Sponsor:                Eqbal Samra (UBS)

Co-planners:         Jai Bhakar (CSN), Randeep Buttar (CSN) and Rakesh Depala (UBS)

Moderator:           Randeep Buttar


  • Paul Chowdhry (comedian)
  • Stephen Shashoua (outreach charity)
  • Baroness Sandip Verma (politician and businesswoman)

The latest instalment of CSN’s Recipes for Success series of discussions took place recently at the UBS offices in London. The event itself was a resounding success and generated a lively and engaging debate among the panellists and the audience.


Jai Bhakar, one of the co-planners for the event said:

“The Recipes for Success discussions are a platform for a diverse range of speakers in a plethora of fields to come together and exchange their views and experiences on what it takes to be successful. Therefore, the panel selection process is of crucial importance and it is why we strived to select a diverse range of speakers. We felt the speakers each complemented one another in their very different journeys to achieving success. For me it was interesting to hear that there is no single route to success, but whichever route one may follow it is essential for the individual to be committed and motivated to achieve their ambitions.” 


Randeep Buttar, co-planner and Moderator for the event said:

“Coming into this as a first-time moderator, my main aim was to ensure we really delved into the minds of our panellists with incisive and focused questions to ensure we achieved true value for their time. The result was not only good insight but also some very positive takeaways for the audience. For me, that made this event a huge success.”


Our sponsors had the following to say:

“UBS Cultural Awareness Network in collaboration with the City Sikhs Network hosted a thought provoking evening on inspiration. CSN were professional and well-organised. The panel made some excellent points and were witty, inspiring and certainly gave the packed audience a lot to think about. We look forward to working with the CSN again in the future.”

Below are some of the key points that came out of the event:


On their drivers for success

Paul discussed the challenges that he had to overcome and in particular, the stereotypes associated with being of Sikh, Indian heritage. A poignant statement was also made around what remains to be done with respect to overcoming stereotypes particularly within the entertainment industry. Building on this, Paul made a good point about the fact that as a community, we’re still in a cycle of “firsts” e.g. the first Asian Comedian and the first Asian female front bencher in Government.

Stephen mentioned empathy, passion and a vision as his key drivers. He also stated how the possibility of change, particularly within the area interfaith outreach was a key motivator for him.

Baroness Verma provided a very thought-provoking overview of her past experiences. She discussed the challenges of being “boxed in” to stereotypes but ultimately, reinforced the point that we should all have the courage to be ourselves.

(Note: Gurmit Kaur, a freelance photojournalist and fellow CSN member, has produced an in-depth article on the Baroness which can be viewed here.)


On overcoming discrimination

Stephen turned this point on its head by talking about how it “fuelled” him to do better. He made insightful points around the importance of being attracted to like minds and to help open closed minds through the power of personality.

Paul made the point that discrimination isn’t something that you would necessarily overcome as it will always be a fact of life however, he did say that discrimination should be dealt with and tackled and that one should not be afraid to challenge the status quo.


On the importance of mentoring

Paul commented on the importance of competing with yourself as opposed to others and also made an excellent point around the importance of embracing struggle.

Stephen spoke eloquently about the importance of having an opponent in life to push you further be it a virtual or real opponent. He also discussed the eventual role reversal in the mentor (guru) and mentee (assistant) relationship and the importance of the ever learning dynamic.

Baroness Verma discussed how both her mother and her father were her initial mentors in life. She discussed the importance of a supporting husband. Finally, she mentioned how a business advocate also helped drive her in life.


On success in business

Baroness Verma pointed out that running a successful business is about the bottom line however, one should be principles led in their business endeavours particularly with respect to the social impact.


On intangible business success

Where success factors weren’t easily measured, particularly for charitable organisations seeking to drive positive change, Stephen discussed how his organisation, 3FF, focussed on cultural and communal change by looking at changes in attitude, perception and behaviour. He also mentioned the need to continue to embed positive changes.


Success driven by luck but also, the use of media

Paul discussed how using online media, in particular YouTube, helped garner an interest in him both in the UK and abroad. This helped broaden his network and increase the public awareness of his talents.


So, what were the key ingredients to a recipe for success?

Here are 5:

  1. Have individual drive and set an example
  2. Seek out a mentor but also use yourself as the benchmark for improvement
  3. Embrace life’s struggle and work hard
  4. “Pay it forward”- use your successes as an individual to further the success of your community
  5. Do something you love and the success will follow


Authored by: Randeep Buttar, City Sikhs Network Ambassador (@EmicoConsulting)