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How Baguma spins wine cash from ‘omulondo’ roots

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Baguma and some of his employees  wash the bottles before

Baguma and some of his employees wash the bottles before packaging the liquor. Photo by Edger R. Batte 

By  EDGAR R. BATTE

Posted  Wednesday, December 11  2013 at  13:20
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You have seen hawkers in town selling it. In taxis or on streets, you will see men chewing on the yellow roots commonly known as omulondo. Some claim they are an aphrodisiac.
Thirteen years ago, Solomon Baguma figured out how to make wine from these wild roots.

Baguma, a Computer Science graduate, who found love for Food Science, is the face behind House of Russa— a firm that deals in alcohol beverages with flavour extractions. He makes juice and liqueur out of omulondo roots.

Many Ugandans take it for depression, arthritis and impotence, and are willing to pay an extra buck for it.

He explains, “It is one alcoholic drink that you can take as a pleasure drink at the end of the day to unwind just like you would take a beer. But people attach it to an aphrodisiac. Others say it works as medicine.”
He estimates the worth of his company at Shs200 million.

Demand outstrips supply in firm

Baguma is working towards establishing himself in the market. He packs his drink in used bottles which might bring him patent infringement challenges.

“We buy the bottles from the traders, clean them and recycle them. These are not our bottles so our mode of packaging can cause us legal problems, says Baguma adding that his company intends to get its own bottle.

He hopes to rectify this in half a year in order to grow his customer base.
“We want to improve on our packaging, change the label and have a standard product. Right now, without independent bottling, we are hindered from entering markets across the border,” he adds.

Baguma employs six people who help him through the process of production from cleaning to sorting out the roots and bottling the wine.
“Three [employees] clean and blend while the other three help in packing,” he says.
He also says the playing field in the market is not levelled for a starter like him.

“There are better alcoholic drinks that are as unique as mine and have better packaging as well. I do not have enough capital to scale-up so that customers can find my product in different places,” he adds.

Sometimes, demand for the wineexceeds what Baguma can supply.

Ploughing back profits has grown capital

Baguma explains, “We get these roots, wash them and make sure they are clean. After, we blend them before preparing them for flavour extraction. We blend this extraction with alcohol and later add a little sugar. We then pack the liquor”
However, Baguma makes two types of omulondo liquor; one with sugar and one without sugar.

“We started by bottling six bottles then later 70. From 70 to 200 bottles, that was within a year and a half. Then we moved to 1,000 bottles per production and this year, we have made more than2,000 bottles,” he reveals.
The pricing is according to different bottle sizes that the omulondo is packed in, the young entrepreneur explains.

“The 750ml bottle goes for Shs30,000 in supermarkets while the 300ml bottle goes for Shs20,000. There is a smaller bottle of 200ml which goes for Shs5,000,” he explains the pricing of his products.

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