He is a billionaire who loves: a Havana Cigar, CowBoy hats, toe pointed shoes, beach wear, posh vehicles and sipping on Johnny Walker with a passion. This is Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia who has a legendary “Midas Touch” in every business he ventures grows by leaps and bounds.
“But contrary to public expectations, it’s not been as smooth as a runway,” confides time hardened Ruparelia. “There was the liquidation of Crane Bank which taught me a lesson to always have a mind that is stronger than my emotions.”
On its heels came the COVID-19 pandemic Lockdown that hit his MICE business, in which he towers, ground to a halt in March 2020. The option was to develop guts of steel and continue navigating his way through challenges encountered.
“Along the way I have encountered and won hearts of: diplomats, intellectuals, politicians, cultural leaders and diplomats,” recounts Ruparelia with nostalgia. “But generally my friends are minced with ordinary mortals, journalists and the business fraternity.”
Adding that this is one way he is able to have his business ear on the ground and his radar on a high alert of business opportunities. With more than 100 properties in Kampala City he once prestigiously graced the Forbes magazine.
The multi-billion Kololo mansion would compete favourably with that of any Hollywood celebrity. The hills were dug to have a parking lot in them, a swimming pool, spirits bar and residence on their top. Some birds sneak there to tweet good night as the yolk like sun goes to bed.
Not so far away is a miniature acquisition that was the first sports bar in the city called Just Kicking which previously hosted Prince William who was there for a sip of a Guiness beer and Scotch whisky. The Indian architecture was mowed down and in its place is imposing The Box. It’s engaged in a staring contest with another of his properties Tagore Suites and Bukoto Heights from a distance.
Yes dare not count Ruparelia’s investments on your fingers because they will get exhausted. Among them are schools like Victoria University, Kampala Parents, Kampala International School of Uganda (KISU,) Rose Bud Flowers on the shores of Lake Victoria and Sanyu FM. Downtown Kamala City seats Kampala Boulevard, Hardware City, Crane Chambers and Kabira Country Club. Employing more than 1000 people he now has a job agency taking youths abroad. Then there is Kampala Kingdom building destined to accommodate some of the MPs before completion of extension Parliament building.
Ruparelia’s favourite venture, Speke Resort Munyonyo, makes many first time guests wonder if they are in Africa.
“The horses, Olympic size swimming pool and the state of the art gym,” says Abraham John a guest from UK. “If this investment was in UAE, South Africa or Mombasa – it would need no advertising.”
The general manager …says the facility has 60 presidential suites and several halls with the capacity to contain numerous workshops at ago.
“We have translators, lighting systems and audio effects,” the General manager Greg Petzer. “Things have never been the same since we hosted CHOGM in 2007. Kampala has since become the region’s preferred place for workshops.”
A member of Buganda Kwagalana group, Ruparelia has since mentored and financially salvaged many a budding or a staggering business associate. John Sebalamu a property developer of Freedom City. Godfrey Kirumira another property guru and fashion icon Sylia Owori and close associates.
Having been born in Uganda the Hindu culture remains ingrained
For example during his wedding in UK Sudhir was led to Barat (the reception) in a procession graced by some fantastic cool music sizzling from speakers. In the company of groomsmen, friends and relatives he proceeded to Pokwanu where his mother in law poured water in Joystna Ruparelia’s hands which spilled into his.
All this was done under a Nandap altar built strictly for the ceremony. The platform was decorated with flowers, crystals and fabrics. It is here that parents from my side and hers met to bond. A symbolic fire was lit symbolizing fertility and health. Offerings were made to different gods. My brother in law gave me three fists full of rice as the petals of the flames danced to the music whenever the wind blew.
There and then the prayers to Lord Ganesha for fortune began. The couple asked him to get solutions to any challenges they would encounter in their relationship. They have since encountered both hard and good times. Blessed with two daughters and a son. The off springs went through the same process before bringing forth grandchildren.
Among Hindus, one belong to the same clan, the union is nullified. To prove this is none existent – the couple have to audibly mention three different generations of their individual families. Records are cross checked and given a go ahead or halted. On positive note, what follows is exchanging garlands of flowers during the Jai Mal and Magala Sutra gathering.
Thereafter Lord Lakshimi is invoked for: wealth, fortune and prosperity. The bride’s veil and grooms Sashi are symbolically knotted. Then they take seven steps that signify true love. Red powder is splashed on the bride’s hair and a red dot is put on either of our heads.
The occasion is crowned by the Vidaai (send-off) ceremony, a time of sparkles and smiles. The parents of bride say bye to their daughter and sprinkle her with rice grains, coins and many other things as our tradition does it.
In a flashback Sudhir looks back to when he met Joystna and they as a couple ventured into real estate in the sprawling London City. They bought properties, renovated and sold them off with a profit.
“I still recall how over the weekend I drove the cab and studied during the week days,” Ruparelia recounts hustling. “I have always been a multi business operator. Upon returning to Uganda with 10,000 pounds sterling I started a wholesale shop in Kampala City.”
Upon returning to Uganda, the couple began importing beers and essential commodities upon identifying their shortage in the market. There after Ruparelia saw another gap in foreign exchange and Red Fox forex bureau bridged it.
Joystna remains the speed controller when the adventurous property guru is in a happy mood and want to: boost his ego, rejoice with family and friends – she steps on the brake pedal.
“I always let her have her say”, sums up Ruparelia. “That is how we have stuck together through the good and bad times.
Together we see opportunity and delve into it. Our favorite venture is Speke Resort Munyonyo, valued at $165m, which impressed late president Qadaffi till he offered to buy it. We have braved obstacles and challenges like the fall of Crane Bank and Rosebud flower business. But there is no stopping us.”