Sugar’n’spice, 5.5.06

The latest man to be ‘fired’ in The Apprentice has hit back at critics who claim that he would make a rubbish businessman.

Syed Ahmed is the 31-year-old IT professional who stood out as one of the more cocky contestants in the BBC series.

TiE UK branded the show a gimmick. Alpesh Patel, a charter member of the group which has mentored 100 young Asian entrepreneurs since 2000, said: “The contestants are incapable of running a business successfully. They lack personal commitment, insight and an ‘I will’ attitude.”

But Syed told Eastern Eye: “I would suggest they apply for the next show and see how they get on. You don’t have 14 people competing for one spot in any business.

“Running a business is not about competing with your own staff. The fact that I do run a successful business of my own is living proof that I have to work as a team.”

Syed said he will use the experiences he gained on the show for his two-year-old firm, IT People – and get his own apprentices. He said: “I am looking for like-minded, hungry sales people who are motivated, ambitious and determined to succeed to help build my own empire now.”

The Bangladesh-born business graduate grew up in the east end of London, a fact he constantly highlighted on the show probably because the programme’s hire-and-fire boss, Amstrad chief Sir Alan Sugar, also hails from the area.

Syed, however, disagreed: “My years of growing up in the east end was a tremendous learning curve. It made me streetwise and a better businessperson. I am very proud of that fact and wouldn’t change that for anything.”

Syed plans to make the area the focal point of his community programme to visit school children and motivate and inspire them.

He added: “The 10 weeks on the show were like a crash course in business. I went in there to test my skills against the best in the business and I have come back a stronger, more determined person.”

Someone who managed to strike a chord with the snappish and no-nonsense Sir Alan, Syed looks up to him as a father figure now. He was among the few favoured contestants to get off-camera moments of advice from the fiery boss.