James Caan says it was a 'special feeling' to be honoured by a university for his long-standing charitable work.

The honorary degree from the University of Bradford recognises the work of the James Caan foundation and his work with disadvantaged young people.

In an exclusive interview with Asian Image James has also spoken about his own experiences as a young entrepreneur and his feeling about the state of the British Economy. His thoughts come two days after the Autumn budget statement.

James said he got more satisfaction from doing charity work than his business success.

“I think for me this is quite special as most of the recognition I have got in the past has been for business.

“I think to be recognised for this has a special feeling to it. the charity work has been so rewarding and satisfying for me.

“If you are in a fortunate enough position to have achieved some degree of success, then it is important to share something like that for those who are not so fortunate.

“I find it amazing that the adrenalin flows more doing this than when I am in business.”

James began his charitable work following the sale of one of his businesses in 2005 when he took a ‘gap year’ and used some of the time to visit his homeland of Pakistan.

Upon setting the extreme poverty and lack of education facilities first-hand, he set up the James Caan Foundation (JCF) in order to spend much more of his time on causes close to his heart.

His first major project was to build a school, in his father’s name, in his hometown of Lahore. As a result of his efforts the over 400 of the most deprived children in the area are educated, fed and clothed.

“The principle of giving back is important is its own right. To me personally I think giving back per se is my motivation.

“I want to give back here as much as anywhere else, because ultimately Britain created the opportunity for me to do what I do.

“It is not just about giving back to Pakistan. Pakistan is important as people don’t have the opportunities that they have here and it has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.

“I am just as conscious in philanthropy in the UK though. There are a lot of families here too that are not doing as well as they could.

“It is really important not just to focus on Pakistan and we have a responsibility to the community here too."

James has been a champion for entrepreneurship and social enterprise and this is most evident through his long standing association with many charitable organisations, and in particular those organisations that work with disadvantaged young people to build their confidence and harness their talents, such as the Prince’s Trust and Mosaic. Despite becoming one of the voices of British Business and entrepreneurship he says he wasn’t completely sure he would be a success when he started.

“There is nothing unique in what I did. I didn’t have a degree.

“If anyone wasn’t going to make it then I should have been on top of that list!."

James returns to Pakistan every three months to keep abreast of the charitable investments in school and villages there. He did admit though that he would find it difficult to set-up a business there.

“Pakistan is a testing place at the best of times.

“I have spent 50 years of my life here. I simply don’t have contacts to work there and I think you have to have lived there to work there.”

In a week when the chancellor hinted it would take a lot longer for the UK economy to recover, James had his own feelings about how the economy could be kick-started.

“I think right now Britain is in better shape than our European partners. The economy from a global perspective is challenging.

“Given the choice, Britain is a better place to be in. It is pretty stable and I think we have seen the worse of it.

“I think to me, historically, recovery has been through government spending.

“For the first time the government can’t do that. We just don't have the money.

“Secondly, we have relied on the corporate sector. I don’t think the corporate sector is in a good enough shape.

“It leaves us with the SME’s market. There are 4.9 million businesses that represent 60% of the UK workforce. I would be really be focussing on the small businesses."

James is presently heading the £82.5 million StartUp Loan scheme for 18 to 24-year-olds. The StartUp Loans are expected to be worth around £2,500, to be repaid within five years.

It was something he was passionate about and urged young people wanting to get into business to take up this valuable opportunity.

“It has been amazing being part of this.”