Rukshana steps in Karmali huge shoes to steer Mukwano Group

Friday July 12 2019

Heiress. Daughter of the late Amirali Karmali

Heiress. Daughter of the late Amirali Karmali of Mukwano Group of Companies, Ms Rukshana Karmali, is the acting CEO of Mukwano companies. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 


Amarali Karmali, better known as Mukwano, maybe no more following his demise on Wednesday night but his business empire, the Mukwano Group of Companies, and legacy will endure.

Employing more than 14,000 people directly and indirectly, the empire runs a number of companies namely Mukwano Enterprises Ltd which deals in Real Estate; AK Oils and Fats; AK Plastics; AK Detergents; Rwenzori Commodities, the producers of Rwenzori tea; a forex bureau and Gulf Stream Investments Limited.

Teaching children business
Such is a dream that every successful man or woman will always have.
So was the late Mukwano when he groomed his children to keep the family and the empire candle burning even after he transited to the next life. This he did by drawing his children into the management of the empire.
At the time of his death, Mukwano had handed all responsibilities to his first child and daughter, Ms Rukshana Karmali.

The 57-year-old has been at the helm of the business since 2007 sitting in her father’s command chair at the Rwenzori Commodities Ltd head offices at Old Port Bell Road, Kampala. Her son, Mr Rahul Karmali, says Ms Rukshana was born on July 20, 1962 in Nairobi, Kenya. She would spend her early years in Fort Portal, Kabarole District, where she managed to enrol at Aga Khan Primary School.
Ms Rukshana left the country in 1972 when the then president Idi Amin issued a decree to expel all Asians.

Her father was hidden by some “good Samaritans” and never left Uganda.
As a teenager, she lived briefly in Belgium, Zaire (Now Democratic Republic of Congo), United Kingdom and finally settled in Kenya.
While in Nairobi, she joined the Aga Khan Academy, where she completed her secondary education. In the 1980s she moved to Canada, where she worked for a short while before securing admission into the University of Toronto in Ontorio.

Ms Rukshana graduated with a Bachelor’s in Economics. It is not clear whether she studied economics with an aim of seeking employment or she wanted to settle in her father’s business empire.
After graduation, she started up a cake shop in Canada. While in Canada she got married to a Canadian of Indian descent with whom they produced Rahul in 1997 and named him after her father, Karmali.
“After my birth, my mum lived with my father for two more years before they divorced. She planned to return home to Uganda,” Mr Rahul recollects.


Ms Rukshana, her young brother, Mr Alykhan Karmali, and 2-year-old son, Rahul, returned to Uganda in October 1999.
“Mzee (Mukwano) gave her a home to settle and take care of me. She brought me up alone and I have done all my education in Uganda while working in this company,” Mr Rahul says.

Work in company
After settling down and putting the pain of her divorce behind her back, Ms Rukshana walked into Mukwano Group of Companies as a cashier at Port Bell Road-based head offices.
Ms Rukshana was elevated to an accountant and later on to a sales manager before ascending to the apex as the CEO in 2007.
“Since Mzee (Mukwano) designated her as a CEO, my mum has been the decision maker of the company and it has achieved a lot,” he said.
Throughout the years of his retirement, the deceased has been kept abreast of the key achievements and challenges of the empire. The CEO regularly travelled to Fort Portal to give a business briefing to the legendary investor at his retirement home.

To some of the employees, the death of Mukwano has taken away a man they knew as a parent, who gave a listening ear to everyone, but in the successor, their hopes rest in a person they prefer calling by name and not boss.
One woman who preferred to speak off record, described Ms Rukshana as a “true copy of her father in the ways of running business and approaching employees.”
They say, like her father, the successor loves the company so much which made her not to make a name in the social life in and around Kampala.

This is corroborated by Mr Rahul who says; “what you need to know about mum is she is an incarnation of Mzee because everything about them is similar”.
During her time in the father’s business empire, she got married again, giving birth to five other children.