My Indian roots created the entrepreneurial spirit

My Indian roots created the entrepreneurial spirit
My Indian roots created the entrepreneurial spirit

Sudhir Ruparelia is among the wealthiest businessmen in Africa, with an estimated net worth of $800 million. The Ugandan-born entrepreneur and investor if the chairman and majority shareholder of the Ruparelia Group which has a wide investment span across banking, insurance, education, broadcasting, real estate, hotels and resorts. His story is unique in that his family was among those expelled by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1970s but decided to return to the country to set up his business empire. 'India Global Business' caught up with him to take a trip down memory lane and explore some of his career curves as well as get his views on how India and Africa could work closer together. What would you say is the secret of success In my opinion, success comes from having the courage to take calculated risks and having a goal and clear vision, backed by determination and commitment. But even with all that, no one succeeds without putting in a lot of hard work and effort. I still work 12 or more hours a day. Do you remember your first job; were there lessons to be learnt there My first job was in a factory in London just after the Asian expulsion by Idi Amin and one can imagine. I had never worked before in my life. It was pretty hard. Most people who I was working with were from east London and even understanding their English was a big problem. As they spoke Cockney not the Queen's English. You are described as among the wealthiest in Africa; what does wealth mean to you I suppose your perception of wealth changes overtime - when I was young and striving to build my business, it meant creating financial independence, having all the good things in life such as a house, car, holidays etc. But as you attain wealth, it begins to have a deeper meaning, being grateful, more charitable, mindful of others not as fortunate as yourself, creating employment for others and having businesses that serve the society and the country you live in. You were among the few who returned to Uganda; what made you decide that I suppose the country you are born in will always have that attraction. Besides, Uganda is a wonderful country, called the Pearl of Africa because it has many attractions and the people are friendly. Our family came to African Kenya in 1893 and reached Uganda in 1903 . How do your Indian roots impact your personal and business life I think that my Indian roots probably created the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as realising that nothing can be accomplished without hard work, having a savings culture plus knowing how to look after the businesses once you have created them. In terms of personal life, it is part of my identity and culture, including being a family man. Moreover, I see Hinduism as a way of life not a religion. Do you think India and Uganda could collaborate closely in some areas Most definitely - there is already collaboration and this now needs to be taken at a higher level in areas like agriculture, ICT and health. Relationship between Uganda and India spans over 125 years . Are Indian companies doing enough in the region Is there untapped potential Like the rest of the world, Indian companies are aware that Africa is the new emerging economic frontier. While in the private sector the Indian community is playing a significant role contributing close to 65 per cent of the tax revenue, there is potential to exploit now the Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and get involved in infrastructure projects like the Chinese are doing. In fact, the Chinese companies are doing a great job in Africa as most of them are state owned. Please tell us about your business empire and some future plans. Our business spans many sectors mainly banking, insurance, real estate, hospitality, education and floriculture. And each sector has its own planned ongoing expansion as a natural progression.

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