The British Asian Trust, Coutts and The Funding Network (TFN) fundraiser in Central London

Last Thursday evening I attended the The British Asian Trust, Coutts and The Funding Network (TFN) “Dragon’s Den” fundraiser in Central London. The purpose of the evening was to raise funds for 5 different charities based on the Indian subcontinent. It was well attended, with well over 200 guests. Mainstream asian celebrities including Nitin Ganatra, Mishal Husain, Radio 1 DJ Nihal, Ritula Shah, Hari Dhillon and Laila Rouass attended. Many are ambassadors for The British Asian Trust. The fundraiser took place in the picturesque setting of the Coutts Bank foyer.

The venue - Coutts Bank, Foyer

Chetna Sinha, Mann Deshi Foundation

For this event, each of the celebrities were linked to and pitched on behalf of one of the charities. Emphasising work that the charities do. Guests then had the opportunity to ask questions to the charity representative. After all the pitches were complete, there was an opportunity for the guests to donate to the charities of their choice.

BBC Newsreader - Mishal Husain pitches on behalf of one of the charities

The highlight of the evening was a musical performance by Sonna Rele who sang a song based on the idea of ‘giving’ to change lives. The lyrics were co-written by Radio 1 DJ Nihal. Great performance!

Musician Sonna Rele and Radio 1 DJ Nihal

The event was very well organised and finish promptly at 9:30 PM.

Over £60,000 was raised for the different charities. 

To find out more about the The British Asian Trust, click here

More photographs from the evening can be viewed here: www.facebook.com/countphotography

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Starbucks, brands and embossing mugs…

What is a brand? A brand is a company’s look or style. It’s identity, it’s values, what it stands for. For example, if we think about the drinks manufacturer, Coca-Cola, the first thing that springs to mind about its ‘brand’ is the iconic, script logo and the colour red. A brand which is known to be fresh, modern and one which sets the bar for other drinks manufacturers.

Brand are everywhere and continue to evolve as trends change.

I was in Starbucks, Edgware recently and I ordered a drink. Vanilla Spice Latte. Skinny of course! I waited at the end of the queue for my drink as it was being prepared. Once it arrived and was placed on the small circular table, I immediately noticed a change. Where was the white mug with the printed Starbucks logo and type?

This new mug now appeared to be much more shorter in height. Probably a design consideration to makes it easier to pick up and hold (always have the customer in mind!). It also looked wider. I am guessing it is easier to stack as well.

Secondly, if you can remember the old mug design, it was white. This is off white. A very light brown. I like the style of it.

On further inspection, you can see the iconic logo (without the Starbucks name) embossed onto the side of the mug. This gives it a nice feel as you run your fingers over it. The circular ‘icon’ graphic does not have the word ‘Starbucks’ on it. The previous mug had the printed icon and the company name on it. I think the reason for this move is that the brand is now widely recognised and doesn’t necessarily need the word ‘Starbucks’ word on it.

A more subtle change is the addition of the letter ‘T’ which appeared at the top of the handle. Initially I was unsure what the ‘T’ meant, but then remembered it was to do with the ‘size’ of the drink – in this case a ‘Tall’ drink. I’m assuming that the other size cups are represented with different letters.

So, Starbucks have introduced this new mug for its consumers to drink out of. I wonder what they have done with the old mugs!!

It’s all part of their evolution of their brand – making sure they set standards as one of the leading coffee shops and enhance the experience of its consumers.


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Frozen Planet – ‘a modern work of art’.

The Frozen Planet series produced by the BBC is a beautifully produced set of 1 hour documentaries. I believe it’s like a modern work of art.

Frozen Planet is a seven part series which helps us to understand the goings on in the Arctic and Antarctic, documenting in detail the seasons, weather and an array of animals in their natural habitats. It really helps us to appreciate how these animals live their lives in their ‘circle of life.’ It also gives us an insight into the extremes of nature.

Everything is captured in amazing detail. At points it almost feels surreal – is this really happening on the planet we live in? Using some of the latest camera technology, video footage is captured at various speeds and angles to enhance the viewing experience. Combined with narration by Sir David Attenborough and dramatic music reflecting the scenes being presented, it really does draw you in.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily lives as the human race, trying to manage our lives, but it’s documentaries like as Frozen Planet and Planet Earth which help us to appreciate the power of nature – something which we don’t really have any control over. There is something special about our planet.

For more information: www.bbc.co.uk/frozenplanet


‘Arise Arjuna’ – NHSF(UK) annual conference 2011

Saturday 19th November saw the National Hindu Students Forum(UK) present their annual conference at JFS school in Kingsbury, London. ‘Arise Arjuna’ is the first of many events planned over the year to celebrate NHSF’s 20th anniversary. I blogged recently about the launch evening which took place a few days prior to the conference.

The day was very well attended. Over 750 students and public of various ages came through the school doors to go through the 4 interactive ‘zones’ – ‘protect’, ‘preserve’, ‘practice’ and ‘promote’. The day offered a packed timetable. Attendees were able to navigate through the zones at their own pace and attend a variety of plays, discussions and demonstrations. There was also an opportunity to perform an abhishek pooja (worship) performed by Hindu priest which provided a spiritual break to the day. Various scholars spoke at the event.

The Mayor of Brent, Cllr Aslam Choudry and Cllr Navin Shah attended, both offering encouraging words of support for the event.

NHSF alumni attended including some of the founding members, Manoj Ladwa and Rajen Shah and Nilesh Solanki.

The national committee created a fantastic atmosphere throughout the day at Arise Arjuna. The evening National Garba event which took place saw over 450 students come together to take part in traditional dance and arti (worship).

As with most annual events, they provide the opportunity to ‘charge’, reconnect with other chapters from across the country, to delve deeper and learn more.



20th Anniversary of NHSF(UK) & launch of ‘Arise Arjuna’ – Nehru Centre, London

On Wednesday 16th November, I attended the 20th anniversary celebration of National Hindu Students Forum (UK). It was also the ‘Arise Arjuna’ national conference launch event. The event took place at the Nehru Centre in Central London. Pictures and commentary from the event.

It was very well attended by over 200 people providing representation from various Hindu organisations. There were also national members of NHSF and various alumni.

Manoj Ladwa, the founder and chief executive at law firm MLS Chase opened proceedings. He was one of the founding members of NHSF some 20 years ago. Ladwa provided a great insight into how they saw a need for a Hindu society at their place of study at the time. Starting NHSF wasn’t just a ‘short term goal’, but one that they felt would shape the preservation of Hinduism for future generations of student in the UK.

Alpesh Patel, founding Principal of Praefinium Partners Ltd and regular contributor to BBC, gave a speech focussing on the need to essentially ‘practice’ what we believe. He claimed that ‘We all have the power to manifest God itself. To be like Lord Ram’. Ram is the main character from the Ramayan, who embodies positive characteristics and is often seen to be the perfect human being. Powerful and noteworthy from Patel.

Pranav Bhanot president of NHSF(UK) gave a great closing speech focussing on the ‘future’ of NHSF(UK), offering his thanks to previous presidents of NHSF, the founding members and well wishers.

There was a nice musical performance of the bhajan ‘O Palan Hare’ from the film Lagaan. This was covered by Amal Lad (guitar), Sheffali Dhutia (vocalist) and Hiten Gohil (tabla). A wonderful Kathak dance was performed by Janaki Mehta.

Having been involved with NHSF for a number of years now, it was great to learn about what’s planned this coming Saturday at the Arise Arjuna event at JFS school in Kingsbury.

We worked on the design of the Arise Arjuna brochure which will be handed out at the event on Saturday.

For more information visit: www.nhsf.org.uk


Batman Begins…

I remember watching Batman Begins some time back, but it was great to watch it again recently!

The Batman story is one which has been established for many years and has changed with the times, from comic books, to TV series, cartoons and films.  There have been a number of film productions based on the Batman story; with the most recent one being ‘The Dark Knight’. This story is still very clear in my mind; however I recently watched “Batman Begins” which is the prequel of The Dark Knight.

Batman Begins provides the origin story, ie how Bruce Wayne came to be Batman.  We see Bruce Wayne come to realise that his home, Gotham City, had turned into a crime infested abyss. He is driven to fight this crime and he chooses the bat as a symbol that would create fear in criminals.  It’s quite interesting how this evolution from boy to man to Batman takes place.

Bruce was born into an extremely wealthy family which has great influence in Gotham City.  Bruce’s father in the film is presented as a positive man who is looking to create a positive impact on the city.  His relationship with Bruce is strong and this desire for change and helping those less fortunate is what focuses Bruce Wayne’s mindset on there being a greater purpose.

This isn’t an immediate change which happens over night.  The character puts himself in situations where he is forced to behave in an unnatural way to understand the problem and learn how to resolve it.  The character sets himself challenges throughout his life and conquers fears that develop this mindset to change things for the better.

It may sound strange to talk so highly of a comic book character.  But the story does makes you question how far one could you go as an individual to make a positive impact on the world around you.  It’s a great film to watch that delivers a message of protection and fighting for what’s right.

If you have not seen it yet, I would highly recommend it.