Local businesswoman, Kuljit Thiaray is calling on residents of West Yorkshire to help her win a share of £1,000,000 in prizes and pitch her business to Richard Branson as part of the Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 competition.

VOOM 2016 relies on public votes at www.vmbvoom.com to shortlist the UK and Ireland’s most exciting entrepreneurs, and Kuljit, 40 from Leeds, believes Desi High Street has the idea to impress the public.

New online marketplace Desi High Street is the ultimate shopping destination for #AllThingsEthnic. Founded by entrepreneur and mum Kuljit, the business provides an online platform for independent retailers who sell ethnic, ‘Desi’ and South Asian goods.

Having left a successful career as a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Bradford to pursue her own business, Kuljit is dedicated to digitalising a key UK market.

Kuljit says: “My vision is to bring the UK’s ethnic market online, on to one website. We are not taking the shops away from the community, but providing them with an additional income stream to complement their established businesses . We have set out to digitalise a traditional industry in the UK, and to support small businesses in the process. This market has been successful in India, but in the UK retailers have not fully embraced e-commerce.

“Desi High Street is responding to the changing needs of customers and the fact that the UK’s ethnic market has not kept up with them. We are helping these retailers to future-proof their businesses and to compete with international online retailers who are selling directly to UK customers.”

Kuljit’s business innovation has already been recognised, as a finalist in The Times Ready Business Mentor Programme and by gaining a place on the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator programme in Leeds. More recently, she was shortlisted in the We Are The City Rising Star Top 10 in the Entrepreneur’s category, which is also open for a public vote.

“We aim to bring a hand-picked selection of UK retailers together to create an online marketplace on a virtual Desi High Street. We will provide support and guidance for independent retailers of ethnic goods,” continues Kuljit, “We have huge ambitions and would like to support the UK’s ethnic market in a similar way to how ASOS marketplace supports new fashion brands and vintage boutiques, and Not on the High Street supports creative small businesses. We need the local community to vote and show support for us and our founding retailers.”

‘‘Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 is all about seeking out, supporting and celebrating the UK’s and Ireland’s most exciting businesses. It’s the biggest and most valuable pitch competition out there – we’re hoping everyone will find a way to get involved!’ says Sir Richard Branson.