Create a business that gives you a constant cash flow –Sudhir
Sudhir Ruparelia is a businessman and entrepreneur in Uganda. He is the Chairman and
majority shareholder in the companies of the Ruparelia Group. His investments are
mainly in the areas of banking, insurance, education, broadcasting, real estate,
floriculture, hotels and resorts. He owns a quarter of the buildings strategically
located in Kampala’s central business district. He owns Crane Chambers on Kampala
Road, City House on Luwum/William streets; Raja Chambers, Baumann House, the
building housing the Police headquarters and Development House — all located on
Parliamentary Avenue. He also owns Platinum House on Market Street. He has built a
few, but most of his buildings have been acquired from people who default on loans
from his money lending services. His business empire includes hotels: Speke Resort
Munyonyo, Kabira Country Club, Speke Hotel on Nile Avenue and Tourist Hotel on
Dastur Street. He owns Crane Bank, Crane Forex Bureau, Meera Investments and Gold
Trust Insurance Company. He is also into agri-businesses like flower growing
(Rosebud) and the education sector, running schools like Kabira International School
and Kampala Parents School. While speaking to eager young entrepreneurs and
enthusiasts at the 360° Network Ask the Entrepreneur forum last month, the business
shared a few secrets to investment success.
How do you formulate business winning ideas?
Sudhir: I do business which suits my lifestyle. I don’t do business because someone
is successful in it. I own hotels because I’m outgoing and love meeting people. I am
into education because I didn’t have much so I want to make good schools in Uganda
to educate people.
Sudhir: My father’s grandfather came to Mombasa in 1897 from India. They were
traders. They were dealing with workers on the railway site. In 1903, they reached
Uganda. My father was born in Uganda in 1932 and I was I was born in 1956 in
Kabatooro Kasese to a middle class father, not rich, not poor! I could afford two
pairs of School clothes a year.
Capital to start business
Sudhir: In 1972, when I was 16, I followed my parents to UK. When I landed in UK, I
had to support myself in London while my parents lived up north. The first thing I
wanted was to have my own house, so I took on two jobs and an evening class. No job
was too small or too big for me -I worked as a baker/butcher in a supermarket and
drove a taxi during the weekend. In 1985, I decided to come back to Uganda -Africa
was in my blood! I came back from the UK with capital worth $25 000.
Building the empire
Sudhir: It took me two years to find out what I really wanted to do. The first thing
I had to do was pay rent. Then I needed something to do. In 1986, I opened the first
shop on Kampala Road. I started with salt –it was the most selling commodity at the
time and by the end of the year made $5000 profit. Then I started dealing in beers
–my capital was limited so I was buying from people who used to import it. I then
partnered with someone, built a trust and made good friends. We started importing
beer ourselves. We basically created a cash flow –this is important because it is
the stepping stone to many other things. You need is to create a business that
gives you a constant cash flow.
In 1989, the beer business came to a standstill. The small stock shop evolved into
wholesale. Then I started foreign exchange with in six months, all banks started
foreign exchange. The government legalized the foreign exchange dealings but levied
heavy charges for transitions. That’s when we looked at Plan B. Banking. We needed
business capital which we had -we were lending money to business people. In 1995
Crane Bank opened with six expert staff and twenty auxiliary staff. We made profits
from banking and spread out to real estate, hotels, and other investments. My
passion was Munyonyo but it needed a lot of money. I started investing everything in
it: I remember my 7-year old son asking me: ‘Dad, is Munyonyo going to bankrupt us?’
What Munyonyo has become is beyond my expectations!
Where does the future lie in business investment?
Sudhir: Every field. The economy is enormous –there is opportunity every where in
the areas of IT, trading, agriculture, industry, commercial firms, food –every field is open. Uganda is a virgin country.
What is your definition of work value?
Time is not quantifiable; what dictates my day is when problems come.