Ugandan Asians: The making of Ruparelia Group

My great-grandfather came to Mombasa in 1897 from India where he had a family farm that sufficed to feed the family plus generate some surplus for the market. Everybody around them was in the same situation, as Gujarat at that time was 90 per cent agricultural. Big landlords owned a majority of the land and extracted a huge proportion of the produce in rent.

Wednesday October 3 2012

Ugandan Asians: The making of Ruparelia Group

Sudhir started Crane Bank from his informal business of lending money and forex. His bank has grown by leaps and bounds. Photo by Eddie Chicco 

The sector had been opened up and Orient had jumped in. In 1995 I launched Crane Bank with six professionals and 20 tellers. I had bought the building from Jamal Ramji family. It had 1 + 2 floors. I extended it to 1 + 7. We have over 300 people working here and 200 others in all our branches in all the major towns in Uganda. The rest is history.

We now employ over 6,000 people throughout Uganda in all sectors of the economy. I am the chairman and majority shareholder in the companies of the Ruparelia Group, comprising major sub-sectors in the services sector - banking, insurance, education, broadcasting, real estate, and hotels and resorts. I am the largest landowner in Kampala, and the figure bandied around that I own a quarter of the buildings in Kampala’s CBD (central business district) is true. The three investments I am most proud of are the resort at Munyonyo and the two public schools. Munyonyo, I love with all my heart because it reflects my own life-style – fun-loving but at the same time family-oriented. Nothing pleases me more than to see families come in at the week-end to enjoy the facilities – the buffet, swimming pool, the outdoor bar. The schools are to compensate for my curtailed education. I am pleased I can make a dent in the lives of the future generations by providing them world-class education. Both schools were built in record time.

Buildings: 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.

Hotels: Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kabira Country Club, Speke Hotel on Nile Avenue, and Tourist Hotel on Dastur Street. The Munyonyo resort is rated at five stars. It was the venue for the Commonwealth Conference in November 2007, with 53 Heads of State present. It has a marina, an equestrian centre, and the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in East Africa. The Kabira Club houses a state-of-the art gymnasium and three centrally-heated swimming pools. The Speke Hotel remains an icon as Uganda’s oldest hotel.

Schools: Kabira International School and Kampala Parents School. They required an investment of $150m. Both were built in record time. They cater to both the local and expatriate communities. The International School which opened in 2008 is already sending students to the best universities in the world.

Agriculture: Flower-growing (Rosebud).

Others: Meera Investments, and Gold Trust Insurance Company.

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