Perspectives Entrepreneurship

Meet 27 Year-Old Ugandan Entrepreneur who Built A $15 Million Television Company

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    TheNewAfrica

Jivraj, a 27 year-old third generation Asian-Ugandan entrepreneur, has worked extremely hard to become one of Africa’s most successful young entrepreneurs. He is the founder and CEO of Royal Electronics, a $15 million (annual revenues) Ugandan company that assembles and distributes electronic home appliances such as Television sets, radios, speakers, and DVD players. He also owns a real estate firm which is developing high-end residential apartments in two of Kampala’s toniest residential areas, and he is setting up a battery manufacturing plant in the country of Burundi, in Southeast Africa. And what’s most fascinating about Jivraj is the fact that he’s built his small empire only with a little help from his family.

Jivraj was born in 1987. Even as a kid, the young Jivraj had a knack for business. He would save his pocket money and buy small articles like biscuits, sweets and other materials and sell to his classmates in school for a small margin. During Valentine’s days in high school, he would source flowers at the Ugandan Shilling equivalent of $0.2, and sell them to lovers at $1 apiece.

An opportunity would soon come. Around that time, a family relative abroad sent a gift package to the Jivraj family through a friend that was visiting Uganda. It turned out that Jivraj’s new acquaintance was an electrician who specialized in repairing television sets and he had visited Uganda in search of a job. As fate would have it, a TV set in the house was not working so Jivray brought it to him and within an hour the visiting friend had fixed it.

 “This was a guy who knew his turf – he dismantled the television completely, fixed the problem and assembled it back together with such ease and dexterity. It blew my mind away. The light bulb in my head turned on. I knew there was an opportunity here.”

This was in 2006. Jivraj, who had just finished High School, decided to take a gap year. He hired the Pakistani acquaintance, mobilized funds from his family and brought in containers of unassembled television parts. The company began assembling televisions, DVD players and LEDS, under the brand name ‘Royal’, and sold them to customers at a price 50% lower than what was available in the market, and offered 3-year warranty to customers. They sold out very quickly.

Royal Electronics has become very successful ever since then. Annual revenues exceed $15 million, and the company has showrooms across Uganda, with close to 100 employees. In 2010, the company was ranked 7th in KPMG’s annual ranking of the top 100 Mid-sized companies in Uganda.

On the heels of his success in the television assembling business, Jivraj decided to expand his business endeavors and together with his brother launched his own battery brand, Ugacell. Ugacell became hugely successful within a short time as Jivraj and his brother priced their own batteries slightly lower than what was available in Uganda at the time.

“In Uganda, the key is to provide a great product or service at a price, lower than what is available in the market. People want good products, but since a lot of people aren’t particularly rich, you must be willing to offer them those products at a discount to what is available at the market. But you must never compromise on quality. If you can do that, you will thrive.”

With the success he has achieved in his television assembling business in Uganda, Jivraj is currently attempting to replicate his success in Tanzania. He is setting up a similar television assembling business in Tanzania which so far, has employed 100 people. He has also been ploughing back his profits from his television business into other ventures. He is currently developing two residential apartment complexes in Kampala worth a combined $17 million, in the high-end areas of Kololo and Bukoto.hg

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You can also follow Ali-shah Jivraj on Twitter @jivraj1 and visit the website of Royal Electronics here.