“We built up the business gradually and we’ve borrowed very little money,” says India-born Deep, who arrived in Britain when he was 18 and set up his ethnic food firm in the early seventies.
“When we approached banks for a loan in the early days, they turned us away. ‘You have no history of running a business,’ they said. Now they run after us to take a loan and, typically, we don’t need one.
“It’s far better to concentrate on growing a business than paying off debt,” he says. “If you owe somebody money, write them out a cheque there and then. Don’t make them wait and don’t say the cheque is in the post if it isn’t. My principle was always: don’t buy what you can’t afford.”
East End Foods is based in the Midlands, slap bang in one of the country’s largest Indian communities. Some 20 per cent of Birmingham’s population is Asian and the West Midlands is home to one in six of all Asians in Britain, according to government figures.
It’s also a handy location from a strategic point of view: “Don’t forget there are pockets of Asian communities across the whole country,” says Deep. “The West Midlands is the centre point. Our 11 lorries deliver food as far north as Glasgow and as far south as London.”
Deep says he’s built relationships with the Asian “corner shops” by "knocking on doors” and through advertising: “There are about 30 channels on satellite TV, specifically targeted at Asian viewers. We spend £600,000 a year to advertise on the top eight. The rest are garbage, believe me.” To read the full profile on Tony Deep, download the pdf [asset1].