A Tribute to Ramnikbhai Solanki CBE – A Gentle Giant
There are very rare moments in life when the passing of one person brings the entire community together and touches so many hearts. The passing of Ramnikbhai Solanki earlier this year was one such moment.
Ramnikbhai was a gentle giant and a pioneering figure in the British Indian community who will forever be remembered for the incredible role he played in being one of the first people to represent British Indian interests in the UK.
He was a truly remarkable human who has worked tirelessly for the community. Ramnikbhai was a renowned journalist, a successful businessman, a generous and widely respected person, but most importantly a compassionate being who reached out to all in his own special way.
Ramnikbhai’s long and distinguished career in journalism began more than 60 years ago when he wrote for local papers in Gujarat. However, it was his arrival in England in 1964 that set him on his way to building what would become one of the UK’s most reputable ethnic media publishing groups.
His greatest legacy is of course establishing the Garvi Gujarat. His goal was simple. To unite and integrate the community and to keep India’s rich cultural heritage and the Gujarati language alive for future generations. With no financial capital and lacking the technological means to publish such a newspaper, Ramnikbhai and his wife Parvatiben – who was his pillar of strength in life – launched Garavi Gujarat in 1968.
Promoting equality and diversity was central to his ethos. He supported activists such as Lord Anthony Lester – who also passed away earlier this year – in introducing ground-breaking legislation on racial and gender equality, through the Race Relation Act 1965.
My first recollection of Ramnikbhai was in the 1970s for the role he played in helping Ugandan Asians expelled from Uganda like myself to settle in the UK. Many of the migrants suffered hardship and Garavi Gujarat highlighted their struggles, with Ramnikbhai visiting refugee camps around the country, hearing first-hand accounts of those affected by the political upheaval in Uganda. I vividly remember him publishing stories of families who faced hostility as they adjusted to a new life in Britain. Those stories helped encourage my parent’s generation that we were not alone.
This was the most valuable gift he could have given to the British Indian community. Not only did it help us keep informed with news and events from across the world and the Indian sub-continent, but it helped keep the community integrated and connected. In recent decades, we are indebted to him for the gift he gave in establishing the Eastern Eye, as well as the various initiatives such as the Asian Rich List, the GG2 Power List, Pharmacy Business Awards – supporting pharmacies across the UK – and ACTA (Arts Culture Theatre Awards) which have become the community’s high anticipated events of the year.
Ramnikbhai was widely respected across the political spectrum, having interviewed every Prime Minister since Harold Wilson. His annual events are the flagship events for most Political Parties. He was always open to working with everyone regardless of their Party affiliation and background.
His greatest success was being able to give full autonomy to Kalpesh and Shailesh to take the family business to the next level. He genuinely believed that empowering the new highly educated generation is key to the success of any family business. It is a lesson we can all learn from.
Due to the values and business acumen passed down by him, Kalpesh and Shailesh have managed to take the AMG Group to new heights. Under their stewardship – and now the third generation of Solankis’ – Garvi Gujarat and Eastern Eye have not only become the largest selling publication of its kind in the UK, but has earned the respect and creditability of the highest kind within our community.
Ramnikbhai will be greatly missed by us all. He was a pillar of strength for the Solanki family and a great mascot to the British Indian community as a whole. We will truly never see his like again.