound generic, cliched, bland and empty, this principle has some pull to it – an entrepreneur needs to employ the brightest talent and thoughtfully provide the training necessary to operate the most advanced technology available, thus bringing in monetary thankfulness from customers. Voila. To completely lack the scalability multinational partners require and when getting turned down to play the ethnic card is also an oft-encountered trapping of young minority businesses (“Is it because I’m black?”).

Surprisingly, it turns out that in spite of a stagnating economy, EMBs are not slumping, but proving very efficient at cutting costs and growing fast, employing people of all ethnicities – which as a matter of fact means that white Britain benefits from immigration more than national media likes to show. Which proves that inclusiveness works both ways.

At about 18:00, the Exxon Mobil oil giant invited everyone for a drink or five at the open bar they so generously sponsored, just before the dinner and awards ceremony hosted by BBC’s famous George Alagiah, also known as ‘Disaster George’. The speakers – Baroness Sandeep Verma (Member of the House of Lords and Government Whip among others), Joset B Wright (president of National Minority Supplier Development Council out of Chicago, USA) and Mayank Shah, Director of MSDUK delivered powerful addresses on tolerance, human rights, activism, prosperity, equality, diversity and social unity. Spirits running high, the whole Las Vegas style room roared with applause for the award winners:

Business Growth: Halebury

Innovation: Gate Ventures

Responsible Business: Testhouse

Overall Supplier of the Year: Gateventures

Corporation of the Year: IBM

It’s been an amazingly put together world class event with participants from diverse communities living in the USA, Australia, Canada, the UK and other countries, emphasising the importance of minority-owned businesses, as well as the rise in diversity in most countries. Corporate participation this year has doubled since last year, which is the best possible sign that Britain is catching up with America in terms of ethnic diversity in business. This comes as an encouragement for those who always fancied themselves entrepreneurs, but were shy to take the first step: there’s no better time than now.

Here and Now 365 has always prided itself for promoting multiculturalism and celebrating the ethnic diversity of the UK.


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