Priya Lakhani OBE, the founder of national food brand Masala Masala and regular BBC News and BBC World Service contributor, has been announced as the host of Venturefest North West.
The entrepreneur and former Altrincham Grammar School for Girls student will also give a keynote speech that draws on her experiences of identifying and developing new products, at the region’s biggest annual innovation event at Manchester Central on Thursday 13 September.
Having set up Masala Masala and turned it into a line of products now stocked nationally in the major supermarket chains, former barrister Priya went on to establish a charitable arm to the company that donated a meal or vaccination to India’s homeless for every unit the company sold. In 2014, she then founded Century Tech, which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to understand how the brain learns and responds, enabling educators to receive real-time insights to improve student performance.
A member of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Priya is also an Advisory Board Member to the Education Foundation, the UK’s leading education think-tank, and was made an Officer of the British Empire in 2014 for services to business, community and voluntary initiatives. Thanks to her wide range of roles and achievements, Priya is now also a regular contributor to both BBC News and the BBC World Service’s review of global headlines.
She said: “The North West is such a vibrant home to business, and I’m eager to see so many of the region’s forward-thinkers together under the same roof at this unique event.
“Having set up two companies in very different industries, I know the importance of embedding innovation into the culture of a business, whether you’re a manufacturer, tech start-up or work in another field. The benefits a day like this offers in terms of networking, profile-raising and learning from the experiences of others are huge, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Priya will introduce one of the event’s centrepieces, the Innovation Showcase Competition, which is open to start-up and young companies as well as established businesses, with free entries open now at the Venturefest North West website.
Ten finalists will have the chance to pitch their business idea to an audience of potential investors, and win a package of business support worth thousands of pounds. There are four categories to enter: Product Innovation, Service Innovation, Digital Innovation and Innovative Established Business.