Location: Mile End, Bancroft Building
1st Supervisor: Professor Ahu Tatli
2nd Supervisor: Dr Ioana Lupu
"Financial access, regulatory priorities and social attitude: Exploring South-Asian migrant women led SMEs and small business ventures in the United Kingdom"
My interest in studying migrant entrepreneurs stems from my postgraduate studies in Development Finance at the University of Reading, where I was involved in a research project to explore the various obstacles – financial, social and cultural – that migrant entrepreneurs to the UK often have to negotiate with. As a part of this project, I worked closely with Eastern European and South Asian migrants, and witnessing their trials and tribulations from close quarters is what prompted me to pursue this research further in the form of my doctoral work. Naturally, there is a substantial and diverse body of literature about the discriminations faced by migrant entrepreneurs, both at individual and institutional levels, as well as across generations. However, while South Asians form a substantial proportion of net migrants in the UK, and in spite of a plethora of studies having been conducted about migration within the UK and EU, the experience of South Asian migrant entrepreneurs have received a scant attention at best. My research aims to address this gap in the existing discourse, and sharpens the focus further onto female entrepreneurs. It also brings a comparative focus to the diverging experience of Indian migrants on one hand, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants on the other. Recent literature indicates that performance of Indian ethnic minority business (EMBs) has been superior to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi EMBs, mostly due a higher level and human capital accumulation of the former (Virdee (2006). It is essential to explore this line of enquiry further, identifying factors that are leading to such differential performance of migrant businesses within a community that shares myriad common characteristics, and yet at the same time follows diverse cultural practices. An effort to understand the forms of institutional discrimination towards South Asian migrants, particularly when it comes to financial access (traditional vs. non-traditional sources of finance), and which in turn fuels such divergence in terms of sub-ethnic categories, forms the crux of my work. Additionally, bringing the experience of South Asian women entrepreneurs to the forefront introduces a different conceptual perspective, that of gender based discrimination, over and above other types of embedded discriminatory practices. Methodologically, I employ a mixed research approach, combining quantitative analysis and more ethnographic fieldwork.
This research has the potential to make both theoretical and empirical contributions. First, it will inform the scarce literature on certain specific issues (relationship with institutions and gender dynamics) of migrant entrepreneurship in the UK, not only from a business opportunity perspective, but also from a socio-cultural dimension. Second, it can also provide crucial policy-inputs – something that has special resonance in the increasingly turbulent political atmosphere across the western world, migration being a particular flashpoint in that - and therefore has the potential to lead to further large scale comparative studies.