According to Forbes Magazine, he is the wealthiest individual in Uganda and the East African Community and he does admit to owning at least a quarter of the buildings in Kampala’s Central Business District. In November 2013, he was reported to be the 24th wealthiest individual in Africa. But as of February 2015, Forbes magazine reckons him a prestigious 1638th billionaire of the World’s richest men, with an estimated net worth of US$1.12 billion.
Forbes talks of Ruparelia as one of Uganda’s largest property owners through his Ruparelia Group which he chairs, being the majority shareholder in the companies of the group.
His status today is, in fact, worlds apart from the days when he lived in a refugee camp and made a living driving a taxicab on the streets of London.
Who Is Sudhir Ruparelia?
On January 17, 1956, Sudhir Ruparelia was born, in Kabatoro, Kasese District in Western Uganda to an upper-middle-class family of Asian Ugandans. These were also born in Uganda; his grandfather in 1918 and his father in 1932.
He attended Bat Valley Primary School in Kampala, from P1 to P6, then Jinja Main Street Primary School in Jinja for P7 and Jinja Secondary School. In 1971, he joined Kololo Senior Secondary School and this is where he finished his O’ level studies.
He would later do A’ level but in Europe where he had relocated to join his parents who had earlier left Uganda. Ruparelia has two sisters and one brother.
Sudhir Ruparelia was merely a teenager when an executive order emerged to all the corners of the country. It was straight from the President of Uganda.
Idi Amin Dada gave Asians an ultimatum of 90 days to get out of the country by August 1972. Immediately Sudhir Ruparelia’s family took flight from Uganda, however, their sixteen year old son stayed behind.
For many years Sudhir Ruparelia’s parents had run a shop and gas pump which they had set up in Western Uganda [Queen Elizabeth National Game Park. Ruparelia was very determined to survive and prosper in the midst of anarchy, a value that was inculcated in him since his childhood. Until the present day, he was not only brave but a go-getter. Sudhir studied in schools that were far away from his parents’ home, moreover he travelled long distances all by himself.
Sudhir Leaves Uganda
He could not stay behind much longer. When most of the fellow Asians had left the towns of Uganda, he decided that it was of no further consequence to stay away from his parents; it was a matter of time before they ran into the blood-thirsty and money-hungry soldiers of Idi Amin.
At once, he decided that he would leave for Europe since Uganda was getting more unsafe, and most of the people he associated with had left.
He landed in London and from here he was to find his parents. The snag was with where to find them. He was compelled to spend the night in a refugee camp. The next day, he set out to find friends. When he found some of them, he never returned to the camp.
After a month in London, he found his family, but not to stay with them. His obsession had been to inform them that he had arrived from Africa. He moved on. He headed to Birmingham and Manchester where he figured could have jobs that could promise permanency.
He moved to Northeast London, where he found a job with a company that made test tubes for laboratories. He handled red-hot wax in making centimeter markings on test tubes.
“This was the most sickening job in the entire factory. I barely had any protective gear and the heat was unbearable. No wonder I worked for only five months and moved back to Finchley Central,” says Sudhir.
He then tried to join the Royal Air Force [RAF]. He passed the tests and was on the verge of signing for five years. The problem was he was a minor and needed the consent of his parents. His mother declined. Her idea of the military had been stained by the cruelty she had witnessed by the Ugandan army. Although Sudhir’s father would never mind letting his son to go on with his aspiration, his mother stuck at her point and declined.
The young Sudhir went ahead and wandered on several jobs while in London from Supermarket attendant to taxi driver on the streets of London.
When they got married, Sudhir ventured into real estate in London. He bought properties, revamped them and sold them off for a profit. Through this time, Sudhir had an uncle who had stayed behind in Uganda.
Sudhir Ruparelia Returns To Uganda
In February 1985, Sudhir returned to Uganda, aged 29, with $25,000 he had earned through real estate deals in London as well as several casual jobs including working in supermarkets, factories and butcheries.
Sudhir started selling beer and spirits imported from Kenya. In 1989, beer importation was banned to encourage local brewing of alcohol and he realized he could not make beer. But since his customers who were mainly foreigners paid him in foreign currency, he started Crane Forex Bureau, the first in Uganda. With his profits, Sudhir ventured into other businesses, including forming Crane Bank in 1995. Later, he organized his businesses under the umbrella of the Ruparelia Group of Companies.
Ruparelia Group of Companies
Ruparelia Group is mainly involved in banking, foreign exchange bureaus, insurance, education, real estate development and management, floriculture, broadcasting, hotels, and resorts. Sudhir Ruparelia is the Group’s founder and chairman as he is the majority shareholder in the companies that comprise the group.
The companies of Ruparelia Group include Crane Bank, Crane Forex Bureau 1 – Crane Chambers, Crane Forex Bureau 2 – Kampala Speke Hotel, Goldstar, Insurance Company Limited, Speke Resort and Conference Centre, Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, Kampala Speke Hotel, Kabira Country Club, Tourist Hotel – Kampala, Speke Apartments Limited, Sanyu FM 88.2 – Kampala, Kampala International School Uganda, Kampala Parents’ School, Crane Management Services Limited – Kampala, Meera Investments Limited – Kampala, Rosebud Limited – Entebbe, Victoria University Uganda – Kampala.
Sudhir Ruparelia is married to Jyotsna and they have three children: Meera (married to Ravi Kotecha in 2014) is the eldest, Rajiv, his only son, Sheena is the younger daughter. Meera and Rajiv hold senior positions in the conglomerate.