Indian tyre tycoon says idle British workers just want to go down the pub

  • Neeraj Kanwar is boss of Apollo Tyres
  • Company has seven factories around the world – but none in the UK
  • Employment expert labels Kanwar’s comments as ‘crude national stereotyping’

Stereotyping: Neeraj Kanwar is managing director of Indian firm Apollo Tyres

Stereotyping: Neeraj Kanwar is managing director of Indian firm Apollo Tyres

The boss of a multinational tire giant has said he will not build a factory in the UK because British workers “hardly work – they go to the pub”.

London-based Neeraj Kanwar is managing director of Indian firm Apollo Tyres, which has seven factories around the world – including a European base in Hungary – but none in the UK.

Kanwar, 52, who also owns an Italian restaurant in London called Scalini, blamed the welfare state for making it less important for people to keep a job. But an employment expert branded Kanwar’s comments as ‘crude national stereotyping’.

Apollo, which had revenues of £2.3 billion in the latest financial year to the end of March 2023, employs more than 18,000 staff worldwide and is a long-term sponsor of Manchester United.

In the UK, the company has a ‘thin’ team of around 30 working on its corporate branding, finance and some HR operations. It also has one of two innovation hubs in the UK – with the other in Hyderabad in India – and has a link with the University of Glasgow, which is working on areas such as artificial intelligence to increase productivity at its factories.

But Kanwar dismissed the idea of ​​manufacturing in the UK, given the scarcity of workers.

“There is no incentive to go to the UK,” he said.

‘Hungary has given us incentives, the cost of labor is much more competitive and then the cost of production becomes much easier. And you know what the workforce is like in the UK. They hardly work – they go to the bar.’

Kanwar said the comment was a quip, but added: ‘I think because of government policy, people can sit at home and get pensions and they don’t have to work, and that’s a big policy issue.’

Apollo was founded in the 1970s by Kanwar’s grandfather Raunaq Singh. Kanwar’s London base is also a ‘semi-headquarters’ for Apollo’s global operations outside India. The comments come as London faces a battle to re-establish itself as a hub for international business chiefs, many of whom have chosen to base themselves in the UK or list their businesses here, even when their main operations are overseas.

Kanwar’s views have been criticized by labor market economist John Philpott. He said: ‘It strikes me as gross national stereotyping which would be condemned if a British employer made about workers overseas.

‘Workers in all developed countries tend to become more choosy about job choices as income levels and education improve, which is one reason why migrant labor is used to fill lower paid roles.

‘But there is little evidence to suggest that able-bodied people with few other options may refuse work because of the availability of benefits. Indeed, one can see from the fact that so many young educated Britons end up in lower-skilled and insecure jobs in the so-called gig economy that an easy life on benefits spent in the pub is not a widespread preference. ‘