Having achieved colossal success following his introduction of Indian food to the UK market through Noon Products, Lord Noon of St. John’s Wood has been recognised for his contribution in creating employment for thousands in the UK.
Moreover, he has gained renown for his tireless efforts in promoting interfaith harmony and for his philanthropic initiatives in the UK and India.
Through sheer hard work, tenacity and determination ‘Noon’, as he is popularly known, established a highly successful food empire in the UK. After being awarded an MBE in 1996 and a knighthood in 2002 and formally taking his seat the House of Lords, he refuses to rest on his laurels, devoting his time and resources to his charity, The Noon Foundation as well as the issues that he is passionate about like education, eradicating extremism and immigration.
Throughout his life and career he has weathered many storms, always emerging as a man of unimpeachable integrity, which is perhaps one of the reasons why he is so highly respected.
His resilience in the face of adversity has won him unqualified admiration and in spite of his success, he remains grounded and deeply humble. A committed family man, he enjoys spending time with his wife Lady Mohini who is a renowned writer and film-maker, his daughters Zeenat and Zarmin and his grandchildren.
A committed philanthropist, Lord Noon had previously established a charitable foundation in 1969 in India. In 1995, he set up The Noon Foundation and in 2000 put in 4 million pounds from his personal assets.
His commitment to improving healthcare for India’s poor perhaps comes from the example set by his father and uncle. Though both had limited means, they set up two hospitals in their local communities in Sunel, Rajasthan. “My father wasn’t a rich man, he had a small income, however he worked hard to build this hospital,” says Noon.
After moving to Mumbai, tragedy struck Noon and his family with the sudden death of his older brother from typhoid and hepatitis. His grief-stricken father died seven months later in 1946, leaving his mother widowed with a young family to care for.
Launched in 2008, his state-of-the art hospital in his home town of Bhawani Mandi, Rajasthan provides free medical care. Previously, straightforward procedures like removing cataracts were unavailable here, now about 250 such operations are carried out each day. Ambulance services which were previously unheard of are now available. The Noon Foundation allocated 1,288,980 pounds for the construction of the hospital. In the UK, The Noon Foundation has given support to an array of hospitals, healthcare charities and organisations including Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Soon after his father’s death, the country was wrenched apart with the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. In spite of the instability, his mother decided to stay on in Mumbai where the family braved through difficult financial times, living in a small one bedroom flat. It was these hard times that fired the young Noon to achieve business success to provide for his family.
Lord Noon’s financially straitened circumstances during his childhood severely compromised his own education and he is now determined to ensure that children have access to quality education. “Education is the most important thing in a person’s life, particularly in today’s world, I strongly believe that part of the problem is lack of education. I could not educate myself and could not attend university due to my financial circumstances and hence I am passionate about education.”
Over the years, promoting education in the UK has formed an important part of Lord Noon’s work with funding for educational projects like the Tower Hamlets College Mentoring Programme and the establishment of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies at Oxford University to name just a few. He also helped to rebuild his old school in Sunel, Rajastahan.
A relentless self- improver, Lord Noon honed his public speaking skills at Lord Janner’s school of oratory in London. “I still have a desire to learn more and more. As Prophet Muhammad (May God’s Blessings and Peace be upon him) said,‘Those who are close to knowledge are close to me.’”
Having lived through the searing experience of Partition, religious riots and ethnic strife, including the Taj hotel terrorist attacks in 2008, Lord Noon has always held fast to the example set by his mother, a devout Muslim who instilled the Islamic values of peace, tolerance and respect for all religions within her children. In fact, his mother was especially fond of his childhood friend, the late Vasant Vagaskar, who passed away recently. “Though Vasant was not affluent and had two daughters of his own, he adopted an impoverished child twenty years ago and educated her, raised her and got her married. He taught me a great lesson,” says Noon. Another valuable lesson his mother taught him was that you are judged by the company you keep and for this reason, he has always surrounded himself with solid, loyal people and valued his relationships with his childhood friends.
“The most important thing in life is values and values come when you have humanity -the humanitarian feeling in you. Humanity is the biggest religion of all religions, all religions’ come under that banner,” says Lord Noon.