ONE of the driving forces behind an ambitious opticians group has been recognised for his outstanding entrepreneurial talents.

Imran Hakim has guided the Darwen-based Hakim Group to the point where it now has more than a hundred surgeries under its umbrella.

And his eye for the main chance has resulted in the Bolton-born chief executive being named as EY’s northern Entrepreneur of the Year.

He also secured the Scale Up prize at the same awards, which have previously lauded such figures as Stelios Haji-Ioannou, of Easyjet fame, Dragon’s Den investor Peter Jones and Richard Reed, a founding partner of Innocent Drinks.

Working out of India Mill in Darwen and established in 2006, Mr Hakim now has interests across the north, Midlands, Northern Ireland and beyond.

The CEO has also devoted time to mentoring business students at Bolton University.

In essence, his outfit is designed to allow independent opticians, such as Eyesentials in Leyland, Sarah Dineen in Hadfield or Daybell and Choo, in Sheffield, to do what they know best, while providing back office support.

Mr Hakim said: “These awards may have my name on them but they are testament to the tireless work put in by our independent practice owners and practice teams, as well as the support team at Hakim HQ

“I was sat alongside some of the biggest and most respected businesses in the country, so for us to be named the overall winner ahead of them is something I’m immensely proud of.

“It’s our people who have allowed this success to be possible so I couldn’t be happier that their commitment has been recognised in this manner.”

Victoria Price, partner and EY Entrepreneur of The Year leader in the North, said: “Imran is a very worthy winner – he has built a support team that has been with the business since the start.

“Coupled with his visionary leadership it is not difficult to see why his business has thrived with a proven track record of generating growth post-acquisition.”