Fast proves “food for thought” for Business leaders

Date published: 29 April 2022

Business chiefs from diverse faiths got a taste of what it is like to go without food from dawn until dusk - ahead of a specially organised fast-breaking dinner.

One of the five pillars of Islam is to fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan, in a bid to focus on kindness, sharing and doing good for others.

And since they all had Muslim employees at one time or another, commerce chiefs from IT to HR and logistics joined in for just one day – with varying degrees of success.

Whilst Craig Barratt, director and founder of Foresight an IT firm who have just secured hospice Dr Kershaw’s from cybercrime, missed water on what was a humid day, Janine Smith of the Greater Manchester GC Business Growth Hub has a hectic schedule and admits, “I don’t really think about eating until nine o’clock at night, anyway.” Nonetheless, she has the achievement of speaking to 250 guests at an earlier conference without sustenance!

But for Frank Rothwell, the main speaker at the Asian Business Leaders Iftar (fast breaking) meal, being without food was a breeze as he once made a TV programme with Bear Grylls, where he lost three stone. Frank who ran Manchester Cabins for 40 years, told Muslim and non-Muslim guests, “I once worked in Abu Dhabi when it was just a village and became aware of Ramadan when I noticed that the Muslim lads working in the hot sun were not eating and so we knocked off work between 11am and 3pm, at the hottest part of the day.”

The breaking bread business event was organised to promote the kind of understanding that would make Oldham a cohesive community capable of once again thriving, as it did in the days of cotton manufacturing. Muzahid Khan DL from Asian Business Leaders explained to the guests the significance of Ramadan and the similarities between all faiths. “The Quran refers to Mary more than 70 times. We see everyone around this table as a friend and during the Holy Month Muslims often invite people to their homes to meet their families – and see if the men really do wash the dishes! We used to organise these meetings often, but obviously COVID put a stop to that. We are so pleased to see people again.”

Topics for discussion around the table included the impact of Brexit on the economy and training young people for the posts that need filling. “Eight of the twelve apprentices we have hired have gone onto full time-work and young people who are not academically minded need these kinds of practical courses to get on. I didn’t get qualifications or go to university and started from scratch. Young people need encouragement to start their own business” said Craig Barratt.

Frank Rothwell also built-up his own company some 40 years ago. Now retired, he is concerned about his grandchildren’s future. “I get them to help me in the garage” said Frank who is Oldham’s Business Ambassador, “and teach them to fix things. Young people need to learn practicalities.”

Frank, Janine and Craig all felt that they had benefited from their fast, not least to realise how hard it is to do. “You do get used to it after a few years” admitted Bilal Rahman, Managing Director of world-leading vaping manufacturer, I-Breathe, “and you feel so refreshed as the fast really cleanses you.”

Asian Business Leaders connects captains of industry and helps share best practice. The scheme also organises the coveted Greater Manchester Business Leaders Awards. For more information, go to



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