Previous Forum Events

The Forum Breakfast (May 2018) -  Raj Aggarawal OBE

Pharmacy entrepeneur outlines his values for achieving business success

Raj Aggarawal OBE speaks to The Forum

ONE of South Wales' leading entrepreneurs has spoken about the principles that have driven him through his career – and why there will never be a substitute for hard work for achieving business succeed.

Raj Aggarawal OBE, who successfully built a group of pharmacies in the Cardiff area, and then the online fragrance company with his son, told a meeting of The Forum how his father had instilled key principles in him from a very early age.

"Quality, service, and satisfaction are key values in business. I have a lot of happiness in what we achieve. I enjoy keeping customer service levels high. We want to make customers feel how we would want to feel," said Raj.

"But the staff are your greatest asset – they need to be led, they need to be looked after, paid well, and valued."

Raj, who is also a public health expert and the first ever Honorary Consul for India with jurisdiction for Wales, won a place at the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University.

He graduated with a B.Pharms (Hons) 2.1 in Pharmacology, and joined Boots UK as a graduate trainee. He rose to become one of the company's youngest-ever regional managers, looking after high-profile stores including Oxford Street, London.

On a visit to Cardiff in 1982, he was introduced to a pharmacy on City Road and decided that he would rather run his own business rather than work for someone else. Resigning from Boots, he bought this first shop. Over the next decade, Raj built up a chain of six pharmacies, and a significant business in and around Cardiff. In 2008 Central Pharmacy, which Aggarwal still owns and operates, was awarded the Best in UK Clarins Gold Salons Award.  In 2010 Aggarwal was named UK 2010 Pharmacy Business Entrepreneur of the Year.

"In the early days I worked 16-17 hours a day, and lived 'above the shop' Yes, there were sleepless nights, wondering if I had done the right thing, but these are the sorts of things you have to do to make a business succeed.

He told The Forum that throughout his business career, building strong relationships had been critical, and that a trusted hand-shake was often sufficient.

Asked if online pharmacy sites were a risk to community pharmacies, Raj said: "The Pharmacy network offers professional advise , support and appropriate medication. People going online need to ensure the supplier is regulated and they may be looking to purchase discreet medication or doing it for convenience."

  • The Forum is collaboration between Cardiff School of Management, Kilsby Williams, Berry Smith, Santander Corporate & Commercial, and Effective Communication, and provides an annual public lecture and an invite-only business breakfast club with guest speakers.

For more information contact Alastair Milburn at or 029 2083 8310 / 07813 857328.

The Forum Breakfast (June 2017) - Graham Hillier (Tidal Lagoon)

TIDAL lagoons such as Swansea Bay will bring significant 'blue tourism' benefits as well as its alternative energy, a senior executive behind the scheme told an audience of business people.

Graham Hillier, Managing Director of Development, Tidal Lagoon Power, said the water within the breakwaters would enable enhanced sailing and other water sport experiences, while marine aquaculture such as oyster farming could also emerge.

Speaking to The Forum business network group at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Graham said the benefits of the lagoons would be extensive and long.

"We are talking about a whole ecosystem with a 120-year legacy replacing historical industries, and Swansea would be just the start. We envisage a fleet of lagoons around the UK, and also potential for sites in France, India, Canada and Mexico."

The company is waiting for the go ahead for the Swansea Bay project from the Westminster Government following the publication of the Hendry Review into the feasibility and practicality of tidal lagoon energy in the UK.

Subject to its approval, Graham said work on other lagoons, especially Cardiff, would follow, with a possible start date for Cardiff by the mid to late 2020s.

The Cardiff project would dwarf the Swansea Bay lagoon, with a breakwater of 22 kilometres, and 60-90 turbines generating eight to ten times the energy which would be produced at Swansea – enough to power every home in Wales.

"We have to get Swansea going first, and learn from that experience to enable us to deliver the bigger schemes. It would be foolish to embark on a scheme the size of Cardiff first," said Graham.

He said Tidal Lagoon was talking to the likes of Crossrail, and Horizon, the company behind the new nuclear plant at Wylfa, sharing ideas and best practise on issues such as skills and training for such large infrastructure projects.

"The logistics involved in these projects are enormous, which is why Swansea Bay is so important as a pathfinder, effectively giving birth to a supply chain for future tidal lagoons."

The Forum Breakfast (May 2017) - Ian Cummings (Advisor to Tiny Rebel Brewing Company)

AWARD-WINNING Tiny Rebel's new £2.6 million brewery and visitor attraction is close to completion and ready for a summer opening.

The new facility at Wern Industrial Estate, Rogerstone, will enable the company to produce up to 5 million litres per annum – or some 90 million pints – a far cry from its origins in a garage five years ago.

Since the brewery was started by co-founders Brad Cummings and Gazz Williams, the business has developed significant markets both domestically and globally, and currently brews two million litres a year. The company has also opened two Tiny Rebel Bars in Cardiff and Newport, while one of its core range, the Welsh red ale Cwtch – was named the Champion Beer of Britain 2015.

The new facility - designed by Powell Dobson - will cover nearly 30,000 square feet, and will include a bar and event space for up to 400 people, as well as capacity for bottling and canning lines.

Speaking at a meeting of The Forum, Ian Cummings, advisor to Tiny Rebel Brewing Co, said, the new facility was a key milestone in the brewery's journey.

"This is a business that grew out of two lads who loved brewing in their spare time, and who experimented with different brews for a year in the back of a garage, before agreeing they had six core beers they could sell and market.

"The on-going issue has been having enough capacity to cope with demand, no sooner had we thought we located an adequate home for a new brewery, demand then took us beyond that location.

"We realised we needed to look at a far bigger scale to match the potential of the business and we believe this new facility will more than accommodate our current and future capacity."

Ian said the summer opening should provide the senior team with some time to enjoy their journey and success.

But he said work was ongoing to develop a number of overseas markets, including China, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. "Bottling and canning makes that much easier to achieve."

And he said there would be an increasing focus on both maintaining and developing the Tiny Rebel brand.

"Brand is so important in the food and beverage market, and there is always a danger that there is a dilution of that brand as you become more mainstream, and less, artisan."

Ian is well-known in the South Wales business community. He founded C&C Electrical in 1987, and in 2002, he purchased Whitehead Electrical Engineering, incorporating a mechanical section. Today, the business Whitehead Building Services employs more than 170 staff at three locations across South Wales and the West of England.

Forum Annual Lecture 2016 Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP

Forum Annual Lecture 2016

The Forum Annual Lecture 2016 was delivered on Thursday 10th November by the Secretary of State for Wales, Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP.

During the lecture, the Secretary of State urged leaders from all sectors to follow the example of Wales' universities – by seeking opportunities in Europe and beyond.

Mr Cairns challenged the Welsh business and political establishment to use the example set by the Higher Education sector post-Brexit in the major speech. He said: "We must all take a positive approach to make the most of the change Brexit will bring about. "There is no better example of a university reaching out to the world than Cardiff Met".

Speaking at the University's Cardiff School of Management, Mr Cairns said it is time to think about Wales' role in the wider world in "five to 10 years time". "There has never been a greater need for a stable, outward looking, international approach from Government, business and universities here in the UK. "The Wales Bill currently going through Parliament is the opportunity to move discussion forward from convoluted constitutional debates to actually talking about the issues that really concern people on the doorstep".

Mr Cairns said that Wales always had a strong voice in the wider world through culture, industry and innovation and paid tribute to "the historic contribution of our country to the world, and the links with diaspora communities that continue today. I want to grow and strengthen these vital links across the globe."

Mr Cairns concluded: "In this new post-Brexit world we have a tremendous opportunity, but also responsibility, to work together – UK Government, Welsh Government and the people of Wales – to deliver a future that works for everyone". A vote of thanks for the Secretary of State's lecture was delivered by Cardiff Metropolitan University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Cara Aitchison.

Read the WalesOnline article.

​​​​​​The Forum Breakfast (October 2016) - Debra Barber (Cardiff Airport)

CARDIFF Airport has overcome its 'empty restaurant syndrome' to achieve 27 per cent growth in passenger numbers in the past year.

Airport managing director Debra Barber said the airport had become one of those empty restaurants people pass by, to go to a busier one, even though the empty one might provide better food and service.

"The airport had reached a point where passengers and airlines didn't see us as an option any more," Debra said. Read more here​​

​​The Forum Breakfast (June 2016) - Alwen Williams (BT)

The Forum Breakfast (June 2016) - Guest, Alwen Williams, BT Director, Wales

Alwen Williams 1.jpg

Alwen joined BT in January 1996 as a member of the Welsh Language Bureau in Colwyn Bay. She then spent over ten years in Cardiff initially joining the BT Wales corporate communications team and later developing her career further in communications and stakeholder management. Her various roles in marketing and internal communications led her to gain specific expertise and experience in developing and leading communication during transformational change.

More recently Alwen held a number of roles in HR, specialising in employee engagement and culture change as well as her most recent role developing and leading the engagement, communication and business adoption strategy and plan for BT's HR Transformation programme in the UK and across 71 countries globally. Alwen was appointed as BT Director Wales in September 2015. She is a co-opted member of both the Business Wales Board and the Deeside Enterprise Zone Advisory Board.

The Forum Breakfast (April 2016) - Scott Waddington (Brains)

The Forum Annual Lecture 2015 – Guest,  Dr Kay Swinburne MEP

The Forum Breakfast (April 2016) - Scott Waddington ​(Brains)​

SA Brain's coffee business is poised to become the fourth largest in the UK next year, the company CEO has revealed.

Scott Waddington said the Coffee#1 chain continued to expand, with new shops being actively sought across the UK.​

​​​​The Forum Annual Lecture 2015 – Dr Kay Swinburne MEP

The Forum Annual Lecture 2015 – Guest,  Dr Kay Swinburne MEP

​The Forum Annual Lecture 2015 – Guest, Dr Kay ​Swinburne MEP​

'Reform, Renegotiation and Referendum: A valid path for the UK to remain in the EU' Dr Swinburne is Conservative MEP for Wales and has an in-depth knowledge of global financial markets. She is shadow Rapporteur on the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and Regulation (MiFID II) and the Regulation on Benchmarks reform as well as being a Substitute Member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, a Member of the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel and a Member of the European Economic Area Delegation.

The Forum Breakfast (October 2015) - Manon Antoniazzi (Welsh Government)

The Forum Breakfast - October 2015, Guest Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism and Marketing for Wales within the

The Forum Breakfast - October 2015, Guest Manon Antoniazzi, CEO, Tourism and Marketing for Wales within the Welsh Government​​

We welcomed Dr. Manon Antoniazzi to talk to us about how Wales is marketing itself to the world, and the issues around attracting tourism and increasing the global profile of the country. Manon is the Chief Executive Officer, Tourism and Marketing for Wales within the Welsh Government. Prior to this she worked in the private sector as a specialist in leadership development and was a member of the household of the Prince of Wales, where she served as a senior Private Secretary from 2004-2012.

The Forum Breakfast (March 2015) - Alan Edmunds (Media Wales)

The Forum Breakfast - October 2015, Guest Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism and Marketing for Wales within the

The Forum Breakfast - ​March 2015, Guest Alan Edmunds, Editor in Chief Media Wales – March 2015​

This meeting welcomed Mr Alan Edmunds; Alan studied law at Bristol and journalism at Cardiff and now has overall responsibility for the Western Mail, Wales online and South Wales Echo. He will talk about the evolution of the media industry, and in particular, the increasing popularity of online news platforms such as his own Wales Online.

The Forum Breakfast (June 2015) - David Stevens (Admiral Group)

The Forum Breakfast – June 2015, Guest David Stevens CBE, Chief Operating Officer Admiral Group

The Forum Breakfast – June 2015, Guest David Stevens CBE, CEO Admiral Group​

This meeting welcomed Mr David Stevens CBE; Chief Operating Officer, Admiral Group plc. David is a founder and Director of Ad​miral and was recruited in 1991 to set up the Admiral Business.

The Forum Annual Lecture 2014 – Barry Naisbitt ​(Santander)

The Forum Annual Lecture 2014 – Guest, Barry Naisbitt Chief Economist Santander UK

The Forum Annual Lecture 2014 – Guest, Barry Naisbitt - Chief Economist Santander UK​

Barry Naisbitt has been Chief Economist for Santander UK – and formerly Abbey – since 1998. His main area of focus is analysing the performance of the UK economy with a particular interest in the housing and savings markets and households' and companies' finances.

​​​The Forum Breakfast - September 2014 - Professor Brian Morgan (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

​​The Forum Breakfast - September 2014, Guest Professor Brian MorganThe first meeting welcomed Professor Brian Morgan to talk to us on 'Cardiff Capital Region Board – the latest update'. Brian is the Future Skills Agenda Lead on the board and will provide the catalyst for discussion on this and related topics.