Lord Rami Ranger CBE
If people can trust you, then they will do business with you
Dr Rami Ranger CBE started life in a refugee camp in India with his mother and seven siblings, two months after his father was assassinated for opposing the breakup of India. Today, he sits at the helm of Sea, Air & Land Forwarding Ltd and Sun Mark Ltd, the only company in Britain to have won an unprecedented five consecutive Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in International Trade. Rami tells Smith & Williamson’s Hall of Fame how he got there.
Rami is famous for saying, “When God wants you to win the lottery, he gives you an idea”. It could all have been very different for Rami Ranger. He came to England in May 1971, intent on studying law. Rather than finding the streets paved with gold as he thought, the government withdrew funding for foreign nationals to study and he prepared to return to India.
However, before returning home, he needed to earn some money. This led to a job at KFC as a cook for 35p an hour. Rami recalls, “At that time the UK was not ethnic-friendly, and everyone wanted experienced staff. The only job I could get was as a cook at KFC. I was just happy to be employed! I worked very hard. They liked my attitude, the way I worked the till and talked to customers. It wasn’t long until they put me in charge of the Brixton branch. I turned the shop into the no. 1 in the country. The company then promoted me to the role of a district manager, in charge of the operational running of 10 stores with a good salary and company car. I felt like I had struck gold”.
Rami was made redundant after 6 years at KFC and then he went on to join the high street retail chain Dixons Plc as a branch manager at the Cheapside branch. Treated poorly by management, he quickly became disillusioned. They would poach his best staff and move them to different branches, leaving him struggling.
It was the push he needed to set up by himself as a freight forwarder. He says, “I set up my first company in a shed with a rent of £120 per month and a £40 typewriter. I started to go to electrical shops saying that I would give them much better service at a price that was right. My job was to pick up their goods unaccompanied and ship them across the world. It was a service industry, and you can only secure customer loyalty by being super-competent. They trusted me, and word spread”.
Rami then started to source British supermarket products for his overseas customers who were facing difficulties. Unwittingly, he eliminated five to six profit centres as people were now buying from one source instead of different suppliers. Rami could get stock at a competitive price and saved them time. The customers were queuing to do business with him. He built it on the theory of “buying better and selling better.” This was the genesis of his business.
As an immigrant, it proved difficult for him to secure finance to purchase a warehouse to grow his business further. “I needed money to buy a building and went to see my bank manager. He knew I had the 30% deposit and ability to service the loan that was required. I even offered my house as collateral. Even then, I was told by my bank manager that it was an ambitious plan and that the bank would not support it.
I left his office disappointed and went to the next bank, who said the same thing, and then to the next bank. Finally, at the fourth bank, the manager showed empathy towards me and asked me how soon I needed the money.
This was an act of kindness and vision by the bank manager. I got the cash within 7 days and, with it, I bought a warehouse and my business quadrupled. I bought it for £180,000 and sold it for £300,000. I bought another one for £1m and sold it for £2m. I now employ 150 people and have warehouses worth £25 million. It just goes to prove that timely help changed my life altogether. We now export British supermarket products to 130 countries with turnover of over £200 million.”
For Rami, trust is everything. “If people can trust you, then they will do business with you. There are too many short-sighted people, who go to suppliers and say that they want the products for export but sell them locally in the UK for a quick profit. Business is a game of people. Money doesn’t make money, people make money. The bottom line is, my staff are highly motivated, they are looked after and treated well. You can’t achieve much alone. I am indebted to the British sense of tolerance and fair play and as a result, an ordinary immigrant could realise his ambitions and become an asset for his family and adopted country, Britain.”
He then developed a second idea to market products under his own brands. Having worked with big brand names, such as Cadbury’s, Nestlé, Mars and Heinz, he saw the value in developing his own brands. He realised that he could offer the same quality products under his own label at much cheaper prices, by reducing marketing costs normally associated with branded products, to attract a much bigger market.
Rami has never forgotten how he was helped along the way and now does a lot of charity work to give back to society. He regularly donates to educational institutions, sports clubs, charities such as Combat Stress and Age UK to name a few.
He also gives his time to organisations such as the Prince’s Trust, mentoring disadvantaged youth. “I teach everyone to follow five principles; self-respect, work ethics, commitment, vision and empathy for others. These values have been the key to my success”.
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