Being born to wealthy parents almost guarantees success; but this can only be fulfilled by the child’s own ambition to out succeed the parents.
And if an ambitious child is a pride to her parents, then that’s what Sheena Ruparelia embodies to super wealthy couple, Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia and Joystna Ruparelia. The second born to East Africa’s richest businessman Sheena’s hunger for success has earned her recognition as an untamable achiever and able defender of the Ruparelia family empire and legacy. Just like her siblings Meera (first born) and Rajiv, Sheena was tutored into the challenging world of business by her wealthy father, a pragmatic believer in empowering his children to thrive as independent business minds as opposed to spoon-feeding them off his expansive conglomerates. As such, Sheena is the development manager of Crane Bank Limited, one of the best banks in Uganda in which she began work as a mere cashier.
Her education Background
Sheena went to Kabira International School, and from the age of 11-18, she joined St. Helens High School, a boarding school in London. She later enrolled at London’s City University, where she completed Economics and Accountancy studies. While at Helens High School, Sheena experienced her first major challenge which ironically quickly built her resolve to persevere and prove her doubters wrong — a cardinal principle in business.
“The first time I stepped in the boarding school, I was bullied the moment all girls at the school learnt that I was coming from Uganda; my cadence in English was a bit different and it didn’t help things either,” she says. She however pushed herself to the limit and soon her excellent performance in class silenced all her critics. But just like is the family norm, after her university, she came back to Uganda, aged 21, to start working in the family’s vast empire. Despite her degrees and privilege as the boss’ daughter, Sheena humbly joined Crane Bank as a cashier and it was only after she displayed excellent workmanship coupled with great talent in innovation that she rose through the ranks to attain her current position. Blessed with a soft heart for the underprivileged, Sheena prides now in being the brainchild of the bank’s free eye treatment drive, a charity gesture that has since gained support from Crane Bank and other partners including Kololo Rotary Club International, among others. Explaining her motivation for the now annual free eye clinics, Sheena says, “As we celebrate 20 years of Crane Bank’s existence, we decided to give back to our clients and well-wishers through providing them with free eye treatment, pressure and Diabetes checkups, among other health ailments. I thought this to be better than throwing a party for people to drink and eat.” Sheena, through Crane Bank, also recently spearheaded a blood donation drive at the Constitutional Square, in a bid to save lives and stock up the blood banks. But as the inevitable can never be escaped, after attaining her education and making her mark on business, Sheena is now edging towards marriage; the next big step in her success path.
Red Pepper spoke to her about her plans. Below are the excerpts:
RP: I understand you’re planning a multi-million wedding in the UK next year. Who is that lucky man?
Sheena: His name is Jay Sakaria. His family has been in Uganda way before 1972 although he went to School in the UK and worked in Delloit for five years. He is a professional Actuary (a business profession that deals in the measurement and management of risk and uncertainties). He is from a family of five; Father, mother and three boys. His parents are into import trade, and collaborate with many international agencies dealing in car parts.
RP: How did you two meet?
Sheena: I met him 11 years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding in Uganda. Both of us had come for summer holidays from London. My cousin attended the same school with him, but he and I had never met. Actually on arrival, I found him discussing with my sister then I asked her, “Who is this guy?” she replied, ‘He is Sakaria’. He came and sat in front of me and that’s how we met, it was quite a funny meeting.
RP: And when did he drop the big question?
Sheena: Officially, he proposed to me in September, 2015 and I said yes.
RP: Was he your Dream Husband?
Sheena: No! We just used to be friends and I could never imagine he would become my husband because I was still young to think of that. In fact my whole family — including my father, my mother — used to tease me and him. My brother even had a bet with people that we would get married. He became my friend and sometimes my enemy to the extent that we even stopped seeing each other for two years but there was always ‘Chemistry’.
RP: Any burning expectations in marriage?
Sheena: My parents have always advised me that marriage is supposed to be more of friendship, offering support to each other. And as a young girl, I’m aware marriage will have some challenges but good enough I’m aware of that fact so I will always try to overcome them. I think marriage is all about understanding who you’re going to be with, being considerate to each other and supporting each other in all your aspirations and dreams. It’s also vital to comfort each other during bad times, among other aspects.
RP: Now that you seem to be deeply entrenched in business, how do you intend to balance work and marriage?
Sheena: Well, now that I’m officially engaged and off the shelf, my work will go on normally without any disruption since I will no longer expect forces of people seeking to submit their applications for my consideration.
RP: Which Characters did you want in your Dream Husband?
Sheena: The funny thing is that my dream husband is him; only that it took me long to realize it. Everything about him is all I wanted in a man.
RP: any model couple you look up to as inspiration in marriage?
Sheena: I think it’s my parents and my elder sister Meera because they have always been there for me; giving me courage, teaching me how to persevere during the low moments in marriage. Most importantly, my parents have encouraged me to learn to solve our problems (me and Jay) in case we get into any disagreement. Basing on their advice, even when I was dating Jay, I would always be open to them regardless of anything.
RP: What attracted you to Jay?
Sheena: To be honest, I had a crush on him and he had a crush on me too. We would at times dodge each other while in London but we ended up together though after sometime, things did not work out automatically. But as you know, there was a lot of chemistry because he was my best friend but I would sometimes fight him until I realized he was a good guy as he would accept me for who I was and I also ended up accepting him for who he was. We spent about two years without seeing each other but when we met again, things seemed to be so perfect around us. I liked his personality, since we both have a lot in common.
RP: How many children would you want to have?
Sheena: I have no idea. What I know is that I want to get children; but anyway, maybe two or three but not more is cool for me, just as it is the case with my sister Meera; unlike our brother Rajiv, who wants about ten like a football team!
RP: Did you fight off any competitors to win Jay over?
Sheena: I don’t know, maybe you have to ask him.
RP: How does it feel to have Person like Sudhir as your father? Sheena: While we were still young we used to ask ourselves why dad was not at home most of the time; it was always our mum that used to take us to school, doing everything for us. But as we grew up and joined business, we started seeing what our dad was going through to the extent of not sparing us enough time. But out of his sacrifice, he has managed to build up a lucrative and sustainable business empire, currently employing and benefiting millions of Ugandans and people from other parts of the world. Indeed, Dr. is such a unique hardworking dad I had never seen in this world. As one of his children, I’m very proud of him because he does all things with one heart. He has also introduced us into running different businesses, thus helping us to improve our lives and the lives of others as well. Another thing, he loves education and he educated us; maybe it’s the reason he has even put more of his effort in promoting education at all levels, through investing in different learning institutions right from Nursery, pre-primary, secondary, and university.
RP: OF all places you have been to, what’s your favorite place to live in?
Sheena: Obviously Uganda. You know when you land in Uganda; there is a sense of relief. Right from my childhood, I have been here and even when I grew up, so, I have been able to see good things that are in Uganda; especially the good weather conditions and the unique atmosphere. In addition, Ugandans are so friendly to the extent that even if you get lost and ask for directions to any place, people can easily help you out without much hustle — which is not the case with some countries in the world. I can’t imagine being anywhere else apart from Uganda.
RP: What other languages do you speak apart from English? Sheena: I speak broken Swahili and Gudrathi, my mother tongue.
RP: What has been your best/worst date?
Sheena: My first official date with Jay because he promised me he would take me out in London and tour places that I had never been to even when I was still staying there. But despite planning for the whole day, I waited for him to pick me up in vain!
RP: When is the marriage taking place?
Sheena: We’re still planning; we haven’t decided yet but I think towards the end of next year. I’m looking at Savoy Hotel in London as part of the venues but still I would prefer getting married again in Uganda.
RP: What is your favorite Music?
Sheena: When I was young I used to like RnB, then I moved a little bit to country music but now I can listen to any music as long as it has a nice beat because personally I like singing so much. I even used to DJ.
RP: What do you expect your wedding will cost?
Sheena: I don’t have any idea about how much the wedding will cost; but at least I know it will not be cheap. For my sister it was a bit bigger because she was the first born.
RP: How do you want to be remembered in life?
Sheena: It’s a very good question. I would like to be remembered for being kind, generous and genuine. I don’t want to pretend because I’m me. I want is to make a difference from others, and I learnt this specifically from my parents.
RP: Do you have any hobbies?
Sheena: I’m a little bit strange because right now I’m obsessed with the gym because I do it every morning. I enjoy skiing and adventurous activities but when I was still a kid, I used to spend a lot of time with my parents camping at the lakeside. I also enjoy things like horse riding, and it’s the reason we established horse riding in Munyonyo. I enjoy driving going upcountry to explore the country both for business and pleasure.