By Prasun Sonwalkar
British Asians with origins in the Indian subcontinent have shifted their investments from the stock exchange to the property market to emerge as major real estate buyers in Britain. Given to a culture of savings, British Asians are distrustful of the stock market and prefer the safer property option.
David Galman, sales director of Galliard Homes, says he has noticed a marked increase in interest from British Asians in the property market and has taken a stand at the forthcoming Asian Lifestyle show at Olympia. “For the past 12 or 18 months the majority of our sales in London have been to Asian professionals or business people,” he says. “We have been advertising in the Asian press and I have appointed a couple of people specifically to look after important Asian investors.” Part of the upsurge in interest is a cautious attitude, Galman says. “They are not interested in pensions or the stock market, they want somewhere safe to put their money.”
Trade reports say that the British Asians are open to the new property concepts such as ‘aparthotel’, which basically means that an investor buys a suite in a building that is run more like a hotel than a block of flats, with a hall porter, maid service and even room service. Galman is finding British Asians are catching on much quicker than other groups. “We are selling the aparthotel in Waterloo off-plan and getting 500 calls a day. Young British Asians get the idea instantly—less entrepreneurial Brits take a little longer,” he says. “What we have found is that families are very extended and if you establish trust with one member of the family, they will bring lots of other family members in,” Galman says. “I have a couple of clients, brothers, who said they cannot buy anything more for a couple of years, but they have other family members who would be interested—now they have become my two best suppliers.”
David Pretty, chief executive at Barratt, has also seen more interest from British Asians. “While we don’t formally measure these things, it is true to say that the British Asian community has always been important in the investment sector and has certainly been an enthusiastic participant in recent buy-to-let activity.”
Thackeray says he is not against Muslims
Bal Thackeray, the leader of the Hindu Shiv Sena party, says he is not against Indian Muslims and blames ‘infiltrators’ for stoking the fires of religious hatred and sparking communal riots in India. He says, “Their job is to incite the Muslims and run away after lighting the fire, leaving the poor innocents to die. Those who die have nothing to do with the evil motives of the infiltrators. Why should Muslims from Bangladesh come here? They have come in (millions). Why should we bear the burden?”
In an interview with BBC’s Hindi service, Thackeray said he was not bothered about his ‘Hindu fundamentalist’ image. “I have no objection with my image, I am what I am. Whether people accept or reject me, I am not worried,” he said. He denied he was against the Muslim community. “I am not against Muslims. After Partition, those who went to Pakistan are gone. Those who have stayed back, we believe, belong to us, they are ours. But today the infiltrators, who try to enter our country illegally, are the ones who bring a bad name for the Muslims living in India. Militancy is being done by foreigners and not by those who are living here, but then you know that the wet also gets burnt with the dry,” he said.
New gurdwara in Peterborough
A new gurdwara, or Sikh shrine, built at a cost of 500,000 pounds in multi-cultural Peterborough was opened last week.
Six months ago the now gleaming ornate building on Royce Road was a factory unit.
The majority of the men, women and children that make up the Sikh community in Peterborough have all given their time, effort and hard graft to make their dream a reality.
The new temple replaces the current one in Cromwell Road, which was converted from two former terraced houses in 1974.
In the early 1970s, there were only about a dozen Sikh families living in Peterborough and the temple was more than ample as a place of worship and for community events.
But as Peterborough has grown in the last 30 years, so has the Sikh community. Today there are more than 1,000 Sikhs living in Peterborough.
Said Sukhdev Singh, 44, president of the temple: “Everybody has been helping with the new temple, from cleaning to picking up rubbish to doing the physical work to transform it. You can really say it is at the heart of the community.”
Sukhdev was born in India and came over to Peterborough in 1970.
He said: “My father came over here in 1965 and then asked us to join him five years later.
“My four children, like many members of the Sikh community in Peterborough, were born in the city.
“But that doesn’t mean we want to forget our heritage and our history. We want to keep our identity.
“But we are British Sikhs and we want to make a positive contribution to Britain too.”
Manjit Singh, 46, another member of the Sikh community who has been helping with the project, added: “We are very excited about the new temple because it means we will be able to do much more for the community.
The Peterborough Racial Equality Council (PREC) has supported the new shrine.
Its director, Harmesh Lakhanpaul, said: “The Peterborough Sikh community has a rich heritage and has contributed to its economic, cultural and social make-up.”
The new temple is the second gurdwara to be built in Peterborough in recent years.
In 2002, the former L’Aristos nightclub was also turned into a gurdwara.
Peterborough is also a home to three Islamic centres, five mosques, a Hindu centre, a synagogue and many churches from different Christian denominations.
(The writer is a UK-based journalist and can be contacted on [email protected])