There are several stories of Indians arriving in Britain to study and staying on to achieve much in various fields, but perhaps none so remarkable as that of Rami Ranger, who was carried as a baby by his fleeing mother on foot and bus to Patiala during the chaos of Partition, arrived in London in 1971, started business with 2 pounds in 1987, and today heads a 200 million-pound business empire.
Son of Sardar Nanak Singh, who opposed Partition but was killed during the Partition turmoil, Ranger was born in Gujranwala in July 1947, and began life with his widowed mother and seven siblings in a refugee camp in Patiala.
Today, he is one of the most successful Indian-origin entrepreneurs, feted by the royal family and several organisations for services to British business, and a prominent figure in Britain’s Indian and Asian communities.
Speaking to HT, Ranger said he graduated from Government College, Chandigarh, arrived here in 1971 to study law, but had to discontinue studies due to lack of funds. He took up odds jobs and later started his first company – Sea, Air and Land Forwarding Ltd. – in 1987, focussing on logistics and freight, from a shed in Hayes with 2 pounds as capital.
Ranger’s business soon took off and he launched his export company, Sun Mark Ltd, in 1995, sourcing FMCG British products and exporting them to 120 countries, including India. He has since received a string of awards and honours, including an MBE in 2005.
Both companies have received prestigious awards from Queen Elizabeth: the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement 1999 and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade for unprecedented five consecutive years: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, setting a record for British companies.
Ranger, a recipient of Pride of India Award 2008, has narrated his unlikely story in a new book titled ‘From Nothing to Everything’.
Ranger said: “My story shows that one does not need a rich father, an elite education or the old schoolboy network to help one in life. What one needs is self-respect, ethics, commitment, vision and empathy”.
Closely involved in social work, Ranger is chairman of the British Sikh Association and a founding member of the Hindu Forum of Britain, and works with several other organisations, including the British Asian Conservative Link, which espouses Asian interests with the ruling Conservative party.
One of his three daughters, Rina, is a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative party, expected to contest the 2015 elections. Another daughter, Amita, is a doctor, and the third, Sabina, a student at London University. Ranger’s sister lives in Chandigarh.
Given his background, has he thought of investing in India?
Ranger had strong words about ‘red tape’ and corruption in India: “India is an ideal country for business – ethical workforce, transport links, skills, language – everything is there, but the red tape is designed only to benefit officials to generate opportunities for corruption. They blackmail you if you want to export goods to India”.
He added: “The officials are milking the system for their own benefit. When you want to export some goods to test the market, custom officials harass you, don’t allow you to set up companies there. They are a law unto themselves. I salute those who succeed in India despite the many odds”.
Ranger said he followed Indian politics to an extent, and believed that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi “will be very good for business” given his track record in his state. The rise of the Aam Admi Party, he said, showed the strength of India’s democracy, but added that “they will become serious players if they behave themselves”.