Sir Richard Branson
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Nick Hill

Yorkshire entrepreneur hopes to take Desi High Street to Richard Branson

Yorkshire entrepreneur Kuljit Thiaray is urging her fellow businesspeople and residents of West Yorkshire to help her win a share of £1m and pitch to Richard Branson as part of the Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 competition.

VOOM 2016 relies on public votes to shortlist UK and Ireland’s entrepreneurs, and Kuljit, from Leeds, aims to enter Desi High Street.

Desi High Street is a new online marketplace for #AllThingsEthnic. Founded by Kuljit, the business provides an online platform for independent retailers who sell ethnic, ‘Desi’ and South Asian goods.

Having left a career as a senior lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Bradford to pursue her own business, Kuljit is dedicated to digitalising a key UK market.

Kuljit said: “My vision is to bring the UK’s ethnic market online, on to one website. We are not taking the shops away from the community, but providing them with an additional income stream to complement their established businesses .

“We have set out to digitalise a traditional industry in the UK, and to support small businesses in the process. This market has been successful in India, but in the UK retailers have not fully embraced e-commerce.

“Desi High Street is responding to the changing needs of customers and the fact that the UK’s ethnic market has not kept up with them. We are helping these retailers to future-proof their businesses and to compete with international online retailers who are selling directly to UK customers.”

Kuljit’s business innovation has already gained a place on the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator programme in Leeds. More recently, she was shortlisted in the We Are The City Rising Star Top 10 in the Entrepreneur’s category, which is also open for a public vote.

Kuljit added: “We aim to bring a hand-picked selection of UK retailers together to create an online marketplace on a virtual Desi High Street. We will provide support and guidance for independent retailers of ethnic goods.”

“We have huge ambitions and would like to support the UK’s ethnic market in a similar way to how ASOS marketplace supports new fashion brands and vintage boutiques, and Not on the High Street supports creative small businesses. We need the local community to vote and show support for us and our founding retailers.

Peter Kelly, managing director of Virgin Media Business, commented: “We’re in the business of accelerating great ideas and boosting local businesses.

“Whether that’s by helping the UK’s entrepreneurs access superfast broadband, or by establishing the country’s most exciting pitch competition, we’re proud to be helping small businesses succeed.”

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