In the news: Karan Bilimoria

September 17, 2004

Karan Bilimoria, whose Cobra beer has helped to wash down countless curries, was this week named the Government's graduate entrepreneur.

Mr Bilimoria, who came up with the idea of Cobra beer while studying law at Cambridge University, became the first national champion of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, which was launched this week. The council aims to establish entrepreneurship as a viable career choice for graduates.

Mr Bilimoria said a higher education qualification was not necessary to become a successful entrepreneur, citing the examples of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who dropped out of university, and Richard Branson, head of the Virgin empire, who left school at 16.

But Mr Bilimoria, who is also a qualified accountant, said: "My view is that if you have a higher education, it is such an asset. I wouldn't have given up my education for anything. It's a growing-up and broadening experience. And I remember thinking, 'if all else fails, I can get a job as an accountant'."

Mr Bilimoria, 43, dreamt of creating less-gassy lager to accompany Indian food while an undergraduate and, within six months of graduating with a £20,000 student debt, he set up Cobra, a company now worth more than £60 million.

He was born in India and came to the UK to study at the age of 19. His parents warned him that if he decided to work here, the glass ceiling would prevent him from reaching the top. He said that at Cambridge in the mid-1980s "the words enterprise and business didn't exist".

Mr Bilimoria is governor of Thames Valley University and guest lecturer at numerous business schools. He is a visiting entrepreneur at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge and sits on numerous boards, supports many charities and still finds time for a game of polo about once a year.

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