Lord Bilimoria, the man behind Cobra beer and also Chancellor of The University of Birmingham, is a man I greatly admire.
I have heard him speak on several occasions, always with a considerable degree of sound advice particularly when it comes to business.
So I was particularly interested in a feature that appeared in the small business section of The Daily Telegraph in which he freely admits that setting up a business – as well as maintaining it – is not the walk in the park that many think it is.
As he freely admits , he “nearly lost Cobra three times”.
“I can be sure that three things helped me to carry on: having a strong brand, great support from my family, and the right values. You have to hold on to a sense of integrity when business is as its most difficult.”
He also places great emphasis on getting out and meeting people.
“Networks are also important. It helps to have met other business leaders who understand the kind of pressures one sometimes has to face.”
It’s easy to think, when you look at a successful brand such as Cobra and also consider that he is an independent cross bench peer in the House of Lords, that here is a man who is assured of his destiny. But in The Daily Telegraph interview, he is remarkably frank: “I’m terrified of failure, but I have learned a great deal from my mistakes,” he is quoted as saying.
And he also comes up with wise words that should resonate with anyone who runs their own business, entrepreneurial or not: “I never really thought I had a particular strength; I wasn’t gifted at art, for example, or music. But now I realise that I was – and still am – creative. That’s what allowed me to develop a brand that was different and innovative.
“But the misconception I am most frustrated by is how often people misunderstand business – those people who are entirely negative about it. A business generates taxes. Without taxes there would be no public services – no functioning welfare state.”
Lord Bilimoria was born in Hyderabad, India into a family with a distinguished background in the armed forces and business.
It was while studying in Cambridge that the concept of Cobra was born. He “hated fizzy lagers”; ales were “too heavy” and he therefore set out to create a beer that “had a smoothness and a good, distinctive taste that would work well with food.”
Raising the finance was a “huge challenge” – with funding coming piecemeal from a variety of sources.
Clearly, battling it out with the brewery giants was not a task for the faint-hearted.
He finishes by saying: “You can be ambitious in two ways about business: you can want to create a brand that is the best in the world, but also one that is the best for the world. I wish more people understood that and how business can be a positive force.”
Wise words and an interesting perspective on business.