Mukaira: A master of all trades behind family empire

William Mukaira has tried his hand at numerous projects and has succeeded at all of them. He is now at the helm of a multi-billion family empire.At 85, he is in the evening of his life and says he now prefers to play an aisory role to the directors (mostly his sons) of the various projects under the Mukaira Foundation.

“I am now an aisor. I no longer have the strength to move around a lot so I mainly offer aice to the directors, teachers and students,” he says.

A winner of Top 100 accolade for 20122013 for the fastest growing enterprise, Mukaira Foundation includes Valley Inn, Valley College, Valley Wines and other projects in the pipeline.

Valley InnA primary teacher in the early 1960s, Mr Mukaira operated what he calls a powerful dairy farm from 1965, leading to the establishment of Valley Inn.

The first hotel in Bushenyi, Valley Inn was put up in 1979 and seems to have served its days. It is now operating on a small scale housing part-time teachers, judges and magistrates. It seems to have been overshadowed by bigger projects.

Going commercial

In 2006, Valley Wines was founded and two years ago, the winery started selling on a commercial scale.

Currently, in one production session, more than 10,000 litres are bottled in 700ml bottles making between 13,000 to 14,000 bottles in addition to smaller capacity bottles of 350ml and 250ml.Each 700ml bottle goes for Shs15,000 while a 350ml one goes for Shs8,000 and the 250ml costs Shs5,000.

Mr Janan Mukaira, the director in charge marketing, says their main market is the Western Uganda region with the Eastern and Northern being emerging markets. He, however, notes that the Central region has been hard to penetrate but they are registering steady increase in sales.

University plans

An optimistic William Mukaira believes that given enough resources, his sons should be able to start a university in future.“I have groomed my children who should be able to put up a university in future if there is enough money to do that,” he says of his future plans.

Valley Wines takes shapeMr Mukaira says when he started growing grapes in 2000, they were only for home consumption just like all the fruits he grows. “The idea of making wine was never on my mind,” he says.

But as the grape yields increased, he says the idea of making wine for home consumption came into mind. Using what he termed as ‘rudimentary methods’, he started wine production on a very small scale for home consumption.

It was not until 2006 that the idea of commercial wine production came to mind, thanks to a German Embassy official who had sought accommodation at Valley Inn.Mr Mukaira says the official approached them and asked whether the German Embassy could help them in getting an expert in wine-making. “We agreed and the embassy got us one Dr Werner Hufcker who helped us in the initial stages of wine-making,” he recollects.

Tailoring project

Having realised how expensive it is to buy uniforms for the students, Mr Mukaira decided to start a tailoring project in 2010 which would help them reduce on costs.

Today, the project produces uniforms for the school plus other schools and institutions in the district and beyond.“We get tenders and supply on demand as well as training people in tailoring,” he says.

Valley College has produced more than 60 engineers

A teacher by profession, Mr Mukaira says he always had an urge to start up a school and the opportunity came in 1997. With just two students and four rooms, Valley College was founded with the Aanced Level section only. Among the four rooms, one was the headmistress’ office, two classrooms and a boys’ dormitory. He had to utilise the upper part of his main home to accommodate the girls’ dormitory.

By examination time, the number of students had grown to 48. The number then grew to more than 1,000 but it has since reduced to around 900, something he attributes to the mushrooming ‘cheap’ schools in the neighbourhood.

An A-Level student at Valley College pays Shs700,000 in tuition fees while an O-Level one pays Shs500,000. “Another thing that has reduced the number of students is the fact that we are now biased towards sciences which some parents feel are too hard for their children.

So, they take them to other schools,” he points out, saying that has been a challenge the school has had to accept.

The professionals He, however, is quick to point out that the school has churned out many professionals since inception.

“We have produced more than 30 doctors and more than 60 engineers in just about 10 years among other professions. We are the best school in the district when it comes to sciences,” he shares.

On display in his office is the ‘Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) educators of excellence’ award that the school won in 2008.

Wine juice

The latest addition onto Valley Wines, according to Mr Janan Mukaira, is Valley Juice, a pure grape juice. “A bottle of Valley Juice goes for Shs6,000 but it is first being piloted in the Western region before we can roll out to other parts of the country,” he explains.Mr William Mukaira adds that there is need to purchase more stainless steel containers used in the storage of wine to add on the current three and the plastic tanks.

Winery inputs increase costsOne big challenge Mr William Mukaira says is that Ugandans have been wired to believe that imported products are superior. So they prefer imported to local wine. Most of the inputs used in the winery are imported and expensive because of the taxes imports attract in transit.

Mr Mukaira says most of the inputs like preservatives and corks are imported from Germany because the local ones have not been up to standard. “Competition from imported wines which come at the same prices as our local wines is another challenge. We wonder whether these wines are subjected to taxes at all or they are simply fake,” he says.

Keeping off weedsMartin Musingamanzi, the technical assistant of the winery, also notes that during the rainy seasons, a lot of inputs in weed and disease control are applied compared to the dry seasons.” This, he says, increases operational costs.

SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR

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