The well-known British-Asian industrialist, philanthropist and life peer Sir Gulam Noon has passed away at the age of 79.
Known as the “Curry King of Britain”, Mumbai-born Sir Gulam was best known for his association with Southall, the area of West London home to a large Indian community.
His was a classic rags-to-extravagant riches story as well as the classic migrant story.
He lost his father when he was aged just 7 but managed to help in the family shop whilst studying accountancy in school.
Ten years after his father’s death, the young Gulam Noon took over the family business – Royal Sweets. Within another decade he had begun exporting his famous sweets around the world.
In 1964 he made his first trip to London.
“As soon as I arrived, I went to Piccadilly and fell in love with London. I was determined to come back and start a business here”, he told the Independent years later.
He would later set up shop in Southall before becoming owner of the world’s largest Indian food factory, supplying all of Britain’s leading supermarkets with Indian ready-made food – everything from Bombay Mix to Gulab Jamoon.
As his business grew, he also became the biggest employer in Southall – at one point employing nearly a thousand people in a business turning over more than £150 million.
Many believe that Sir Gulam Noon was partly the reason for Britain’s love affair with the likes of Chicken Tikka Masala.
He was made a life peer in 2002.
On Wednesday, Leicester East MP Keith Vaz paid tribute to a “giant” of the British Asian community.
“Today we have lost a giant, not only of the British Asian community, but also of British entrepreneurship. A decent, honourable and generous man, who was dedicated to his family, but also to his country, the United Kingdom”, Mr Vaz said.
“Rightly known as Britain’s first ‘Curry King’, he brought curry to the high street. There are thousands of people in Britain, in India and throughout the world who have benefited from his enterprise, jobs he created, and his big heart. The world of cricket will also miss one of its most devoted followers.
“He was the epitome of everything a first generation immigrant can achieve, someone who literally came with nothing, but was also grateful to Britain for giving him the life chances to prove what an extraordinary man he was, whilst never forgetting his roots in India”, Mr Vaz added.
A memorial to Sir Gulam will be held in Parliament at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd November 2015.