Lord Gulam Noon: a remarkable business man, distinguished and humble
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015
Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon, a leading British businessman, was born on 4th January 1936, and passed away on 27th October 2015 aged 79. He was originally from Mumbai, India and operated a number of food companies in Southall. He visited the UK in 1964 and settled here permanently in 1972 establishing the well-known Royal Sweets traditional Indian sweet shop in Southall. He then established a successful food business under the name Noon Products and became influential in the South Asian food trade.
Lord Noon was also the recipient of multiple honorary degrees and doctorates, including from the University of Surrey (MUniv, 1998), Guildhall University London (2001), the University of Central England, Birmingham and Middlesex University (both in 2002), and Kingston University in 2005. Lord Noon’s interest in and engagement with Higher Education saw him appointed as the Chancellor of the University of East London in January 2013.
Lord Noon was widely renowned as a man of principle and altruism. He gave much of his time to multiple charitable causes and was a founder member of Cancer Research UK among others. It was these charitable deeds that Lord Noon believed saved him when he was one of the hostages trapped inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel that was taken over by terrorists in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In an interview recorded in 2013 Lord Noon said that he saw bullets falling around him but he was not hit nor hurt. He firmly believed that all the charitable projects that he had been contributing to manifested themselves that day.
His adherence to principle and integrity came to the fore when his factory burned down in 1994. As is common business practice, the company’s insurance auditors had written a standard letter to be sent out to employees informing them that their pay would be suspended. Lord Noon had 250 employees working for him at the time . In an interview with Shabir Randeree CBE in which he described this situation he said “…my spirituality surfaced and I said I am not going to do that. So I told my accountant, forget this letter, you pay them whatever their pay is … until you don’t have the money. By God’s grace, I was able to start 40% production in less than 10 weeks”.
Many companies fail to recover after a fire so it came as a great surprise to people in the industry that Lord Noon had managed to get back to 40% production within 10 weeks of the fire. Again, Lord Noon was convinced that such things happen by divine providence because he did the right thing by his employees.
He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1996 New Year Honours and then a Knight Bachelor in the 2002 Queen’s Birthday Honours. In January 2011, he was given a life peerage as Baron Noon of St. John’s Wood in the London Borough of Camden, after being nominated by the then Labour leader Ed Milliband. He sat on the Labour benches.
His long-time friend, Lord Bhatia, said “I have lost a very old friend who was kind, considerate and compassionate in everything that he did. He was a man who loved Urdu and Farsi poetry and every time we met he always had an excellent poem to share. Among his other passions were cricket and art and he owned an excellent art collection. He was a man of deep concern for Muslims in the UK and those who were on the radical fringes were unacceptable to him. May Allah in His infinite mercy rest his soul in eternal peace”.
Lord Noon’s friend, business partner and mentee, Shabir Randeree told the Mosaic website “Lord Noon is a unique figure in British history and no amount of words will do his lifetime of service to this country and community justice. Both me personally and Mosaic are fortunate to have been associated with such a remarkable man. He was the most distinguished of character, humility and business acumen – we shall miss our friend and mentor deeply.”
London Mayoral candidate Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan MP for Labour told us that “Lord Noon was a dear friend and mentor to me, for many he will be remembered for his skills as the ‘Curry King’. For me, I will fondly remember him as a kind and generous man who had charity at the heart of everything he did. The fantastic work of the Noon Foundation and its work on education and health projects, this ongoing charity will surely be the exact legacy he would have wanted to leave behind. My prayers are with him and his family”.
Lady Sayeeda Warsi told MuslimView “Born an ordinary man, Gulam Bhai, as I knew him, ended up living an extraordinary life. A warm and engaging man, he always had the time for a conversation and was well known for his words of wisdom. He was a man, who despite tremendous success, remained a wonderfully humble human being. I know that he will be missed in parliament across all political parties.”
The British Muslim community has lost one of its most endearing entrepreneurs who used his God given wealth as an opportunity to help others. He was a mentor to many Muslim business leaders. In life he was a man of generosity both materially and spiritually, of integrity and steadfastness.