The mention of the name, Sudhir is synonymous with money, wealth. The businessman is a symbol of financial success.
His story is inspirational because Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia is a self-made billionaire, having rose from doing humble jobs from supermarket attendant, taxi driver in the United Kingdom to shopkeeper in Kampala back in 1985.
He narrates, “I did various casual jobs in factories, supermarkets, butcheries and many other odd jobs, while studying in the evening until I finished my A ’level. I made some good money and bought my first house in the UK as early as 1975. I continued working and living there until 1985 when I returned to Uganda.”
Today, Sudhir Ruparelia’s business empire spans real estate, education, finance, hospitality, agriculture, to name but a few. He has invested beyond Uganda into economies such as Rwanda, United Arab Emirates, India, and the United Kingdom. However, he has not lost touch with the ordinary people he meets on the streets, or, who walk into his office on the daily basis asking for help, or advice.
One would imagine, Sudhir who turned 65 years early this year, would want to be remembered for his hard-earned wealth.
During an interview with www.billionairetomorrow.com, a platform that captures stories of billionaires on the African continent, Sudhir spoke at length about his mission.
He clearly showed that he cherishes his humble beginnings, and how he worked his way up. He shared his wisdom on making and keeping money. Above all, he spelled out that he does not generate wealth for the sake of it – rather – it is a means to do good to his community and humanity.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, the chairman of Ruparelia Group, one of Uganda’s top business brands didn’t think twice.
“I would like to be remembered as a good man.” He told the Billionaire Tomorrow webinar, and, a man who keeps his “word”.
For many people who know Sudhir on a personal level, agree that the billionaire minds more about the happiness of people surrounding him, irrespective of their social strata.
However, anyone who witnesses the unrelenting businessman in Sudhir, one who never tires of investing, and growing his wealth, one would think he works towards defining himself as the richest man on the continent.
In his own words, he says: “I just want people to say, I know Sudhir is a good man, a man of his word.”
The Ruparelia group founder has always spoken about keeping one’s word, the building of trust, a key ingredient to the journey of any businessman. He has told of the story of how he has been trusted with merchandise to sell when he was starting out, with his suppliers sure, he would pay them back. That keeping his word was “capital” in itself.
When he returned to Uganda, Sudhir tells of a story when he met a man called Mr Gandesha.
“He was a big property owner, he liked me and said: ‘I have a shop for you come and see me tomorrow.’ The next day we agreed the rent, he gave me the keys and I started my first business. I opened my first shop. The first business we started was selling salt and after a few times, I moved into selling beers. It turned out to be really good for me,” the Ruparelia Group Chairman recalls.
“Within time, we got to know a few people who were actually importing directly. One of them approached me and said look I have a truckload why don’t you buy my beer? I said I don’t have all the money that you are asking me, but I can pay you half now and half at four o clock after two days. He said, OK, I am trusting you and he sold me the whole truck – about 250 cases of beer – I paid him his fifty per cent and when he came after two days the money was ready. For him he was very happy that he got his money in time and turn around his business instead of four times a month he was doing about seven times. So, he started selling me beer then his friends started coming to me and I would do the same thing. So, I created a very good reputation- if you give your word you keep it. Within six months I was the number one beer trader in the country!”
Man of his word
During the webinar, the people who logged in to follow his interview, lauded Sudhir for being a man of his word.
Testimonies poured in backing Sudhir as the father of Uganda’s new money bags, having mentored, lent, or gave seed capital for most of Uganda’s wealthy class.
Among people who credit their success to Sudhir is Patrick Bitature, chairman Simba Group of Companies. Mr. Bitature is one of the most recognized Ugandan entrepreneurs who has always told people that without Sudhir, he would not be anywhere he is today. Ham Kiggundu says the same thing. The number of wealthy people Sudhir has touched is big. And certainly, they are many people who have not kept their word – and have fallen off the cliff.
However Sudhir is a man of all seasons. Whereas A-listers including celebrities, politicians, diplomats, business people, etc court him at every opportunity, he also spares time for people not ranked on any list. You probably have seen photographs of him on a boda boda – to show the significance of being humble, and be part of the general society.
His charity wing, Ruparelia Foundation, has been involved in lots of good works including offering a scholarship, treatment for sick children, sanitation projects in Kampala ghettos, as well as feeding the hungry among others.
Sudhir must be deliberately working for good, particularly that he puts his wealth resources to the benefit of the wide society he expects nothing in return.
“I think, to me that is the biggest reward I can get from people when I am gone. That’s what I want,” he told the Billionaire Tomorrow website.
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