Ram gives back with Boitumelo

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 30 March 2016   |   By Ramachandran Ottapathu
Ram gives back with Boitumelo Foundation Ram gives back with Boitumelo Foundation

When I set foot on this soil 24 years ago, little did I know that I would be bestowed by this amount of tremendous love and blessings from this truly wonderful nation and its citizens. This country adopted me as its son and I truly remain humbled by this kind gesture of my fellow countrymen. Today I owe everything I have to this country and its people hence I believe it is my utmost duty to give back to the society which embraced me with open arms. The Boitumelo Foundation is my endeavour on this front. This dream project of mine is conceptualised to engage and promote social development projects of this nation. This foundation will within its means commit itself to support health, education and other worthy social causes. Your Honour, the Vice President this is a private partnership independently run with professionals at helm to ensure that each activity it undertakes will be fulfilled with sincere commitment and transparency. I assure you this foundation will support all your government initiatives to improve the welfare of the community. As I conclude let me extend my heartfelt thanks to the trustees, organising committee and the volunteers for their hard work and dedication in actualising an event of this magnitude. My sincere thanks go to all the sponsors who believed in this cause, especially Barclays Bank and Orange Botswana. And last but not the least, the dignitaries who have spared their valuable time and extended their support for this endeavour.”

First beneficiaries

The Foundation’s first donation went to the University of Botswana’s Medical School which received P1.4m cancer detection equipment – the first of its kind in Africa. The Minister of Health, Dorcas Makgato received the donation, hailing it as a very welcome asset. “This donation will go a long way in adding value to our society by giving medical students exposure to the equipment,” said Ottapathu. Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi who was the guest of honour at the Foundation’s launch appreciated the good contribution that Ottapathu was making to the country as its ‘adopted son’.

Who is Ottapathu?

The world’s leading business magazine – Forbes – recently traced his story back to his birth place of Ollur in Kerala’s Thrissur district in India where he grew up as a youngster with no knowledge that he would one day settle in Africa and call Botswana his home. “We suffered a lot. We were never able to make ends meet. The family had three full meals only about once a year,” he tells the magazine about his upbringing in India. After completing and passing his chartered accountancy exams he worked briefly before he took the long trip to Gaborone on December 18, 1992 to work for Mazaars accounting firm. Soon thereafter he was deployed to Lobatse to work for then struggling Wayside Supermarket that was owned by Farouk Ismail. Having arrived barely with only taxi fare in his pockets – as he tells Forbes – Ottapathu’s journey into being a multimillionaire had begun as he started setting the stage for rise of the retail juggernaut that would later be called Choppies after arriving in Lobatse.   
Key facts

• First son of five children; married to Jalaja and has two children – Barlam (23) and Bhagyasree (10)  
• Appointed CEO in 2000
• Company opens its first hyperstore in 2002 – makes P200m a year now
• Stores named Choppies (After Chopdat founders) in 2003 
• Listed on the BSE in 2012
• Secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2015
• Choppies presence in Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe
• Target – to have 200 stores by end of 2016 and grow into other countries.
• To list property business – Far Properties Company – in May, 2016.
• Barely puts on suit (Only when meeting President Ian Khama); addicted to Africa!