Spending it: Kavita Oberoi

Fresh from her appearance in Channel 4 reality show The Secret Millionaire, the founder of Oberoi Consulting talks to GrowthBusiness about entrepreneurial responsibility.

Speaking to Kavita Oberoi, you get the impression she is as natural chatting to the postman as her blue-chip clients. It is one of the reasons she seemed such an obvious candidate for the recently broadcast Channel 4 series The Secret Millionaire.

The show, which features undercover millionaires looking to give significant amounts of their own cash to a deserving cause, wanted Oberoi so much they approached her twice.

‘The first time they asked me it seemed interesting, but I didn’t want to just do it for the sake of it,’ she explains. ‘It wasn’t until I returned from a visit to Mumbai that I got inspired to get involved. When they called the second time I said “yes”, I’d definitely do it.’

‘I didn’t want to do the series just for the sake of it’

Oberoi’s entrepreneurial career began after she missed out on a promotion at pharmaceutical company Bayer, where she had been working as a sales rep. She spotted a gap in the market, quit her job and started her company Oberoi Consulting in 2001. The business, which helps doctors improve their database systems, now has turnover of £1.5 million and is looking to grow internationally.

On the show, Oberoi left her luxury lifestyle and spent ten days with various community groups in Birmingham, finally giving away £45,000 to two different charities – £20,000 went to care in the community project Karis Neighbour Scheme, and £25,000 to Martha’s Oasis charity, which runs a programme to raise the aspirations of Afro-Caribbean and mixed-race girls. ‘It felt closest to my own story,’ she says.

‘I’m passionate about education and women achieving their potential. It is also something to do with having two daughters. I want it to impact on a number of people and to be there for a long time. Hopefully it will lead to a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and successful women.’

Involvement in the charity didn’t stop there. Now director of the Martha’s Oasis programme Sisters with Voices, which mentors teenage girls, Oberoi has managed to raise £50,000 by selling the programme to six schools – with others now showing an interest. All of which can be viewed on the TV Christmas special, where fans will get the chance to see her again.

She is, in other words, doing what entrepreneurs do best – getting hands-on and developing the project. ‘It’s great to watch something grow,’ she enthuses. ‘It’s like proving the success of a business, but with a charity you see the rewards through the people you are helping. If all you care about is just making money for its own sake then that’s quite shallow. There has to be a bigger purpose.’

Oberoi doesn’t let her philanthropy get in the way of her taste for life’s finer things. ‘I’m really into shoes and jewellery, particularly top-of-the-range designer stuff, and as anyone who has seen the show will know, I love Versace,’ she laughs.

‘I also spend my money on having a personal trainer two to three times a week, and that costs about £200 per month. But that’s really important as I need to be in good shape to be able to do everything.’

Balancing being a mother, entrepreneur and charity worker does seem like a big ask. She puts it down to being organised, and using paid-for family help. ‘I think if I started to really think about it I’d go mad, so I take it on a weekly basis.’

There is a sense of entrepreneurial responsibility in Oberoi’s desire to give something back. ‘I was born in a terraced house in Bradford, but my dad kept moving [us] as he became more successful.

‘Money is something I do really value, probably more than someone who has just been given it. And that is something I definitely want to pass on to my own daughters.’

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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