April 4 2016
DON’T KNOW THE ASIAN AWARDS?
How did you miss the night when pop star Zayn Malik met Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan and together they broke the internet…well, trended very heavily on social media.
That was April last year and on Friday (April 8), it’s the 6th annual Asian Awards…
This year comedian and impersonator Alistair McGowan is the compere and the late Mother Teresa is to be honoured.
Organisers are tight-lipped about this year’s special guests…but one gawp-inducing photo is almost guaranteed…
It’s become the standout UK event when it comes to putting (global) celebrities together in a way that hasn’t been done before…
But as the man behind it, entrepreneur and business consultant and CEO of the Lemon Group, Paul Sagoo tells us, it’s more than just about celebrities and social media.
Here in this Q&A over email, he tells us what’s important to him, why he thinks Mahatma Gandhi remains inspirational and would be on his guest list; what moment has touched him the most; and whom he still very much wants to meet…
www.asianculturevulture.com (ACV): How did you go about setting it up? Do you have a lot of corporate experience of events?
Paul Sagoo (PS): My background is primarily in IT, so I didn’t have an event background as such. That being the case I partnered with United Business Media for the first two awards as they were the best in the business. I learned a lot from them, but also tweaked what they did and improved upon it using my own network. It’s not easy putting on these awards, so partnerships are vital and we have been lucky to have partners who treat this as their own event.
ACV: How do you manage to get such big stars like Zayn Malik and Shah Rukh Khan to attend?
PS: It’s never easy getting big people to attend an event, but if you approach people professionally and show them that you are passionate about honouring them they will listen.
We now have a history of honouring amazing people and therefore new honourees that we approach have that history to reflect on in order to decide whether to accept or not. Ultimately it’s about being professional and being sincere.
ACV: What was the inspiration for setting up the awards?
PS: Having attended many Asian ceremonies in the past, I wondered why some of our events were so lacklustre, given how successful the community is in the UK. It was one event in particular that tipped me over the edge and I openly told someone that I will do something better and more befitting of what we can really achieve. Thus the concept was born.
ACV: And why Asian, and not just South Asian?
PS: We started the first two events as South Asian only as we wanted to build credibility using the network that I knew and the winners we were familiar with.
But after year two, I decided it was time to make the awards live up to their true definition and be inclusive of all Asians. After all, only in the UK does the term ‘Asian’ refer to South Asian, everywhere else it is about Pan-Asians.
There is much we can learn from other Asians, and many have achieved a lot, so it’s important that we all share in this success.
ACV: If you could invite anyone past or present to The Asian Awards who would that be and why?
PS: Well I guess the obvious name would be Mahatma Gandhi… what an honour that would have been! I guess the reason is simple – he is the definition that one man can make a difference.
ACV: What is your own personal highlight of the awards over these last six years?
PS: I have enjoyed many of the awards that we have given out over the years, but the one that touched me the most was when we honoured Ahmed Kathrada (a member of the African National Congress – ANC) who spent 26 years in jail with Nelson Mandela and others in order to further a better life for his people. I guess when you talk of achievements not much tops that.
ACV: How do you keep The Asian Awards fresh and innovative…isn’t there a tendency for all awards to be a bit the same? What do you do to make it an event people look forward to…and more than about just about celebrity spotting?
PS: People have come to believe and understand that The Asian Awards are very different to other award ceremonies. Not just other Asian ceremonies but other ceremonies full-stop. They are eclectic. The mix of people is incredibly diverse and we have perhaps the most diverse audience of any ceremony in the UK. It is the winners and the audience that keep the event fresh and exciting. I feel that some of the other Asian ceremonies hold their events for the wrong reasons, which is disappointing and doesn’t reflect well.
We honour amazing people, be it the inventor of the USB or multi-Oscar winning actors. There are very few ceremonies that can say they have such a mix of brilliance.
ACV: Is the charity element important to you? And why?
PS: We have always partnered with a charity, be it Save the Children, Oxfam or like this year, with Global Citizen. My attitude is that if you are going to gather very successful, often wealthy privileged people in a room then we should also spend a little time (and money) reflecting on those less fortunate than ourselves. To date, The Asian Awards have raised over £400,000 for good causes.
ACV: What art form do you most like (if any) and why?
PS:Any art form where the artist hones their craft and is passionate. It is the discipline I admire and the ability of the individual to keep going under all manner of adversity. But I do have a special place for scientists. I believe the value society puts on our scientists is not enough and I am proud to say we are working to fix that.
ACV: Have you managed to meet all your personal heroes through The Asian Awards…?
PS:I have met many people through the awards from Sachin Tendulkar, Ratan Tata, Amitabh Bachchan and last year Shah Rukh Khan. Most people would put these individuals high up on their ‘must meet’ list. But I would say that I did want to meet Abdul Kalam (former President of India) but sadly he passed away last year.
The other person I would love to meet is the social economist, Professor Amartya Sen (Nobel prizewinner). He is such a brilliant man with a brilliant mind. I’d also like to meet Azim Premji, the humble billionaire philanthropist. We have communicated before but never met personally.
ACV: Would you think about hosting the AA in another part of the world at all? Or hosting similar ceremonies in different parts of the world?
PS: We have already had discussions about potentially travelling with The Asian Awards. I have told many people that as this is a global event we could easily go to New York, Los Angeles or even to some parts of Asia. But for now we are staying in London. We might move in 2017, but let’s see.
ACV: There are many, many awards these days, how do you convince the general public the Asian Awards is important and not just about getting a few celebrities to come to London…
PS: It is not me that convinces them – it is our winners. Their achievements set them apart from others and it is them who people come to listen to or meet, not me.
ACV: What are your hopes for its future?
PS: Right now it’s about getting past the 10th year anniversary. I think that is a very important milestone. After that, we will see how the concept of diversity has changed or grown within the global communities.
ACV: What do you like doing away from work and business?
PS: Spending time with friends, holidays, which are a rarity for me, and with family. I like people and am a true people person. That is the value of life.
Pictures: All courtesy of The Asian Awards (Javad&Mizan; Areez Charania; Justin Goff)
More Detail/Info/Tickets: The Asian Awards, Friday, April 8 http://theasianawards.com/
Follow the event live: http://twitter.com/TheAsianAwards