NRI Achievers every issue profiles diaspora Indians who have made their indelible mark on the societies they live in through their achievements and contributions to the community. This time round, we feature Dr. Rami Ranger, MBE, FRSA, successful British entrepreneur and a conservative-leaning politician who has been honored six times by Her Majesty the Queen, five times for Business and once personally for services to British business and the British Asian Community. From beginnings that may justly be described ‘humble’, Rami Ranger has made his mark, finding himself a place under the British sun. Not coincidentally, his firm is called ‘Sun Mark’. We profile this enterprising businessman who lost his father while still inside his mother’s womb during the traumatic upheaval of Indian partition …
While researching him as a prelude to profiling his story for our magazine, i came across this piece put out by fellow journalist Hugh Muir of the Guardian. It is worth reproducing in toto here:
Rami was born to a Sikh family in Gujranwala, on 3rd July 1947. He is part of a large family and is the youngest of eight children – seven brothers and one sister. Rami’s father, Shaheed Nanak Singh, was a respected and vocal leader in Multan opposed to the partitioning of India. He was the President of the Minority Federation, President of the Sikh community, and Vice President of the Multan Bar Association. On the 5th of March 1947, when 600 students of DAV College demonstrating against partition were set upon by a violent mob, he stood between them in an attempt to save the students.
The students were saved, but Rami’s father gave up his ghost, martyred that ominous day, leaving behind a wife, Harbans Kaur, then pregnant with Rami, and eight young children. Harbans Kaur moved to Patiala, and took up a teaching post in the local school. Later in life, she was honored with the title “the proudest mother,” as five of her sons went on to serve as commissioned officers in the Indian Armed Forces. She was also honored by the Government of Punjab for being a teacher of outstanding merit.
Rami, the youngest of her children, reached the UK in 1971 to pursue Law after graduating from Punjab University, Chandigarh. When things did not work out, he took up a job with a fast food chain and then got into partnership in another business, which was dissolved within 18 months. It was then that he decided to go solo at it. Rami says, “with any venture, the early stages of establishing a business are always difficult and the initial rewards few and far between. There is a lot of hard work and long hours when you start things from scratch”. He started Sea Air & Land Forwarding Limited from a small shed of an office in Hayes, with a measly capital of £ 2.00 and a £ 40.00 typewriter. With sheer determination and commitment to excellence, he grew his business and customer base steadily. By 1999, the entrepreneur set up a new marketing company, Sun Oil Ltd. “I realized that I was sitting on a goldmine with a global customer base. So instead of just helping ship my customer’s goods, I decided also to start sourcing goods for my clients as well”.
Turnover grew steadily to touch £ 20 million, and continued to grow to its £ 152 million mark today. His philosophy is that he is not successful until his clients succeed. His success has brought the Company the highest award from Her Majesty the Queen – The Queen’s Award for Export Achievement, five times in a row. He has also received the Asian Achiever Award and was a semi finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by Ernst & Young. His Company is amongst the fastest growing Companies in Britain. Twenty Six years on, the key to his company’s global success is the excellent quality of its services and products, coupled with competitive prices. “Those who cannot compete in terms of quality, service and price cannot expect to remain in business for long,” Rami says. Sun Mark runs a global distribution network for some of the UK’s famous food brands. It also makes its own range of quality value-for-money products.
In carving out overseas markets, the company has been successful in overcoming rules and regulations governing customs clearance, particularly in emerging nations where red-tape is prevalent, says Rami. Knowledge of local customs and tastes in individual markets has also played an important part in the company’s growth in other economies. Rami advises budding entrepreneurs with foreign ambitions to avoid currency fluctuations and shy away from political instability. “It is important to merge and acquire, or build strategic alliances with local enterprises. To save time and costs, local knowledge of the market is paramount. Remember that in sharing profit with others, you share work and double your strength. Hidden talent is as good as no talent, so exhibit at trade shows in other countries. Visibility is important. You have to sell more and to more people in countries where you want to do business, assisted by local partners. Face-to-face meetings with potential customers are an important part of building trust and creating lasting business relationships. It is always wise not to put all your eggs in one basket; likewise, it is also wise to do business in as many countries as possible in order to insulate oneself from the economic turmoil, fiscal instability and political unrest of any particular country.” To a question about expanding Sun Mark’s business, he said, “We already have a presence in Dubai while we are mulling the opening of an office in US. Insofar as setting up business in India is concerned, the bureaucracy there has its fingers in every pie, and although FDI is being encouraged now, my advice to the Indian government is that it should provide a freer conducive atmosphere so that foreign companies feel unshackled in conducting their business in India, which would surely generate job opportunities for its people.”
Talking about the difficulties he had to experience in reaching this position, he said “If there are no difficulties in practical life, every one would find themselves successful and no one needs to slog their backs off to achieve success. I remember the time I badly needed a loan but was refused one by the bank manager because I was Asian. I faced mountains of problems in getting a loan then but now things are different. Asians, by virtue of their hard work and honesty have won trust and got recognition in every field of life. Banks which once were loath to loan me even £ 5 are today vying with each other to extend £ 5 million £ 50 million credit. All I had to do then was not lose heart and continue my struggle to reach here”.
“I owe my success to my mother. She left a very deep imprint of her value-systems on my traits. She taught us the lesson of love. We were seven brothers of whom some have left this world. I am the youngest of all. Two of my brothers are in Canada and one is in the US, and my sister lives in India. My wife belongs to Ambala. I have three daughters and the eldest one helps me in my business. The second one is a doctor while the youngest is studying business. ”
Some more facts about Dr. Rami Ranger:
The Americans have this sorted. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Are they happy? That isn’t the point. The pursuit’s the thing. From our Office for National Statistics we learn that when asked the question, Indians and those of Indian descent in the UK emerge the happiest. They number about 1.4 million – our largest visible minority – and on average, they rate life satisfaction as 7.5 out of 10. White Britons and those identifying as Chinese are next with 7.4 out of 10. Black communities are least happy: just 6.7 out of 10.
Dr Rami Ranger, much celebrated Indian captain of industry, takes me into his glass-walled office in west London to talk community contentedness. Three reasons, he says: family, family and family. “The Indian family is the basis of everything. It’s about close family units: family values. There is stability. We learn from our parents. We live our dreams through our children.” It can’t be that simple. At root, he says, it is. “Marriage is very important. We have assisted marriages – not forced. Some take issue with it, but it works. People are matched in terms of background and education and class and outlook. Fewer marriages break down. When you have your health and your family and work you enjoy, then you can be happy.”
Helps if you’re affluent, I tell him. Indians are everywhere on the social scale, but together they have the lowest poverty rate of any ethnic group. And he has wealth and status. His company Sun Mark won five Queen’s Awards for Excellence on the trot. “But I started with nothing,” he says. “I owe this country everything.” His companies today have a joint turnover of more than £ 152m. And he started with £ 2 in a shed. “The turning point for us was the expulsion of the Ugandan Asians in 1972,” he says. “We were struggling. But they were educated and they had experience of running business. They were role models. We thought: if they can do it, we can too.”
Perhaps we should learn from you, I suggest. That’s it, he exclaims. “Look and copy. Don’t blame others. Look to yourselves.” And who do you copy? “I look to the Jewish communities,” he says. “They have been here longer than any of us.” Always something new to learn.