The meteoric rise of businessman Sudhir Ruparelia has been well documented over the years. His rise is one that was driven by passion, pedigree and desire to be a better person.
Born in in 1956 in Kabatoro, Kasese, a small town in western Uganda, Sudhir would overcome the political turmoil of the 1970s under President Idi Amin Dada who expelled all Asians of Indian origins, to become one of the richest men in Africa.
In August 1972, Sudhir who was only 16 relocated to the United Kingdom with his family following the expulsion of Indians by President Amin. While in the UK the youthful Sudhir would craft his business acumen by undertaking odd jobs, working in factories, supermarkets and as a cab driver.
He saved some money and returned to his 'beloved Uganda' in 1985, a few months before President Museveni took leadership of this country. With just $25, 000 he would embark on a journey that saw him establish a business empire that has diligently served this country with earnest.
In various press interviews Sudhir says his first investment project upon his return to Uganda was importing salt and other basic commodities that were lacking in Uganda from Kenya. He later bought properties in Kampala from the profits he made before venturing into selling and importing beer, again from Kenya which had a relatively stable economy.
"It soon occurred to me that the greater profit was in importing beer oneself, so I became the biggest importer of beer to Uganda. You have to remember that none of the Uganda-based beer factories were operating. I imported Tusker from Kenya." Sudhir is quoted in an article that was published in Daily Monitor in October, 2012.
He says the beer business created the cash-flow he needed at the time. But because he was trading in dollars and shillings, he was inspired to start a foreign-exchange business. Crane Forex Bureau was born. He reveals that he was the 'largest dealer in foreign exchange within six months and have remained so until now.'
Sudhir continued to prosper now that economy had been liberalized by the Museveni government. The continued success of his forex business, money lending and financial consultancy saw the birth of Crane Bank, a fully-fledged commercial bank in 1995.
From the birth of Crane Bank, Sudhir has never looked back, rising to be East Africa’s richest man and number 18 in Africa as revealed by US magazine Forbes in 2012. Forbes put Sudhir’s worth at about $1.2billions.
Sudhir under his conglomerate Ruparelia Group of Companies owns businesses in real estate, education, hospitality and entertainment, banking, insurance and financial services and the agriculture sector.
Through these businesses he has uplifted millions of Ugandans through direct and indirect employment, philanthropy, inspiration, business partnerships and many other ways. For the last three decades Sudhir has been one of the largest tax payers.
In 1995 Sudhir established Crane Bank on Kampala road. The Bank went on to become a major force in the banking industry winning international awards for its contribution to the country’s financial sector.
From a single brank on Kampala road, the bank grew to have 46 branches across the country employing directly about 600 Ugandans and thousands indirectly. It was a major source of credit and loans to many local businesses. As a local bank, it inculcated a saving spirit in many Ugandans which helped them grow financially.
But a turbulent and an inconsistent economic environment saw the bank struggle in 2015 making a reported loss of Ush3bn and increased non-performing loans. Bank of Uganda the regulator of the financial sector later took over its management in 2016 before selling it to DFCU Bank in 2017.
Sudhir also have other investments in the financial sector including Crane Financial Services, Crane Forex Bureau, Karibu Forex Bureau, Redfox Bureau De Change, Stanhope Forex Bureau and an insurance company called Goldstar Insurance Company Limited. These continue to employ and impact many lives of Ugandans.
Hotels and Resorts
Under the Speke Hotel Group, Sudhir has over the years established numerous high end and budget hotels in Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and other parts of Uganda. These include Kampala Speke Hotel, Kabira Country Club, Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, Speke Apartments Limited, Tourist Hotel, Speke Resort and Conference Centre, Forest Cottages, Dolphin Suites among others.
The Munyonyo Speke Resort complex is a 5-star Hotel and resort which sits on 76 acres on an idyllic setting at Munyoyo on the shores of Lake Victoria. A report by Ventures Africa says this is easily the most valuable asset in his extensive property portfolio.
The resort has 59 Presidential suites, mainly because in 2007, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting took place there and 59 Heads of state were present.
Other facilities include 10 state-of-the-art conference rooms, including a 1,000-seat ballroom and 9 multi-function meeting rooms accommodating groups of 10 to 300. The resort also has Uganda’s only Olympic size swimming pool, an equestrian centre and a choice of bars and restaurants.
The collection of these hotels offer employment to Ugandans directly at the hotels as chefs, waiters and waitress and support staff. The hotels also directly consume local agricultural produce from Ugandan farmers.
These hotels offers recreational facilities to Ugandans. Many Ugandans have held their weddings, parties at any of Sudhir hotels, giving them a good time.
Biggest flower grower and exporter
Every venture Sudhir puts his hands onto prospers. Even in agriculture the businessman has enjoyed success. He is the leading grower and exporter of flowers in the country through his Premier Roses and Rosebud, both located in Entebbe, Uganda.
Rosebud Ltd is the country's largest exporter of roses commanding around 40% of Uganda's rose-export market while Premier Roses produces the highest quality cut roses in the world.
Both companies redefined the flower growing business in Uganda by introducing unique technology and utilising modern equipment technology, such as metallic greenhouses, grading hall and leading cold-room facilities, as well as a fully computerised hydroponic irrigation system.
Rosebud’s Ravi Kumar said they export about 15 million flower stems every month and about 150 million stems of flower annually. This contributes millions of shillings in terms of taxes. Sitting on 46 acres, Rosebud employees hundreds of people. The same is said of Premier roses.
Schools and a University
Sudhir has over the years said that his knack for education inspired him to massively invest in quality education. He has a primary school, Kampala Parents School, which follows a local curriculum but is run under international standards. Its good performance has continued to be a benchmark for many schools.
His other international schools Delhi Public International School-Naguru and Kampala International School Kampala (KISU) have established good record offering international curriculums following an investment workth $150m.
Kampala Victoria University has risen from its former shadows to be one of the leading private universities in the country. The Jinja road based University is research driven, attracting schoolars from over 30 countries in the world.
It has the most unique classroom facilities and tools, most of which you can’t find in public universities. With these investments, you cannot ignore Sudhir’s contribution to the education sector.
He has not only employed hundreds of Ugandan teachers but has offered a place for Ugandan children to acquire knowledge and proper career guidance from professional educators.
Real Estate and Property Development
Through Meera Investments Ltd and Crane Management Services Limited (C.M.S.), Sudhir has become the biggest and wealthiest landlord in Kampala. In the decades since its establishment in 1994, Meera Investments, has built a reputation with its innovative ideas in real estate, particularly in property development and construction, throughout Kampala.
Crane Management Services Limited is a highly professional property management company, in operation since 1996. It has a rich asset base and forms part of a financially sound group having diversified business interests. It manages of the Ruparelia properties in the entire country.
These two companies have made Sudhir an enviable property mogul. They have been spearheaded a vast property acquisition and expansion in the recent years. Hundreds of engineers, architects and thousands of manual laborers have been employed by these two companies.
Some of Sudhir’s most known properties in Kampala include Crane Chambers on Kampala Road; City House on Luwum/William Streets; Raja Chambers, Baumann House; Police HQ, and Development House on Parliamentary Avenue; and Platinum House on Market Street.
He has recently added Kampala Boulevard on Kampala road and Speke Apartments on Wampewo avenue adjacent Jinja road. All buildings that housed the now defunct crane bank belong to him. All his hotels are housed in his properties. He is reporteded to own a quarter of Kampala’s prime land and properties.
The businessman shares his blessings with the unfortunate Ugandans through his Ruparelia Foundation. The Foundation has undertaken numerous Corporate Social Responsibility activities across the country.
From education, sports, general welfare, poverty eradication, improving livelihoods, supporting the welfare of wildlife and preservation of the environment by fostering partnerships among businesses, corporations, with the government, non-governmental organizations and individuals, the Foundation has done it all.