South Asian Heritage Month, which took place between 18 July – 17 August, brought together an inspiring mix of artists, designers, filmmakers, writers and entrepreneurs, who shared stories and business insights. It was wrapped up with a NatWest-hosted virtual roundtable – ‘Coffee & Chai with the Multicultural Network' - with panellists being invited to share stories about their own lives and heritage, as well as any barriers they have faced in their careers, and the role models who have made the greatest impact.
As well as commemorating and celebrating the cultures of the South Asian nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka – SAHM coincides with two historically significant dates for South Asian nations: SAHM began on 18 July, the date the Indian Independence Act gained royal assent from George VI in 1947; and ended on 17 August, Partition Commemoration Day.
The strength of diversity
Shamraz Begum, global co-chair of the Multicultural Network and co-lead of the BAME taskforce at NatWest Group, said: “South Asians are typically under-represented in the UK business community. This is a feature we have in common with other ethnic minorities in the UK.
“Recent data shows Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people hold just 4.6% of the UK's most senior roles.
“Within business and finance, only 5% of the most senior roles are held by BAME people. That means, ultimately, that business is lacking in the strength that diversity brings.
“This presents us with a great opportunity to be more representative of our diverse communities and champion the potential of under-represented groups in the UK.
"The bank has a large and thriving South Asian community thanks to our presence in India, as well as our South Asian colleagues in the UK and elsewhere. It's so important to recognise and celebrate each other's heritage, to help us all to learn about each other and understand our cultures.
"My parents came to the UK from Pakistan, and, of course, my roots go back to India. I'm a British Asian with proud South Asian heritage so it's great to celebrate with my fellow South Asians and share our history with my colleagues.
"We wanted to see what we could do to help people understand partition and embrace the beauty of the culture and history. It has been an incredible success. We're excited to have a month that is connected to identity, culture and heritage."
Coffee & Chai roundtable with the Multicultural Network
The virtual roundtable featured a panel including celebrity chef and restaurateur Tony Singh MBE; hip-hop musician Raj Forever; and author and women's advocate Pinky Lilani CBE; and was hosted by Scottish-Pakistani presenter, comedian and writer Zara Janjua.
Watch a video of the Coffee & Chair roundtable: