Indian migrant to Ghana now retail chain magnate
By Francis Kokutse
Indian investment in Ghana goes way back to the time when it was a British colony with the name Gold Coast. A 14-year-old Indian who landed in Gold Coast in 1929 could have never imagined that his son, now 72, would operate one of the biggest supermarket chains in the west African nation.
One of the early travellers from India looking for greener pastures, the teenaged Ramchand Khubchandani was recruited to work as a store assistant in 1929. Ramchand's journey across the oceans for a better life paid off.
After serving as a store assistant for 20 years, he branched off to set up his own store in 1946, and later became a retail magnate with his Glamour Stores.
Not only that, he was able to open offices in Hong Kong and Japan.
His son, Bhagwan Khubchandani - now the 72-year-old chairman of the Melcom Group - has kept alive the family tradition in the retail business. He operates one of the biggest supermarket chains in the country that employs over 1,800 people in 24 supermarkets.
"When my father left Hyderabad (Sind), that part of the country was under India. Today it is part of Pakistan," Bhagwan Khubchandani told IANS.
He said his father was recruited by an agency to work as a store boy in the then Gold Coast.
"In 1946, my father and his younger brother, who had also arrived in the country, decided to set up their shop which gave birth to the Glamour Stores."
"They started that business with 1,000 pounds and through hard work and determination were able to become a household name in the retail business throughout the country," Bhagwan said.
"My father sent me to continue my education in London after starting out at the Bishop School in Accra. But I decided not to go to college and returned to join my father run his business."
"My father who had at the time set up a buying agency in Hong Kong for his retail business decided in 1951 to relocate me to manage his business there. After three years in Hong Kong, I moved to Japan where my father had also set up an agency."
The stay in these two countries helped to build Bhagwan for the future.
"I realised that my refusal to go to college was a handicap so I used the opportunity to attend night schools and engaged in correspondence courses to improve myself in business and management," he said.
"I returned to Ghana in 1961 and was made the managing director of Glamour Stores which I managed till 1991 when I decided to separate from Glamour Stores due to some problems which I don't want to talk about," he said.
Before that, Bhagwan started the Melcom Group in 1990 with his son-in-law.
Having lived in Ghana for the past five decades, Bhagwan says: "I have seen the changing face of Indian businesses in Ghana. Before, a majority of those who arrived in the country were mostly shop-owners. Today, Indian investors have moved into other areas. The biggest steel plant in the country is owned by an Indian, with many more spread across other industries and farming as well."
The Indian embassy in Ghana says there are about 7,000-8,000 people of Indian origin in the country at present.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)