London, Dec 6 - Millionaire businessman Nat Puri, a self-effacing Punjabi who donates half a million pounds to charities every year, is setting up a scholarship for Indian engineering students to study in the London university where he first made his mark.
The Nat Puri Scholarship, which will bring Indians to London South Bank University, is aimed at giving Indian scholars the financial opportunities that Puri himself never had when he first came to Britain from Chandigarh in 1966.
'I didn't get any scholarships, and I didn't have the courage to ask my family for money,' Puri told IANS.
'I checked soccer pool coupons in London on Saturdays and Sundays, and I lived in a rented bedsit. It wasn't the best of lives, but it helped me,' said the man who was listed by the Daily Telegraph newspaper last year as among the 20 wealthiest Asians in Britain.
'My purpose is just to be helpful,' said Puri, who founded the Nottingham-based Purico Group of companies and is valued at 100 million pounds (about $203 million or Rs.8 billion).
The scholarship will begin in October 2008, and may later be expanded to include students from other Commonwealth countries as well.
Puri trained as an engineer at London South Bank University and eventually bought the firm that gave him his first job. He built it up into the Melton Medes group, a packaging-to-plastics conglomerate with sales of 100 million pounds.
He said that although Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were 'doing a fantastic job', they did not have enough places.
'For every IIT admission, there are 10,000 applications,' he said, adding: 'People cannot afford to study abroad, not even people who are in jobs.'
Last week Puri was honoured by his alma mater with an honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in the presence of Lord Navnit Dholakia of the Liberal Party, former chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke and Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker.
Conferring the honour, London South Bank Vice Chancellor Prof. Deian Hopkin said: 'Nat Puri has a certain style of doing things his way. He does it all in his own manner, often defying conventional logic but proving the success of real entrepreneurship.'
'He is a great role model for our own students, proof that through education and endeavour one can achieve anything but also through philanthropy, return the rewards of that achievement to society.'