engage magazine issue 005 \\\'07 - Page 20

20 OPInIOn Supplier Diversity Working intermediaries – are they working for ethnic minority businesses? There are a variety of different agencies in the UK supporting ethnic minority businesses in the field of supplier diversity, from Minority Supplier Development UK (MSDUK) to PDP. But what is their role and how credible are they? Professor Monder Ram OBE, a leading figure in the field of supplier diversity in the UK, spoke to engage. “There are so many working intermediaries that exist to support ethnic minorities. We have Business Link, MSDUK, Fit 2 Supply. They are all there to assist ethnic minority businesses. But are they doing that and who exactly are they assisting? The key question is, however, are these intermediaries assisting ethnic minority businesses, how are they responding? There is undoubtedly immense competition among the agencies themselves to be relevant to ethnic minority businesses and that is exactly what they need to do. That is one of their key purposes.” Professor Monder Ram OBE told engage that in December the findings of a major analysis of 20 companies and organisations that are taking supplier diversity forward will be published. The results will highlight exactly what each of the companies and organisations featured are currently doing in the area of supplier diversity, rather than what they say they aim to do. Most are from the corporate sector while some are from the public sector. Among those featured in the study are MSDUK, Supply Europe, Lehman Brothers and BT. The role of working intermediaries within ethnic minority business development and support was discussed on day one of the Eleventh Annual Ethnic Minority Business Conference that took place on 16 and 17 October 2007 at The Riverside Conference Centre, Luton. T he argument is that the agencies that exist benefit those that are already in a position of being fit to supply. The key challenge is to ensure that they are assisting all ethnic minority businesses. There are two types of intermediaries: those that work with the buyers - the demand side. In other words intermediaries such as Fit2Supply and those that work with the suppliers i.e. MDSUK, Supply Europe. In the past there was too much focus on the supply side and not enough on the demand but things are changing with the arrival of these new initiatives such as PDP and Supply Europe and I broadly welcome the developments that have taken place. What gives these intermediaries credibility is that they have a significant number of organisations [corporate] that want to work with small businesses. engage | uk ISSUE FIVE 2007