Former corner shop owner Amjad Pervez, who went on to found one of the UK’s largest cash and carry/food retailer chains, the Seafresh/Adams Group, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bradford.

A father-of-six, and grandfather of ten, came to the UK aged 11 with his mother, Hazran and father, Mirza, now 98, an infantryman in the Britain Army, in 1969, moving to Bradford in 1970. At the time, he did not speak a word of English but he recalls the warm welcome his family received in the city.

“It was a welcoming environment which allowed us to grow and become stakeholders in society,” he recalls. “Bradford has a long history of welcoming immigrants and I think that is one of its strengths.”

He graduated from university with a degree in business and marketing in 1983 and found work with Yorkshire Building Society but soon joined the family business, a humble corner shop. They quickly diversified into food services and the family now operates one the largest independent companies in the sector, with 11 outlets across the UK.

Commenting on his doctorate, Mr Pervez said he was “absolutely delighted” and went on to offer some advice to students of today.

“You must be rightly proud of what you have achieved, this is the first step towards your story of success. Invest in good, honest friends because they are difficult to find. In your chosen sphere, find someone who is much more experienced to guide you. Why? Because such people will help and support you when you make mistakes.

“I would say to young people do not be afraid of making mistakes. So long as you are not reckless or foolish, when you are young and you have bounce and energy, that’s the time to make mistakes. I have made many and learned from them. Take risks, be audacious in your aspirations; it’s not the lack of education that limits people, it is imagination. Remember, you are the privileged few who got to this stage. There are others who are less fortunate.”

His doctorate has been awarded for his valuable and continuous support for the city of Bradford, the University and for internationally championing a culture of enterprise. Alongside building his business, he has committed a lot of time to education and enterprise in Bradford, West Yorkshire and the world.

In 1999, the proud Bradford businessman became Chair of Asian Trade Links (ATL). He is a director of Bradford Breakthrough, and served on the board of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (2015-20) and the Local Enterprise Partnership (2010-2014). He is also closely involved with the Council for Mosques and the National Asian Business Association and is chairman of Jumpstart Pakistan, an entrepreneurial movement whose vision is to create a national sustainable ecosystem for enterprise.

Mr Pervez said: “My family was always conscious to put back into Bradford what we could by engaging extensively in various initiatives, such representation on The Bradford Vision Board and contributing to the initiatives of Business Link, where I became a director.

“My association with the University goes back nearly 20 years, first as chairman of ATL, where we partnered with the University to create tool kits to help local businesses. My work across the globe, helping youngsters take up enterprise, is the key to why I was honoured to accept the award, as the good name of the University helps me to help others.”

He added: “Given where we are with Covid and looking ahead to the post-Brexit era, I think the welcoming nature of the city of Bradford can act as a bridge to Commonwealth countries, to sell UK Plc around the world. Post covid-19 the food industry will grow but what is exciting for me is the role it can potentially play in health care. Providing good quality nutritional food at competitive prices would be a key part of preventative care and personal health care planning.”

His advice to students and graduates:-

  • Do what excites you! Your passion will deliver your vision of which you must have complete clarity.
  • Never be afraid of making mistakes and failure. Have a process of re-examination that pinpoints where and why you made those mistakes as this makes you a better manager and an amazing entrepreneur.
  • Learn to accept you can’t be good at everything. Build a team of experts around you who share your vision and then just go to work.
  • Widen your social networks. Not just in your area of work but across the whole of civil society because it is the quality of your social networks that will open new doors and help you to find the people to deliver your vision.

Since 1966 the University of Bradford has awarded Honorary Degrees and Fellowships to outstanding individuals in recognition of their academic work and endeavour, their contribution to their chosen profession or field of activity, their contribution to the University, City or wider region, and their ability to act as a role model reflecting the University’s values.

As part of the University’s Winter 2020 Virtual Celebrations, the tradition is expected to continue to award Honorary Degrees and Fellowships to more outstanding individuals. Each week, in the lead up to the University’s ceremonies, recipients of an Honorary Award who has made a significant impact on society and who will inspire graduates as they go on to work or further study, will be announced.