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Noon, with a view

  • Posted On: 11th June 2013
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In his candid autobiography, Sir Gulam Noon recounts his fascinating life and career as one of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs. Sir Gulam Noon made an unprecedented impact in the UK with his introduction of authentic Indian cuisine in the form of chilled and frozen ready-to-eat meals. He writes in detail about his childhood in India, his move to the UK and his remarkable success, his passion for education and interfaith harmony which he promotes through the Noon Foundation.   He charts the highs and lows of his life with honesty and humour making for an insightful and compelling read.
During the current economic recession, reading about Noon’s tremendous courage during times of crisis is inspiring and hopeful. Rather than focusing on his litany of achievements, ‘Noon’, as he is called by his family and friends, provides a detailed account of the troubles he faced when his factory burnt down and more recently, the public scrutiny he endured during the cash for honours scandal.
Once poverty stricken after the untimely death of his father, Noon learnt how to fend for himself at a very young age. His move to the UK was a defining moment and he applauds the immense opportunities the country presents through its successful embrace of diversity: “What you have among the peoples in Britain is diversity, not difference, and that is what makes Britain great. Diversity is Britain’s greatest asset. Everyone who leaves here is given the opportunity to succeed and that is why Britain — just a tiny island — is a magnet for the world.”
Noon shares some invaluable life lessons: a good judge of character, Noon recalls his mother’s words about judging people by the company they keep. He also credits his mother with instilling him with values which have guided him throughout his life, particularly in times of crisis. When his factory was suddenly burned down, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Noon rebuilt his empire with renewed strength and vigour. Noon credits honesty, hard work and the support of his team. “My mother had taught me integrity and honesty, and those principles now came to my aid; I had learned their business application from experience, and the first rule was hard work. I was not afraid of that, and now it was time to roll up my sleeves once again and forget the fine living and sumptuous receptions for a time. Last and by no means least, I am convinced that I had the spiritual support of my staff. ”
At that point, Noon was given a seemingly irresistible offer by a large company who were suppliers to his customers to hand over his recipes for a very generous price. However, this offer would have meant making his 250 employees redundant. Acutely aware and immensely appreciative of the loyalty of his staff, Noon turned down the offer. “If you treat people like bits of property, you will get the same treatment back. The staff were just as much family to me as my own brothers and daughters. They had contributed to the success of the business as much as anyone, so it was unthinkable that I would take the money.”
In honour of his mother, Noon commissioned a towering portrait which hangs in the lobby of his newly built hospital in his hometown of Bhawani Mandi, Rajasthan. Beneath the portrait is engraved the famous Prophetic saying, “Paradise lies at the feet of the mother.” Noon’s hospital will radically transform the lives of people living here where previously only very basic medical facilities were available.
Noon, with a View is scattered with the entrepreneur’s invaluable insights on his business success in spite of the formidable setbacks he has faced over the years. “I was once asked what I thought was the key to my success, and after mentioning the importance of determination, luck, and investing in new technology wherever possible, I concluded that the two most important factors were your customers and your staff. I believe it is vitally important to support your customers, even when they are finding life difficult. We reduce our prices without reducing quality if we believe that it will help our customers — in this case the supermarkets — to survive. Customer satisfaction is everything, whether you are making shoes or making curries. Equally important are your staff. Cut costs at every possible corner, but never scrimp and save on the wages. It may be one of your highest costs, but your staff are worth every penny. If you treat them as you would treat any member of your family, they will stand by you in times of crisis. Without them you are nothing.”
There is nothing ruthless or cutthroat about him and what remains clear throughout the whole book is that the dizzying heights of success have not gone to his head. He comes across as a man truly at peace with himself: his triumphs have not inflated his ego nor have his travails embittered him. Having weathered many a storm, Noon has emerged unscathed but with a wealth of wisdom and an indefatigable optimism which he shares with his readers. Far from embodying the typical rapacious businessman, Noon demonstrates how honesty, integrity and hard work reap the best rewards. He shows you how to overcome adversity and not let yourself be buffeted by circumstance. As a result, to this day his views resonate in the corridors of authority with rare power and clarity.

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