Research has found that Bradford is one of the best cities to start a business in the UK, beating out West Yorkshire rival, Leeds.
Ranking cities on average download speeds, business launch and closure rates, five-year survival rates, office renting costs, and average working productivity, Bradford placed 15th out of 85 locations.
Big corporations such as Morrisons, Hallmark cards, and Yorkshire Water have their headquarters in the city, but the district also has a thriving small-business sector.
The head offices for popular restaurants such as Aagrah, My Lahore, and Mumtaz are also based in the city.
Bradford district’s economy is one of the largest in England, worth £10bn annually, thanks to the young and lively population.
Currently, there are 16,320 businesses in Bradford, employing 250,000 people with a combined turnover of £30bn.
Low commercial rents, good road infrastructure, ongoing regeneration, fast WIFI speeds, and the University of Bradford that produces both excellent international and local talent, are part of the reason why the district is such a good place for business.
It is also thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the South Asian community who are four times more likely to be entrepreneurial than their counterparts.
Despite only making up a quarter of the district’s population, it is estimated that around one in seven are owned by people from the South Asian community and half of new start-ups are owned by South Asian people.
It is not just in Bradford, the Asian community makes an enormous contribution to the UK’s economy, with a share of 11% of new business start-ups and generating 10% of the national GDP despite only making up 4% of the economy.
A lecturer from the University of Huddersfield, Dr Muhibul Haq, has researched why South Asian people are more likely to own their own businesses than seek employment elsewhere.
One of the main reasons isis that people from the South Asian community can expect higher returns from being self-employed than the wages from being in paid employment.
Owning a business can also increase self-esteem and keep family members together through coordinated employment which is more important to South Asian people than other communities.
Cultural reasons such as a belief in self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship to reach that goal is also a factor in why people in the South Asian community like to work for themselves more than other ethnic groups.
The other main viewpoint found by Dr Haq is that South Asian people experience discrimination in the labour market due to institutional racism.
Non-profit organisation City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) published a report in July that suggests 23% of South Asian employees have experienced racism at work, which could contribute to the popularity of being self-employed.
However, research conducted in the 1990s found that despite discrimination playing a significant role in business entry, data suggests that a staggering 98% of Asian business owners in Britain started their business to be better off financially, and only 17% became self-employed as they could not find salaried work.
Zafar Iqbal set up Dulhan Boutique on White Abbey Road in BD8 in 2011. He said: “My business has been going well so far.
“During Covid-19, it wasn’t that nice. We were closed for around seven months in total, but we have crossed that bridge.
“I previously worked as a taxi driver at Leeds Bradford Airport. I did this for many years but when we lost the contract agreement, work wasn’t as good and that is when I decided I needed a career change.
“I did a lot of research and saw potential in the retail sector and I opened my first shop, Dulhan. It took a lot of time and dedication however 10 years later, I know I made the right decision. Thank you to all my customers for the love and support.”
A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “Bradford is clearly a great place to start a business with its young and energetic population, entrepreneurial spirit, a compelling lifestyle, competitive setup costs and strong business support networks.
“Whilst data on the ethnicity of business owners is not collected in official statistics, we estimate that around 2,500, or one in seven businesses are run by Asian people locally.
“We have several prosperous and high-profile Asian businesses which started in Bradford and have successfully expanded across the UK.
“Ethnic owned business start-ups are a thriving component of the Bradford economy and the council, and our partners are working with business and communities to do everything we can to support all new start-ups.”
Between March 2020 and August 2021, Bradford Council has handed out £220m in Covid-19 grants to businesses in the district to stay afloat during the various lockdowns. However, not all businesses who applied for the grant received it. Due to so many South Asian people being self-employed, the Coronavirus hit the community in Bradford particularly hard.
One business owner, Abdul Satar, of Office Furniture Yorkshire Ltd, applied for the second round of Council funding but got declined because of “insufficient evidence” despite Mr Satar providing all that was required.
There is much to be said about the amount of economic benefit Asian businesses bring to both Bradford and the national economy.
Businesses are set up by migrants, or the children of migrants, who are often unfamiliar with the process of accessing grants or bank loans. By determination, grift, and a lot of long hours, Asian businessmen and women are the workhorses of the British economy.