Shumuk Group CEO, Shukla Mukesh became the fourth Ugandan of Indian origin to pick forms to contest in the National Resistance Army (NRM) party’s primaries. He is eyeing the chair of the NRM Entrepreneur league currently held by tycoon and Bushenyi king maker, Hassan Basajjabalaba. Angel Nabweteme asked him about his chances of success.
What makes you think you can win?
I have two main strengths. I come in with an experience to share as a businessman and entrepreneur. And two, I have a lot of love for my party, NRM, of which I have been a member for a long time. If elected, my priority will be to consolidate what my colleague, Hassan Basajjabalaba, has been doing. I will use the same structures to apply my skills in doing business at the hands of NRM.
Do you think you are best suited for the position?
I have been in business in Uganda for a decade. I have established myself from a simple businessman in 1982 to an accomplished entrepreneur. When you talk of Shumuk, nothing comes to mind but the saucepan, an essential in every home. I have built a huge network of colleagues, many of whom are also into business and the majority are entrepreneurs. These are the kinds of connections the NRM needs to move forward as a leading party. Our individual contributions for this country both as Mukesh and as Shumuk Group are well spelt out. Today we have a scrap re-cycling plant in Nakawa that produces aluminium utensils under the Mukesh wants to take Basajjabalaba’s seat30 minutes with Shukla Mukesh Shumuk krsna brand name, warehousing, milk processing and a host of other businesses. This is the profile I am bringing to this post of chairman entrepreneurship league.
Are you better than Basajjabalaba?
This is not a race for a political job. Ours is more of self-sacriἀce. We are already too busy in our individual engagements. We offer ourselves to serve not because of an incumbent’s failure, but to make a contribution to the party. As NRM, we respect democracy where competition is inevitable. However, whatever the outcome, we continue to work jointly towards the development of the party. My three decades of experience as an entrepreneur can be put to use at the hands of NRM. My dream of building an empire lives on.
Won’t you get problems as an Indian tussling it out with Ugandans?
I am a Ugandan. I was born in Arua in the historical year of Uganda’s independence, 1962. My late father, Babu Bhai Shukla, worked in the customs excise (now Uganda Revenue Authority) for over 25 years from 1959-1986. My family started the aluminium saucepans business in Uganda in 1939 in Namataba, Iganga district. They were accomplished businesspeople who taught me how to do business at an early age. I am glad to have expanded his dream of what was meant to be an aluminium re-cycling plant to now a group investment. I have spent all my 42years of life working in my mother country, Uganda. I have seen all the politics in this country and the mistakes by the past regimes. I experienced all the brutal human rights abuses of the Amin regime and most notably, the historical expulsion of Asians by President Amin in 1972. I witnessed the entry of this government in 1986 and I have seen it grow to its current status, thanks to the able leadership of our President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. I don’t know how more Ugandan I can be.
What new ideas are you bringing on board?
Many! I want to create the spirit of ‘green entrepreneurship’. This means helping NRM and entrepreneurs make smart partnerships with internal and external partners for sustainable prosperity without damaging the environment. This will be coupled with attracting green investors to Uganda. Secondly, to attract professionals with high integrity to the party to build a self-sustaining, economically viable strong NRM. Thirdly, I will also work for ἀnancial stability in the party by, among other factors, completing the NRM House within 12 months and naming it “Integrity Towers”, so that it can act as the party ofἀces and also raise income to support party activities. Four, I plan to create entrepreneurship incubation centres at district level, through corporate adoption programme to direct the youth along our agriculture potential to achieve the millennium 2015 objectives. Five, we can host the Global Peace International Billionaires Club of Philanthropy summit in Uganda in 2016.
About the Movement House; how will you succeed where many have failed so far?
Like I mentioned, ours is not a competition, but complementing efforts. I would need about 12 months to start that Movement House. I can do this by mobilising other party members in and outside Uganda and with my extended connections abroad as an entrepreneur and chairman of Shumuk Group.
Are you worried about the quality of elections at the NRM primaries?
No. I have full confidence in the NRM electoral commission, headed by chairman Tanga Odoi. I am confident there will be enough vigilance to achieve the transparency required throughout the whole process.
What will you do if you are rigged out?
The issue of rigging does not exist in NRM. We believe in democracy, which is why every five years we go to the polls. Why do Indians succeed in business where many Ugandans are failing? It is wrong to assume that only Indians have succeeded in business. Even Ugandans are successful. However, I can share a few tips Indians hold dear in business. One is frugality; Indians generally have a strong culture of saving. Two, hard work and dedication to the business above self. Indians believe in serving the interests of their businesses before their own individual ones. And three, networking and trustworthiness. Those are the three winning principles in any given business that my fellow Ugandans can emulate and bring change to this country.