Chennai: Meridian Global Ventures chairman promises potential and partnership

What are the avenues available for Indian entrepreneurs in Uganda? Vinod Saraogi of the Ugandan Consulate in Chennai provides the details
Vinod Saraogi at the newly inaugurated Ugandan Consulate
Vinod Saraogi at the newly inaugurated Ugandan Consulate

CHENNAI: As chairman of Meridian Global Ventures for close to thirty years, Vinod Kumar Saraogi has been a name to contend with in the textile industry. In his new role as Honorary Consul of Uganda for Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, he sees himself as a facilitator for businesses wanting to expand, and Uganda, as a developing country with untapped potential, is just the promised land.

“India-Uganda relations go back to at least 100 years,” says Saraogi at the newly opened Ugandan Consulate at Meridian House, Alwarpet, “and they continue to run many successful businesses in the country. Indian businessmen in Uganda also get along very well with the local population there.”

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are also invited to invest in Uganda and the country has brought out new policies that could benefit entrepreneurs in India. A 48-hour approval to start any enterprise, support in providing free land, and several industrial parks with all necessary infrastructure, make Uganda ideal for investors, he adds.

Demographic advantages

Uganda has a young educated workforce, with 70% of the population below 30. So there’s a large workforce of young people who are ready to work in various industries.

Uganda is landlocked, with no sea port, so they rely on Mombasa in Kenya for their imports and exports. It’s usually an overnight journey, but the connectivity is good and goods are transported to and fro regularly. And the country is open to investment even in agriculture.

As Saraogi says, “If you do a 100 per cent buyback any crop can be grown. Whatever is in demand in India can be grown there, because the soil is rich and the climate is good. All they ask for in terms of value addition is employment for the local population.” Investors are assured of a market not only within Uganda but also in neighbouring countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Uganda’s tourism scene also offers a lot of potentials, and Ugandan officials have invited investors from India to open hotels, resorts and sporting activities in an effort to boost tourist influx. Its scenic beauty is ideal for film shooting, says the honorary consul, and the government is ready to provide all facilities for filmmaking as another possible way to promote the country to the outside world.

The Idi Amin legacy

Perhaps the one blemish in India-Uganda relations was the reign of former Ugandan President Idi Amin, whose despotism led to an exodus of thousands of Indian families. But things have considerably improved from then on, says Saraogi, with not one instance of rioting reported over the last three decades.

“Yoweri Museveni, the current President, clearly understands the importance of India-Uganda relations. He has encouraged all the exiled families to return to Uganda with the promise of full compensation and freedom to start any enterprise they might wish to.”

Perhaps Uganda might be a favorite destination for Indian investors, but how well are Ugandans accommodated on Indian soil? As a commonly preferred destination for higher education, Ugandan students regularly come to Indian universities. But it’s also highly favoured for cost-effective medical treatment.

The country is also trying to ramp up its medical infrastructure with diagnostics labs, pharmaceutical manufacturing and the like. And so, it frequently looks up to India with respect, he adds.
Chennai can play a significant role in strengthening this bond between the two countries.

The city is robust in IT, solar energy, entertainment, tourism and most importantly health infrastructure. With expertise in so many fields, all of which have great potential in Uganda, businesses in Chennai can invest there.

“As a consulate office in Chennai, any businessperson looking to venture out can approach us; we can connect them to the right people there, put them in touch with the ministries, help them with getting approval, provide all necessary information about the market, raw materials etc. It’s literally a red-carpet welcome for Indian investors there,” he remarks.

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