CEO’s New Year’s Message

mayank-1To our Members,

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you celebrated the start of 2017 in good spirits with family and friends. As the festive season ends and the New Year begins, at MSDUK we can reflect on what has been an exciting year and on the progress we have made in promoting supplier diversity and the fantastic Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMBs) that are part of our network. I would like to thank you all for your continued commitment and everything that you do to enable us deliver on our goals – to foster greater engagement and opportunity throughout the network.

While there is still a lot of work to do and many challenges ahead, we ended 2016 and are beginning the New Year in a far stronger position than ever before. As an organisation we are now better equipped to provide more support for all members. During 2016, the network grew considerably, with a 33% increase in our corporate membership and over 40 new ethnic minority businesses joined MSDUK. This growth in membership has led to an increase in the number of Corporate-to-business (C2B) and Business-to-business (B2B) engagements that has culminated in some great success stories.

As we celebrated 10 years of MSDUK, our biennial conference was truly global in scale and remit. The three day event spread over 3 iconic venues attracted over 500 delegates, 42 high-profile spears, 40 + exhibitors and 9 award winners. We captured key highlights of this landmark event in this video.

2017 is going to see our efforts focussed on continuing to grow our corporate membership but more so, the team will be making extra efforts to recruit and grow our ethnic minority business network.

We realise that the key to getting more success for our stakeholders is to provide them more regular opportunities to meet and build relationships. With this in mind, 2017 will see a range of bigger, better and innovative events including:

  • Four Meet the Buyer events open for all, allowing multiple category buyers and suppliers to attend every event.
  • Bi-monthly on-boarding webinars for new businesses
  • Quarterly corporate and business training workshops
  • The new event for the year- The Business Show at the prestigious Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham

This year will see MSDUK undertake a number of new projects. Our plans to extend our services in select European countries have been well received not only from corporate partners, but also by many government and semi-governmental organisations across countries like Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany. I am optimistic that by the end of 2017, we will have presence in two European countries.

Together with our global partners last year, we launched the Global Supplier Diversity Alliance (GSDA). MSDUK played a leadership role in developing the idea as an integrated global supplier diversity network that will serve as an information and knowledge hub to be used by corporate members and suppliers that want to expand their operations/programmes in different countries.

In the UK our partnership with HS2 is growing significantly with a higher degree of trust and confidence within the HS2 leadership team that sees MSDUK as a key strategic partner in delivering their supplier diversity programme. This in turn has led to greater interest from all HS2 bidders within the infrastructure and construction industry and companies like Momentum Infrastructure and Arup have joined our corporate membership with more expressing an interest in joining our network.

Our ongoing partnership with Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick led to MSDUK funding a PhD and we will be leveraging WMG’s world class infrastructure and knowledge capabilities to support development of ethnic minority businesses.

As we start this New Year with great optimism, I would like to thank our board of directors, the MSDUK staff and our members. I would also like to reiterate our commitment to undertaking the hard work required to provide more opportunity for ethnic minority businesses and advocate for fairer and more inclusive supply chains across the UK that are open to all businesses.

And lastly, the MSDUK team would like to wish you all a very successful and productive 2017.


Mayank Shah

CEO and Founder, MSDUK

Why Should Customers Choose You?

By Rahul Katrak, Managing Director, Futura Business Growth Partners



Right now your company has numerous potential customers trying to decide whether or not they should do business with you – or with one of your competitors. Your marketing strategies or your networking abilities may have got your business in front of them, you may have pitched to them with passion and energy, but unfortunately in the absence of a compelling brand positioning strategy, your customers will struggle to see why they need your product or service and why they should pay a higher price for it than a competitors offering.

Welcome to what I call the commodity trap. It’s a bad business place in which the lowest price almost always wins, because customers don’t see or can’t relate to any other difference between you and your competitors. From a business growth perspective, it also means that unless your best sales directors is talking to a prospect, they will fail to understand the unique benefits of your product/service that will PROVOKE a purchase. It’s not a place where your business should be competing from if you want to remain profitable and fast track your growth. To escape the commodity trap, you have to answer the toughest question in business.  Why should I choose you?

Make It Glaringly Obvious

Today’s buyers are so bombarded with sales messages that they will struggle to see much difference in their choices – unless your branding and marketing messages makes it obvious and compelling. Not only do you need to be able to answer this fundamental question, you need to do so in a way that grabs attention, appeals to their emotions and the intellect and get your messages across in the most punchy way possible.

You have to give potential customers a reason to say “Okay. That’s the difference. It’s valuable to me and I’m happy to pay a premium price for it.” Yes, we know, that’s a lot of work.

What Decides A Purchase?

Hundereds of factors go into clinching a sale, from prospecting the right leads, to the visual appeal of your brand collateral and the charm and charisma of your sales directors. But, none matter as much as your company’s ability to answer the question, “Why buy from us?”

Ultimately, this is the core foundation upon which your business growth is built –  the ability to distill your competitive advantage into a masterfully articulated unique selling proposition that your customers understand, are excited by and can buy into. People buy certain products and services because they see a real and compelling advantage over all other available choices.

Where Are You Tripping Up?

When we work with clients on their brand positioning strategy, a common problem we encounter is that too many companies don’t really understand what their real competitive advantages are. Just as often, what they perceive to be an advantage is totally irrelevant to their customer’s purchasing priorities Some companies have a vague idea of where their competitive advantage lies but don’t have the skills to articulate and convey that idea clearly and consistently across all their sales and marketing. This leads to sales opportunities that fail to convert — and money wasted on advertising and sales that’s getting the message wrong.

Many companies base their marketing and sales messaging on their own hunches, assumptions, perceptions, and the historic inertia of, “This seems to have worked in the past?”

To truly hone in and identify your competitive advantages, you need to execute a brand positioning strategy that keeps your customers at the heart of the process.

The discoveries you’ll make can often be surprising.  Here at Futura, we used to sell ourselves on our great branding and web design skills till we realized that clients were choosing us for our brand positioning and business consulting skills – which lead two new service offerings in our business!   This is encapsulated in our brand promise.  Business Growth. Delivered.

Communicating Competitive Advantage

After you’ve identified your company’s key competitive advantages, you need to craft new marketing and sales messages, also known as “brand positioning statements.” These need to be concise, memorable, measurable and highly relevant to your customers — every word needs to resonate and remind customers why they need to buy from you instead of the competition.

Far too many businesses that I meet talk to me about vague clichés like “quality, service and value for money.” These terms don’t mean anything to me or your customers, and they’re so over used and stale that they’ve become meaningless.

When we work with businesses on their brand positioning, we get them out of their comfort zone and get specific. You need to find a way to explain to your customers in real, exciting, human terms how your business delivers qualityservice, and value in a way that is most relevant to what the customer wants to get from your product or service.

Don’t let your marketing and sales messaging bucks go to waste due to hollow messages that are not relevant to your customers. Commit some time, money and effort to working with a brand strategy company like ourselves, to identify your true competitive advantages. Hone in on what your company does best, find out why your customers truly choose to buy from you, and then trumpet your new messages to the world.


If you’d like to find out more about how our brand strategy services can turbo charge your sales and business growth, please drop me an email or contact me on 020 7993 4477 for an obligation free chat.

The Government launches a New Digital Trade Hub to stimulate Exports

greatOf the 2.5 million businesses registered in the UK, an estimated 360,000 who have an exportable product or service mistakenly believe there isn’t a global demand for it.

The new digital trade hub,, was launched on 14th November and forms part of a push to help a further 100,000 more UK businesses export by 2020. Through e-exporting alone government intends to deliver an additional 20,000 online exporters and £2 billion worth of value to the UK economy by 2020.

The site will act as a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors. Whether businesses are new, occasional or frequent exporters, they will be able to take advantage of the new suite of tools and exclusive deals on fees or commissions with some of the world’s leading online marketplaces.

By registering, businesses will become part of a brand new searchable directory of UK exporters which government will use to match their products and services with worldwide demand.

Businesses will be able to access the best advice and financial support through from government, from public and private sector business champions, and from GREAT partners, all specifically designed to help them to grow and succeed through exports.

A Strong Voice for Minority Businesses

MSDUK members Dexo Technologies and es-p have been selected for the Government SME Advisory Panel.



The UK government recently formed advisory panel aims to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to sell to the government. The panel, made up of 24 entrepreneurs and leading business, will work with the government to ensure that the voice of SMEs is represented in the decision making process. Among the entrepreneurs, two members of the MSDUK network, Arnub Dutt, CEO of Dexo Technologies and Farooq Mohamed, Managing Director of the es-p Group, have been selected on the panel.

The government is making a greater effort to spend more with SMEs and the Cabinet Office has estimated that 27% of government’s procurement spending, or £12.1 billion, reached SMEs in 2014-15, surpassing its target of 25%. An even bigger target has been set by the government that aims to increase spending with SMEs to 33% by 2020.

Arnab Dutt CEO, Dexo Technologies said:

‘The Government has a target to ensure that SME businesses in the UK will receive 33% of central government procurement spending by 2020. It’s an ambitious target but achieving it will not only foster greater participation in the overall UK supply chain, but should also have a major social impact on communities throughout the UK’.

Increased government spending is welcomed news, as SMEs make a considerable contribution to the UK economy and account for over 99% of all private sector businesses. From an MSDUK prospective, having two of our members advising on government procurement spend is significant as the majority of our membership is composed of SMEs. Successful entrepreneurs Arnab Dutt and Farooq Mohamed understand the challenges faced by many ethnic minority businesses (EMBs); these are similar challenges faced by non-ethnic SMEs, the difference being a lack of inclusion and opportunity in private and public supply chains.

Farooq Mohamed, Managing Director of es-p Group said:

‘Wearing the twin hats of being an SME and MSDUK certified supplier/EMB committee member, I am keen to examine the Government’s approach (and spend) in relation to inclusive supply chains. Inclusivity is a key tenet of MSDUK and a principle we all hold dear as corporate and supplier members. However, this is not an area which is currently scrutinised and when we consider major Government infrastructure projects running through some of the most diverse areas of the country, like HS2, it becomes necessary to work with Government to ensure inclusivity within Supply Chains to reflect the wider communities within which they work/serve’.

While inclusive procurement has been embraced by private sector organisations in the UK, there is still considerable work to be done when it comes to opening up public sector supply chains. The government have taken a number of positive steps to reduce the barriers faced by SMEs when bidding for public sector work and have introduced initiatives such as ‘Contracts Finder’, an online portal for advertising government tenders; it has also removed pre-qualification questionnaires for low-value contracts. Furthermore, the introduction of the Social Value Act in 2012 requires consideration of wider social, economic and environmental benefits in procurement processes and is often thought to benefit SMEs and smaller suppliers. However, engagement with minority businesses regarding direct and indirect government spend remains very low. There is no data to suggest that minority owned businesses are being included in central government procurement opportunities or have been successful in obtaining government contracts. There are approximately 300,000 minority owned businesses that contribute around £25-32 billion every year to the UK economy and it is essential that they are included in central and local government supply chains and that their voice is heard by policy makers. Two MSDUK members being selected on the on the Government SME Advisory Panel is a good start, but more needs to be done.

Rachel Lee Appointed MSDUK Chair


MSDUK is delighted to announce the appointment of Rachel Lee, Director of Supply Chain Solutions EMEA at CBRE, as the new Chair. Rachel takes over the role from 1st January 2017 for a three year term.

Rachel brings with her over 30 years’ experience of business transformation and delivering bottom line impact through re-engineering supply chains, building supplier relationships & leading high performing teams. Throughout her career in procurement Rachel has worked in a number of industries including Facilities management, FMCG, Pharmaceutical, Retail, Manufacturing, Telecoms and IT.

Welcoming Rachel as she takes over the role of MSDUK Chair, Mayank Shah, CEO and Founder said, ‘We all are excited to have Rachel lead this organisation during this important period as we embark on an ambitious growth programme to expand our network of EMBs and corporate organisations and make inclusive procurement part of every corporate supply chain. Rachel’s vast experience in diverse industries and procurement and her visionary leadership will help cement MSDUK as the leader in supplier diversity within UK and Europe.’

Commenting on her appointment, Rachel said, ‘I am passionate about furthering the aims of MSDUK and welcome the opportunity to work alongside the management team and the other board members to drive significant change in this area. Throughout my career I have worked in a number of fast-growth organisations and have experience at implementing strategy to achieve organic growth and managing the change resulting from mergers and acquisitions, I look forward to bringing this experience into play in MSDUK’s next growth phase.

I strongly believe that to achieve anything in life and business it is essential to build strong relationships and this is the approach that I intend to continue with and I am confident that my approach and experience will enable me to make a positive and impactful contribution to MSDUK’.