Why I kept my business local

By - Monday 16th February, 2015

Central London? No thanks. Az Chowdhury explains why

Photo author’s own.

I’ve lived in Croydon most of my life. The Cronx is in my blood. That is what keeps me living in our town, but it’s not enough in itself to justify running my business here. Taking a Braveheart approach to business will likely end in a similarly messy way.

Whilst my professional peers are working from their more traditional offices in Westminster, I’m sat at my desk less than 200 metres from my home. My company, Nudge Factory, has expanded to a team of five over the last few years and, as a boss who is responsible for other people’s livelihoods, I need compelling reasons to base my business here in Croydon. Fortunately, there are plenty.

Our HQ was a kitchen table for a while

Nudge Factory is a corporate affairs consultancy that specialises in corporate social responsibility, community engagement and corporate strategy. The ‘Factory’ part of our name is there because we concentrate on doing things rather than just talking about them, so we are not desk-bound and in turn our office location is flexible. My business partner, Paul Scully, and I started Nudge Factory as many entrepreneurs do, working from home. Paul’s kitchen table in Carshalton was HQ for a while.

Although we are working with multinational corporates across London and further afield, we have a number of projects here in Croydon, most notably the Croydon Partnership’s Whitgift Centre regeneration and several residential schemes with Inspired Homes which are developing in Old Town. Basing ourselves in Croydon allows us to be on hand for the myriad of meetings around the complexities of the process of transforming the town centre. That is reason enough to retain a Croydon base, but one that is particular to Nudge Factory.

The centre of Croydon has a real energy about it

The 100% business rates relief scheme for small businesses was a great nudge to keep us in Croydon rather than Sutton, but we have taken a longer term view rather than just banking on an immediate cash boost. Getting into central London is far quicker than from many parts of the capital served by the Underground system. The 15 minutes that it takes to get to London Bridge – even if it can seem to take another 15 minutes to get from one side of that station to the other at the moment with the building work – would be envied by residents of Holloway Road, a mere one-third of the distance away. Sutton is only one mile further away from London Bridge than East Croydon, but it takes nearly an hour to travel by train between the two during off-peak hours. That’s a non-starter for me and my team, with numerous city-based meetings each week.

The centre of Croydon has a real energy about it at the moment. There is a palpable sense of anticipation felt by people about the results of the enormous investment driven by the work of Westfield and Hammerson. This is matched with business initiatives such as Croydon Tech City and the community-based business organisation behind the South End Food Festival. There is a drive to bring the community together demonstrated by, but not limited to, events such as the one formerly known as West Croydon Carnival: (more about the forthcoming change to its name and style in my next article). Though there is much that the two political parties that dominate Croydon politics disagree about, they have a unified desire to see the regenerative changes through.

Last but not least, I know that come lunchtime, I can get great Indian food at Ty’s Kitchen in Matthew’s Yard, Chinese food from the trailer on Surrey Street that rivals any restaurant for miles around, a restaurant to impress clients at Albert’s Table, Japanese, Italian, Caribbean and more, all within a short walk of my desk. In the (increasingly few) evenings I have some time off and the city of London goes quiet, Croydon comes alive and I can relax after a productive day knowing that I’ve only got a short walk home.

I’ll leave the commuting to others; Croydon gives me everything I need to run a successful, growing business.

Ahzaz Chowdhury

Ahzaz Chowdhury

Ahzaz (Az) Chowdury is the founder and Managing Partner of Croydon-based corporate affairs agency Nudge Factory. With experience of working at national government level, Az advises businesses on CSR, communications and community relations. Having lived in Croydon for all but his first four years, he is proud to have kept his business local and to be involved in promoting the regeneration of Croydon's town centre.

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  • Andrew Dickinson

    Loving it. Great positive piece Az