Rami Ranger on turning £2 of capital into £200m of turnover

HOW I BEAT THE ODDS: The chairman of exporter Sun Mark talks about the shock of coming to England, earning 35p an hour at KFC and beautiful brand names.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 08 Jul 2016

My father was killed by fanatics before I was born in 1947 because he opposed the partition of India. We were on the wrong side of the border when Pakistan became a Muslim state and we became second-class citizens overnight. So my mother and her eight children came on a refugee train from Pakistan to India.

My mother was a remarkable lady, she was very tough. She said, 'I'm not going to give up, no matter what life throws at me.' Being the youngest I was spoiled. I was a mediocre student because I was given too much love from every direction, but in 1971 I persuaded my mother to send me to England.

It was a huge cultural shock to me to see that what I had imagined of England, the roads paved with gold, money growing on trees, was far from reality. They had changed the law so that overseas students had to have been here for three years to get a grant, so I decided to make some money to go home.

Wherever I went they asked for experience but nobody wanted to give me any. In the end, with a great deal of difficulty, I got a job as a car cleaner and later as a chef at KFC in Norbury, south London, earning 35p an hour.

One day my regional manager saw me working on the till and offered me a job as assistant manager in Norwood. I worked there for a year before I saw a vacancy for store manager in Brixton. It had a reputation as a rough area, nobody wanted to go there. But I wanted to get more money so I did. It became the number one store in the company and I was promoted to district manager. But then I was made redundant after six years.

After opening a corner shop and then working as a sales rep for McCain, I got a job at Currys. I used to see people there buying electrical goods and shipping them to other countries, and I decided to open a freight forwarding company. I started in a shed in 1987 with £2 of capital and a typewriter. My job was to collect this cargo, consolidate it and load it into containers for onward shipping.

Lots of people in other countries aspire to having British food but can't afford branded products. So I went to the manufacturers and said, 'Can you make products under my brand because I don't want to pay your marketing, advertising and distribution costs?' That allowed me to start exporting goods that were 40% cheaper.

The difference between a supermarket own brand and my brands is that where supermarkets call it a 'value brand' to patronise their customers, I give them a beautiful name - Royalty, English Breeze, Golden Country, Pure Heaven.

Since then our business just kept growing and growing. We will reach £200m in turnover and 150 employees this year, and we export to 130 countries. We have won an unprecedented five consecutive Queen's Awards for Enterprise for International Trade and this year Her Majesty has given me a CBE.

Photography by Julian Dodd


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