“I feel honoured to play a part in this prestigious organisation” Abid Khan, Chair IoD British Asian Business Group
A natural networker, Coventry Chair Abid Khan has made it a personal mission to attract more IoD members from the Asian business community. He’s launched a nationwide special interest group and run high-profile Eid events.
I grew up in Birmingham wanting to be a teacher but while studying theology at university, I drove taxis for extra income. I discovered I had a talent for helping the older drivers (some of whom experienced language barriers) to connect with insurance brokers. I had spotted an interesting opportunity so in 2003, instead of going into teaching, I set up a commercial insurance business.
Starting a company with zero experience meant I made a lot mistakes. I knew how to buy a briefcase and a Mercedes, but I didn’t understand filing, office management or accounts. It could have all come crashing down but because of my history in the taxi industry, many drivers came to me. The taxi fraternity at the time was around 10-15,000 drivers, and if one came, the whole family followed. My business was catapulted.
Then, about ten years later Google came along and drivers could search for their own insurance. This took me into a bad patch; my business was on the floor. I couldn’t pay my staff but I refused to take any advice. Around the same time, I ended up in hospital with an ankle procedure. This was unfortunate but it gave me time to think.
I realised I could do better and that I had something more to offer the business community. I also understood that I could learn from other people and when you are breaking bread together, a lot of business gets done. From this, ‘Chutney and Chat’ was born. It’s now run through the IoD but is a no subscription, no membership, relaxed business networking environment. When my business took off again, I began looking for more networking and mentoring opportunities.
When I joined the IoD in 2018, I felt a bit intimidated. There were very few members with brown skin at the time and the hierarchical ‘pale, male, stale’ label seemed to fit. After a couple of years, I decided to get more involved and in 2020 I became the first Asian board member in the West Midlands and in 2021 was appointed Coventry Chair.
I wondered why my community – which is full of born entrepreneurs – wasn’t taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the IoD? With the support of Andy Wilkinson and the board, I looked for ways to connect. The IoD recognised that having an Asian person with a profile would help to attract more Asian members. But my community doesn’t always help itself and some would have looked at me and thought “what’s he doing with all those white people?”
We began with a small Eid event and then launched a nationwide IoD Special Interest Group for the British Asian business community in 2022. I’m delighted that we now have more than 300 members. This year we hosted our IoD Eid event at the House of Lords and 120 people attended including three Lords.
The IoD is working hard to attract people of all backgrounds. I’m glad, because all entrepreneurs can gain a huge amount from membership – advice, world-class training and networks. Personally, I feel honoured to be playing a part in this prestigious organisation. I trained as a teacher, worked as a taxi driver, have no privilege or private education. If I can be a chair – what on earth is stopping you?