Diversity in the property sector leads to inclusive and resilient communities

British Asian entrepreneurs were recognised and celebrated for their contribution in developing the country’s property and real estate sectors at the inaugural Eastern Eye Property Awards in Central London on Wednesday 26 June.

With the event’s focus on urban planning, commercial and residential development and regeneration of neighbourhoods, the ceremony showcased the achievements of Asians in Britain’s booming property market. These included prominent developers, leading hoteliers and also skilled professionals working in finance, law, consultancy and related service providers.

Keynote speaker Claire Coutinho, the former secretary of state for energy security and net zero, paid tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of generations of British Asians.

She said, “There are so many talented individuals, from small-scale organisations to large corporations, the entrepreneurial spirit that you are bringing to your designs, your pioneering development, your dedication to turning around neighbourhoods and bringing the regeneration the country needs – it’s not only just impressive, it speaks volumes to the contributions of British Asians in society.”

In his remarks, Jaimin Solanki, director of Asian Media Group and partner, Solanki family office, noted how the property market was vital to the foundation of the UK economy.

He said, “It employs 12 million people and remains the prime destination for foreign capital; property underpins industry and business.

“Embracing diversity in property development and urban planning leads to more inclusive and resilient communities.

“When we design our cities and neighbourhoods with the needs of diverse populations in mind, we create spaces that are welcoming and accommodating for all. This approach not only enhances quality of life but also fosters a sense of belonging and social cohesion.

“This evening is about celebrating the positives of diversity and the contribution ethnic communities have made in the sector.”

In all, 12 awards were presented at the evening, which was held at the Park Plaza Riverbank London.

The Hinduja family took home the coveted Eastern Eye Property Developer of the Year award for The OWO Raffles, launched last year by Princess Anne and attended by the who’s who of London society.

The award recognised the scale of one of the most ambitious residential and hospitality projects ever seen in the capital.

The Hinduja Group partnered with Onex Holdings to restore the Old War Office in Whitehall – a building completed in 1906 and one of the great edifices of the Edwardian Age from where Winston Churchill led Britain’s war effort during the Second World War.

The OWO Raffles was the Hinduja family’s foray into hospitality and the development was led by Shalini, the daughter-in-law of GP Hinduja, the chairman of the Hinduja Group.

In a six-year restoration project estimated to have cost £1.4billion, the original footprint was expanded from 580,000 sq ft to 800,000 sq ft.

Three new floors were excavated below ground to create a ballroom and a swimming pool beneath ornate marble arches.

There are 120 hotel rooms, 85 residential apartments, nine restaurants, three bars, a spa and a gym.

“The OWO will be my greatest legacy to London for future generations to enjoy,” said GP Hinduja.

Other winners included developers, interior designers, those from the legal and finance professions and hoteliers.

The crucial role of financiers in property development was recognised with the Eastern Eye Bank of the Year award, which went to OakNorth. 

Since its launch in 2015, OakNorth has supported entrepreneurs grow their businesses by using data and analytics and providing access to credit and personalised banking services.

In 2023, it provided lending worth £1.7bn, at a time when borrowing across all banks fell by 16 per cent.

Another sector recognised at the event was the care homes sector, as an ageing population has driven development in that segment.

Avnish Goyal, chair of Hallmark Luxury Care Homes, collected the award for Eastern Eye Care Home Developer of the Year for his Hallmark Angmering Grange Luxury Care Home near South Downs National Park.

Its features include a cinema, a café with adjoining cocktail bar, two hair salons and a traditional ice cream parlour. There are also landscaped gardens, a summer house, gardening club area, a Royal Mail post-box and fitness equipment.

The Eastern Eye Hotel Developer of the Year Award went to Westcombe Group for their refurb of the Hampton by Hilton Old Street in Shoreditch, London.

It was a successful multi-million pound project using a high standard of sustainable construction which gained an “Excellent” rating from Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM).

The Bestway Group were recognised for their work in reducing the environmental impact of real estate as they collected the Eastern Eye Sustainable Business of the Year award.

The group ensures its real estate assets – which are in excess of £1bn and include warehousing, commercial properties and residential developments – all embrace green and renewable energy solutions, reduce their carbon footprint and minimise their environmental impact.

Rina Patel, founder of Vastu Interior Design, collected the Eastern Eye Interior Designer Award.

Her recent project included a property development in Chelsea valued at £15 million, but which subsequently sold for £22m.

Vijay Parikh, managing director at Harold Bejamin Solicitors, scooped the award for Eastern Eye Law Firm of the Year.

The firm acts on behalf of high-profile retail brands including Ladbrokes, Kering Group, Head Masters and Balenciaga.

Their recent projects include a €70 million refinance of a Dublin hotel and working for fashion houses Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent on two separate transactions in Sloane Street.

The Eastern Eye Planner of the Year award recognises how complex planning permissions can be, and how valuable and helpful professional cooperation is with local authorities.

Kiran Chauhan, of the London Borough of Brent, won the prize. Chauhan has for the past two years has been the lead on the development of a mixed-use regeneration, industrial intensification of an existing estate in northwest London.

The scheme involves the co-location of at least 2,200 new homes.

Valesco Group, the largest hospitality group in Europe and sixth largest globally, won the Eastern Eye Property Deal of the Year, for the €460 million acquisition of the iconic Sequana Tower in Paris that serves as its global headquarters.

Shiraz Jiwa, founder and CEO of the Valesco Group collected the award. Under his leadership, the company has amassed a €2.5 billion pan-European portfolio in just five years, with the backing of sovereign and institutional capital from Asia – unprecedented for such a young company.

The Eastern Eye Property Technology Company of the Year went to Ecolibrium, a company that provides pioneering sustainability tech to organisations through data-driven solutions as they embark on their decarbonisation journeys.

Market Financial Solutions won the Eastern Eye Specialist Lender Award. It offers a range of bespoke products, including delivering loans as large as £50m in as little as three days.

The Eastern Eye Best Mortgage Broker Award went to Akhil Mair, managing director of Our Mortgage Broker Limited.

BBC presenter Nihal Arthanayake hosted the event, which were held in association with Summix and supported by OakNorth and SBI UK.

The awards also helped raise awareness and much needed funds for the charity LEPRA, whose vision is a world free from stigma and disability due to leprosy.

Guests donated generously towards LEPRA projects in India and Bangladesh.

The Eastern Eye Property Awards are hosted by the Asian Media Group, which publishes Eastern Eye and Garavi Gujarat news weeklies as well as the Asian Rich List and the GG2 Power List.

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Tanuja Parekh
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