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EGM to re-direct Choppies future

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 27 August 2019   |   By Ricardo Kanono

Ram believes the board could have done better – as no one takes responsibility for lost value       

STAFF WRITER

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It has been an emotional turmoil for suspended Choppies CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu – the listed entity’s leading individual shareholder.

Anger has eaten at him as he helplessly watched the company losing its hard earned value as the effects of his suspension – from the operations that only himself can hold together – wreaked havoc on the business. His worry is that the board has not balanced the action they took of laying him aside with the value loss of the business.

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“No one will take responsibility for this value loss. The more they delay in resolving this, the more damage the business will suffer. It will not be easy to restore the business back on the path of growth,” he charged. 

“I have been left very angry as I saw empty shelves in shops or when I became aware of an ill-treatment of a hard working employee,” confessed Ram; who at worst moments even felt he should just pack and leave.

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Not an easy option to follow for a man who literally built the Choppies brand from scratch. He chose to remain loyal to his business despite the odds – which he sees as temporary.

In fact by his own admission, the wait is almost over for Choppies to be restored. His focus is on the September 4, 2019 Extraordinary General Meeting where a whole new board is set to be elected. Former President Festus Mogae who has been chairing the board has already signalled that he will be stepping down.

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Ram sees this moment as an opportunity to re-direct the fortunes of Botswana’s leading retailer. “The future of the business is in the hands of shareholders,” he proclaims, keeping his cards close to the chest of how he anticipates things would pan out from the meeting.

He has already gotten his way of having shareholders vote through secret ballot than show of hands. All he lets out is that he would not have gone to this point had he not been confident that the shareholders would do what is necessary to rescue the business. He skids around the question of whether he has the necessary numbers to push his decision; shielding himself by only breaking into a smile.

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While the immediate new board decision could be to return him to the CEO position, he does not rule out the possibility of considering a new role though not too far from operations.

“I am a hands-on man. I would prefer to return to operations and restore this business to its growth mode,” he declares.

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While respecting Choppies Board’s decision to pull out of South Africa, suspended CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu is opposed to that.

To him this is an ill-informed decision. “If we do not have a bigger market to rely on our growth prospects will diminish and we shall come to a standstill. Other markets do not offer what South Africa does. We should be more patient with it. We are just now reaching the critical mass that is necessary to gain profitability.  In fact we are doing well in Durban and in the North West and should be more patient with other areas,” he insists.

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As things stand everything is on the balance. If the shareholders lift his suspension and, it is almost given that the Board’s decision to pull out of South Africa and put all company assets in that country up for sale will be reversed.

His tone this past week was positive. He sees resolution of the impasse on the horizon.  “It’s just a week to go,” Ram proclaims with a posture of a man who knows exactly what will follow the September 4, 2019 EGM.

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Working in his favour is that the founder of the retailer Farouk Ismail – another leading shareholder of the business –, who has been acting as CEO, has remained in his corner when all deserted him. The co-founders will once more have to chart the path of where the business will go from here.



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