UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Most of the well-known businesses in Uganda date many generations back and are currently preparing for change from the old but wise real muloodi managers to the next generation of young and more vibrant real muloodi leaders.
This generational shift has steadily been taking an inevitable process in the last decades. The steady but sure handover has been happening within Uganda’s wealthy families under which the booming family businesses operate.
The real muloodi famous families in Uganda now giving the baton to their next inline in business management include Madhvani Group, Ruparelia Group, Tirupati Group, Mukwano Group, Simba Group, Mulwana Group, the Kateeba family, Amos Nzeyi, Charles Mbire Magezi and others.
A case study is that of Ruparelia Group which ranked as the wealthiest in Uganda with USD1.2 billion in 2018 as per Forbes Magazine.
Ruparelia Group, which has holdings in real estate, hospitality and finance, is now letting the young generation take up space at the high ranks.
Rajiv Ruparelia, Sudhir Ruparelia’s 33-year-old son, has been elevated through the ranks in the company’s management.
Simba Group of Companies is another booming family business running under the chairmanship of London School of Accountancy graduate Patrick Bitature.
His daughter, Dr Nataliey Bitature, has been groomed in the business and is now the chief of staff. She is taking up the mantle for more senior roles.
Dr Nataliey received elite education at Keele University in England, through which she has established innovations such as Musana Carts, and this has shaped her into an experienced business guru.
In 2015, Dr Nataliey was among the Forbe’s thirty under 30 most admired elite young entrepreneurs in Africa.
The Mukwano Group
The Mukwano Group of Companies is an empire the late Amirali Karmali (popularly known as Mukwano) built from scratch. The late Mukwano groomed his children to keep the family and empire candle burning even after he transited to the next life.
Amirali Karmali was a wealthy Ugandan businessman, entrepreneur, and manufacturer who lived from 1 January 1930 until 10 July 2019. He was the CEO, founder, and sole proprietor of the Mukwano Group of Companies, a diversified conglomerate with holdings in banking, real estate, plastics, agro-processing, logistics, transportation, and production of fast-moving consumer products, among other things. He was one of Uganda’s wealthiest people at the time of his death in 2019.
Amirali Karmali died in the posh Kampala neighbourhood Kololo, and passed the family empire over to his son, Alykhan Karmali, and daughter, Rukshana Karmali.
Before the CEO and sole proprietor of this diversified conglomerate grew older, frail and fatigued in 1995, he recalled his son Alykhan Karmali from Canada to come and manage the businesses as he supervised from the comfort of his retirement home in Fort Portal. The Mukwano Group has vast commercial tea estates there, to add on to their holdings in banking, real estate, plastics, agro-processing, logistics, transportation, and production of fast-moving consumer products, among other things.
Alykhan Karmali, who is a businessman, entrepreneur, industrialist, and philanthropist came back to Uganda to manage his father’s Group of companies, which he did until 1999 when his elder sister Rukshana Karmali who was also living in Canada, returned to take part in the running of their father’s ever-growing business empire.
Aged 60, Rukshana Karmali is the only daughter of Mukwano, and her young brother Alykhan Karmali his only son.
Rukshana began her career at Mukwano Group of Companies as a cashier at the head office at Port Bell Road. This position enabled her to study the larger operations of the Group. Upon her success, she advanced to the role of accountant and later to sales manager before elevating to managing director in 2008.
And so, the late Mukwano drew his children into managing his business empire and groomed them to take the helm after his passing.
Amirali Karmali died on July 10, 2019 in the posh Kampala neighbourhood Kololo, and passed the family empire over to his children. At the time of his death, Mukwano had handed the title of CEO of Mukwano Group to his daughter, Rukshana. At the same time, his son Alykhan became managing director of Mukwano Industries Uganda Limited, a member company of the Mukwano Group.
“Since when Mzee (Mukwano) designated her as a CEO my mum has been the decision maker for the company and it has achieved a lot going forward,” says her son, Rahul Karmali.
It was her late father’s wish that Rukshana continues running the empire as her 25-year-old son Rahul Karmali (who was by his side as he died) comes of age, learns and takes charge.
Tirupati Group Limited
The Tirupati Group is another company that believes in family. The group was founded by Harshad Barot who is now grooming his son Miraj Barot, the managing director of Tirupati Group into taking over the business completely.
The Tirupati Group is a provider of world-class housing and business complexes bringing affordable residential and commercial real estate solutions across India and Uganda.
In August 2021, Miraj Barot received his father’s esteemed Gujarat Ratna Award on his behalf which recognises hard work and people who have achieved well in society.
Harshad credits the secret behind his success to the knowledge of calculation, diligence in paying back credit and involving family to work as a team. His son Miraj, the general manager of Tirupati properties, is the prime example of this.
Another successful legacy is that of the Madhvani Group dating back as far as 1914 in Uganda. The group’s interests include agriculture and agro-processing, hospitality, information technology, media, packaging, and construction.
The founder of the Madhvani Group of Companies, Muljibhai Madhvani, passed on in 1958. The management of the company was handed over to his two elder sons, Jayant Madhvani and Manubhai Madhvani. The former died in 1971, and the latter in 2011.
Mayur and Kamlesh Madhvani, the Joint Managing Directors of the Madhvani Group, now run the century-old tale of an extraordinary family enterprise and are continuing the legacy of their forefathers.
In an interview, Kamlesh Madhvani, one of the managing directors of Madhvani Group, said that the reason the family business has stood the taste of time is that they pursue professionalism in the management of the business.
They have a keen eye for corporate governance, talent management, solid systems and processes.
Although the Madhvani family has retained ownership of Kakira sugar and other companies under the group, they have appointed independent non-executive directors and professional managers who have expertise in managing the company.
“No family has an endless supply of expertise needed to deal with all business challenges,” says Kamlesh Madhvani.
He added that the family has delegated important levels of responsibility to professional managers with diverse backgrounds and experience.
Kamlesh incited that the good governance principles applied at the Madhvani Group exhibit the power of effective leadership.
“Empowering individuals – both family members and outside professionals are easier,” he explained.
He also says that good governance has enabled the family’s culture of hard work, commitment, knowledge, expertise, emotional intelligence and innovation. One of the family’s cultures that were handed down to the younger generation from Muljibhai Madhvani is that “our wealth is our people.”
The Mulwana Group young generation in the family took over in 2013 when James Mulwana, proprietor of Nice House of Plastics, died.
The late Mulwana left behind a rich estate with interests in dairy farming, manufacturing of plastic items and real estate.
However, after his death, his daughter Barbara Mulwana took on leadership in the family business, alongside other family members and is now the executive director of Nice House of Plastics.
Crest Foam Limited
Crest Foam Limited is another family business where the older generation has handed down the baton. It started in 1987 and deals in standard, high-density and orthopaedic mattresses.
The managing director of Crest Foam, Joseline Kateeba, reveals that she is a second-generation family business owner having been handed the business by her father.
Her mother, Petua Kateeba, however, remains the co-founder and Executive Director of Crest Foam.
Before joining the family business in 2014, Joseline first worked with a consulting firm and an engine and power generation company, where she gained experience in strategy development and business analytics.
Her mother started calling her back to the family business in 2011.
“She wanted me to join her and take over running the business so that she could transition to retirement,” she says.
She explains that her transition from the global industry to the local family business wasn’t smooth, but had to implement a culture of greater accountability and professionalism, which is what she had experienced elsewhere.
“I underestimated the extent to which it would be a challenge for me…when I came in and started to implement things, I was accused of being impatient. There was a certain reluctance to getting things done,” she narrates.
Joseline started to implement good governance standards and other changes consistent with professionalism and the formal operation of businesses.
“When I joined the family business, I was keen to analyse our strategy for the future,” she says.
Joseline also recommends that the founding generations should expose the next generation to the business from an early age, even as interns.
Charles Ocici, an entrepreneur, says the existence of a structured process that nurtures the next generation that will lead the business is important because children are not born “genetically business people.”
He says that the business founders leave at some point since their energy to keep the business moving would have dropped, yet the business has to keep running. He emphasises the need for the young generation to take on business handed to them.
“A large empire with a large stakeholder base including government needs proven experience to manage or else that is where many family businesses collapse,” Ocici says.
Sim Katende, a partner at Katende, Ssempebwa and Company Advocates, advised family estate owners to consider estate planning since it protects the owners’ interests and ensures that they are carried out.
“Estate planning also protects the family’s wealth for future generations and a trust can help protect assets from bad decisions, physical and mental infirmity, outside influences, creditor problems, divorce and other challenges,” Counsel Katende advises.
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