Mr Robert Rutebemberwa built his investment through sheer hard work.
Perhaps that explains why the founder and the chief executive officer of Birya United Agencies Limited is a man of few words as he prefers his actions to do the talking.
A one-on-onemeeting with the grain producer/dealer is one of the shortest you could get as his responses are precise and concise.
And because of his value for time, he has over the years built an investment that so easily made it into the prestigious Top 100 mid-size companies in the country.
How Birya United agencies was started
After mobilising Shs10 million, Mr Rutebemberwa ventured into business with the main aim of making ends meet. Before that, he had a stint with several organisations before eventually making up his mind in 1997 to venture into business full time. This marked the establishment of Birya United Agencies.
Products traded and the market
Being an agricultural country, the Makerere University Business School graduate decided to try his hand at the produce business. And by his own admission, he has never regretted the decision. Being a typical entrepreneur, he has also since ventured into manufacturing of laundry soap.
He is a major supplier and deals in produce such as beans, rice and maize, among other produces. His major markets are government institutions under the internal affairs and Defence ministry. He also supplies Ugandan soldiers outside the country’s borders.
He employs more than 20 people. And depending on the season the number of employment increases.
Delayed payments after delivering the supplies, high cost of credit, let alone escalating cost of doing business in the country remain stinging issues that Mr Rutebemberwa said affect his capacity to deliver at optimum level.
Being ranked among the Top 100 Mid-size companies is an honour, he says. He believes hard work and deliberate aim to be better and professional earned him that prize. And as a result of the successes and experience he has acquired over the years he has since established a laundry soap processing plant called Super Laundry Bar Soap.
He is putting up a large storage room where he will store big volumes of silos. He is also looking out for reasonable credit facilities that will help him expand his businesses further.
Advice to upcoming entrepreneurs
The Mbarara-based businessman believes in hard work and making good use of time. He says young entrepreneurs should not just work hard but also be patient as there will always be a breakthrough in business. However, he warns that it is only those who are prepared and have the endurance to fold their sleeves and get involved that will be the ones that make it to another level.
Making it to Top 100 SME
Birya United Agencies is ranked among Uganda’s Top 100 Mid-size companies. As a requirement, all the surveyed mid-size companies’ annual turnover must range between Shs360m to Shs25b.
Like all other Top Mid-size companies, Mr Rutebemberwa had to provide financial records based on three-year audited accounts for proper scrutiny before being declared among the country’s Top 100 mid-size companies—implying the health of the company is not just excellent but has ability to do business at global level.
According to KPMG, an advisory and audit firm, also one of the brains behind the Top 100 mid-size survey, at least 300 companies were audited and those which made it to the Top 100, including Birya United Agencies, met the criteria that is required of the mid-size companies.
This means that the listed firms in are financially sound and they also have the ability to professionally and ethically do business both within and beyond Uganda.
About the maize business
To be in business throughout the year, if you are a farmer, you may have to start using irrigation rather than solely depending on seasonal rains.
Have a proper storage facility which is huge enough to store as much grain as possible. This will not only protect your produce but also hedge you against price fluctuations.
Never compromise on quality. The better the quality, the higher the pay.
Know your market. It could be internally or beyond the borders.
And did you know that Uganda exports most of her maize within the EAC and Comesa region. According to information from the Uganda Export Promotions Board, the country exported $89.2 million worth metric tons of maize . The year before it exported metric tons worth $38.2 million.
In Kenya demand for maize remains high.
However, Rwanda’s and Tanzania’s maize prices remain a little unsteady due to the recent harvest, which is currently ongoing in most rural parts of Rwanda and Tanzania, resulting into high flow of both green and dry maize into the market.
Calling for value addition
Private Sector Foundation is full of praise for the entrepreneur. The executive director of Private Sector Foundation, Mr Gideon Badagawa said: “The fact that he is ranked among the Top 100 Mid-Size companies, then there is no doubt that he is on the right track.”
He continued: “As an association that speaks for businesses our interest is to advocate for conditions that will make him and his businesses more competitive. We urge him to widen his horizons and keep working hard.
“We must salute him and other businesses for excelling even when sometime the economic environment seems really harsh.”
The Minister of Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, said: “It is good to be in business but it is far better and rewarding if the business adds value before supplying it to the market.”
Improving the product
She continued: “Our policy is to process our produces and I will encourage all those dealing in produce not to sell them raw but process and package them before trading it in the market.”
Given that he mainly trades in grains, industry experts advise him to take extra care in post-harvest interventions which in most cases cannot be considered in isolation from the economic environment in which the dealer/farmer operates.
As a dealer and producer, his role is to develop improved methods which not only work technically but also work economically and make sense in the context of the marketing system, something he is already doing as evidenced by the storage facility he is establishing in Mbarara.
Offering his advice
Birya says young entrepreneurs should not just work hard but also be patient as there will always be a breakthrough in business. However, he warns that success is for only those who are prepared and have the ability to roll up their sleeves and get involved.