Shri A. Ajay Kumar joined the Indian Foreign Service in the year 2001 and he is currently posted as the High Commissioner of India to Uganda.
During 2003-2006, Shri Ajay Kumar was posted as Third Secretary between 2003-05 and as Second Secretary [Info] & Head of Chancery during 2005-06 in the Indian Embassy in Tehran. Thereafter, he returned to India and served in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi as Under Secretary dealing with Pakistan during 2006-08
He served in the Indian Embassy in Bahrain from 2008-2012 and thereafter in Tehran from 2012-14. He served as India’s Ambassador to Iraq from May 2014-November 2015. Later he served as Deputy High Commissioner in Canberra, Australia (2016-17).
Shri A. Ajay Kumar thereafter has served in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi in the Indian Ocean Region of MEA as Joint Secretary (IOR-II) prior to assuming his charge as Joint Secretary (DPA-I).
Shri A. Ajay Kumar holds the graduate degree in Political Science and L.L.B. degree from the University of Calicut in Kerala.
Shri A. Ajay Kumar (IFS:2001), presently Joint Secretary in the Ministry, has been appointed as the new High Commissioner of India to the Republic of Uganda.
Indian & Indian origin community of Uganda, Indian Association Board of Trustees & Executive Committee members
Chairmen & other representatives of all other communities, up country representatives of Indian Association, Indian Association subcommittee’s members and all eminent business personalities of Uganda.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon to you all. I welcome you all to this Annual General Meeting of Indian Association, Uganda
When I became the chairman of Indian Association, I knew we had a hard slog, ahead of us. But I was determined, to give it my all. I was always taught, that it doesn’t matter, what you do in life, as long as you do it, to the best of your ability.
We were disciplined. We were united. And, yes, we did make progress.
I am profoundly, grateful for the privilege of having, led you.
It is with great humility, and honour for me, to be here before you, to give my final speech, as the outgoing chairman, of Indian Association, Uganda.
I agree, with those who say: a good farewell speech, should be like a woman’s skirt. Long enough, to cover the subject, and short enough, to create interest. I will try to stick to this rule.
Today, this AGM is a day of accountability. In a professional world, if we do not perform we always have fear of losing our jobs, or contracts, but in a social organization, many times, we take leadership positions, in society with no fear, of losing or accountability. Promises are dropped, just as casually as they are made, because we see that there are no penalties, for failure. I tried, to change this, in my term of office,and even today at this moment, I am trying to emphasis that, social positions should not be taken, if we do not have time, to do the duty, to our society. Let us practice accountability
When we stood in front of you, at the beginning of our term, we made some pledges. We promised to make Indian Association, Uganda stronger, more open and more visible. Most of our promises list, is ticked and I feel I can step down from the chair, proudly. Our lists of projects, were not, too ambitious, as mentioned, by some members, at that time.
At my investiture, I promised you things. That my work would remain transparent, and responsive to your direction. I pledged that I would remain, focused on the activities, that needed to be done but with more publicity. The brand “Indian” was made visible through effective use of the media, Newspapers, TV’s and radio stations.
We now, have a more controlled system for dissemination of information, which reaches far & wide through, face book, email, and telephone blocks.
The membership, is more energised, and better informed, thanks to the Namesta, issued periodically.
I hope, I was able to meet, your expectations on these.
Major Activities undertaken
Instead of a dull report, full of numbers and statistics, let me simply say, that these two years, were years of the first times, in many aspects.
Our team was the first one
To launch Indi Vision in the New Vision
To celebrate Diwali at State House with the President of Uganda
To launch Indian Association Face book with a success of having over 11,000 members
To register members online with maximum details as possible
To sign an MOU for undertaking CSR activities with 1) UNICEF
To organize Indian Film Festival
To run scholarship project with the allocation of 144 scholarship till today
To run an organized blood donation drive with the achievement of 4000 units of blood collected.
Also we were the first to launch a photo album of Indian community activities in Uganda on our website
To participate in the parade at the Kololo Airstrip to celebrate 50 years of Uganda’s Independence
To participate in the KCCA – carnival by physical presence & also through a float highlighting contribution
To organize intercommunity sports
To get a seat for Indian Association on the Board of Uganda manufacturers’ Association.
To launch a 15 minutes documentary on the Journey & contributions of Indians in Uganda
To receive awards & certificates for Indian Association from;
Visionary of Uganda
Uganda Red Cross
Uganda Manufactures Association
Best float award from KCCA
May today not be the end, but the beginning, of many first’s to come. Let us do something, that makes the world better, than what we found.
While narrating our achievements, I cannot forget the hurdles we faced in the last 2 years. Some of which, needs to be mentioned;
When we organized a dinner, with Hon Smita Irani MP from India, many members were lobbying to get invitations, and if not invited, were blaming Indian Association, but when Indian Association wanted names for participants at the 9th October parade, or carnival of KCCA, members were shying away or finding excuses. Thanks to the members who participated in the parade & KCCA carnival.
Many subcommittees were formed, but some sub of them did not even launch a single project, of theirs. I urge members not to take positions in the Executive Committee, if you do not have time.
Tried hard, to find ways, of getting a property, for Indian Association, but failed completely. On this property, where we sit today, we have shares but it does not belong to us. I request, our board of trustees, to take this project as priority no.1, so that nobody can tell us to vacate.
One of the important unfinished task of our committee is the launch of our business forum. I urge the incoming Executive Committee to focus on this.
About Indian Association
Indian Association has done, and is doing things, but I also need to echo, that Indian Association, can do more.
I urge all our community members, to be proud of Indian Association, as it is the only Indian Association in the world, which represents all people, of Indian origin, of a country. We started our Association 90 years ago, which is alive, with full of energy & vigor, as of now.
Let us use, Indian Association for personal use, no problem, but do not harm Indian Association, in the process, which happens sometimes, and this has a long term, negative effects, on our Association.
Whatever the nationalities, the passports we have, our skins/or DNA routes, from the magnificently, incredible India
In Uganda, whether we have been here for 100 years, or just arrived with the title, “Rochet” given to us, by some of our friends, it doesn’t matter to us. At the end of the day, we are all Indians, through and through. Even the people who call us, Rockets have the same roots.
If we have Indian blood, let us not shy, to be called as Indians. It is not possible, to change the DNA, or the colour of our skin, so why force, this unnatural activity
Indian association, if supported, by all business houses, we jointly, can influence a great number, of government policies. We can jointly add a lot of contributions, in making a strong, Ugandan economy. Jointly, we can face the Chinese math, otherwise we have a lot to lose, in the coming years
I appeal, to all our associated organizations, to use Indian Association name, on all banners and pull up’s, and at all venues of activities, of their association. This would enhance our strength, and would be seen, as united, thus making us powerful.
To everything, there is a season, and a time, to every purpose, under the heaven. Today is the time, for expressing gratitude, to all my well wishers. I would first want to thank all members of our Board of Trustees, the Executive committee members, the Indian High commission, all officers at the Indian High commission, all colleagues of Graphic Systems group, without whose support, I would, not have, achieved anything
Thanks, to all well-wishers, who have sent us, hundreds of emails /Sms& comments, expressing appreciation, to our activities, in the last two years
Thanks, to all the media houses, all my Ugandan friends, who used to call & motivate me, in my various endeavors.
Thanks, in no small measure, to the tireless work of visionaries, like Hon Sanjay Tanna & Pradeep Karia & Mr. Parminder Katongole. These individuals, and others like them, in our association, had the audacity, to see potential, where, so many others, only saw limitations.
I would also like to thank, a very special person in my life, the rock that has held, all the pieces together, to make me, a better chairman and manager, my wife Pratibha Chaplot .She has been my coach, to point out the mistakes, I made, and to keep my spirits high, even when I lost my way. I had her, to remind me, that it was normal to fall; I have to, to rise up again and learn from it.
Many times, I ran out of breath. There were, some moments too, when my eyes were fixed, on something that I wanted, to reach so badly, that I forgot to look, at my feet and accidentally, tripped and fell. But through every curve, I knew that I had, Naren Mehta with me, telling me that, we could keep going despite the fact, that ,we had bad luck, and in spite of the hundreds of bloopers.
I had Tushar Upadhyay, to constantly inject in me, liters of optimism, to inspire me into working, harder, to serve selflessly and supporting me in small & big tasks day and night, with a full and committed heart at all times.
Chirag Dave, to give me an extra foot, along the way.
Kalpesh Mehta, Ashish Shinghvi, Shailesh Salvi Manoj Patel & Ravi Patel, to cheer me, on when, I really needed help.
Sanjeev Patel, Kishore Dattani & Sham Ramarao, to keep me excited about our projects.
Divyang Patel and Dilip Bhandari, to make the road to the finish line so colorful.
Thanks to Nitin Vakheria & Dharmesh Patel & Raju Vaya as they were always, strategically available when I needed them.
Thanks to Hon. Rajni Tailor for helping me & the community.
Mr. Shailendra Kundra & Dr. Prakash Patel for all your motivating words.
I had my whole Executive committee members as driving forces and according me approvals which I wanted. Lastly, I had Miria, my secretary Susan, Cathy & James, as my teammates, working with me, in the course and running for me, when my legs, were giving up. Recruiting, a Uganda administrator Miria, was a very successful experiment. Thank you Miria, for your hard work and support.
These special people gave me all the strength, I needed to endure the obstacles, I was faced with. They are the reason, why I am here, with my head up.
I want to apologize to all, I have hurt, offended or simply appalled, whether wittingly or unwittingly. I don’t think, I’ve made, many new enemies, but I know, I have found, quite a few new friends.
I left this exact spot, two years ago, to begin my race, with a heart beating so fast. Now, the finish line, is just a few meters away, but I am going to cherish, the beautiful experience, that I had gone through, in the years, that passed by.
After executing all the projects, experiencing all the mistakes and victories that came with it, and carrying out the role of being your chairperson, leadership, has been redefined for me. I have learned that indeed, it is about genuine service. It is about doing something, for others with the uncertainty, of being acknowledged, for it or not. It is about seeing, beyond the masks, that people wear and taking risks, by reaching out to them. It is about, tirelessly working, for something that you believe in. It is about being strong, even when people question your character, and your intentions.
It tests the heart – because service is about love. And, as the Indian Association chairperson, it was about, loving more than 25,000 people who used to be, complete strangers to me. These are the little things, that I have picked up, from the track. I never thought, they could ever be, so real to me.
We are one big family here, and each one of you, completes it.
Chance to New comers
Nelson Madela the greatest Icon of our time & I have something in common. We share the same Birthday, and we shall both be leaving office, immediately after one term. A good leader should never stick, to his office permanently, but should allow new comers, to join & take positions, so that we get new & vibrant ideas.
I remember the day I was elected unanimously as the Chairman of Indian Association; I remember the projects we promised for Indian Association at the start of our term, I remember the day when we were in State house celebrating Diwali with His Excellency, I remember the day when Indi Vision was launched, I remember the day when you all contributed more than 300 million Ugx in Just half an hour, I remember all the occasions when all of the different associations invited me for your functions, I remember all the motivating sms /emails /telephone calls you made to me, I remember the day when his Excellency the Ambassador of America addressed our community ,I remember the day when our first issue of Namesta was released, I remember the day when we participated in the Jubilee celebrations of Uganda’s Independence, I remember the day when we had our float at the KCCA carnival, I remember our first ever Indian film festival, I remember the day when we launched our documentary on Indian community in Uganda.
I remember all & will always remember & cherish those moments in my life. Thank you all for putting your trust in me. I always felt proud, to represent you
I will miss, all the invitation, you used to send to the chair, I was holding. My humble request is that, continue sending, me those invitations, now as Rajesh Chaplot
End Part/conclusion I stand here with a deep sense of humility, and appreciation to the members, of this association, to the people, who placed their trust and faith in me, I am proud, to stand here today, and proclaim that, with your support, I have never let you down, and never will.
And rest assured, I’m not going anywhere. I will remain, an active and vocal force.
It’s been an honor to be your Chairman. I hope, you feel that, I have represented you, and us well. When I step off, this stage today, I would, have reached the finish line. Thank you, for believing in us.
As, I pass the torch on to the New Chairman, my message is; the track is yours. You have dreamt, of the same things, so I wish you luck, as you fulfill your aspirations. A new course, lies ahead of you, but know that, you have nothing to fear. May God, use you well, as an instrument of His plan, for the next years.
So as you leave this Annual General Meeting, my last message to you as chairman, is this: hold your heads up high, be strong and of good courage, unite behind a new leader, and then fight, to build a better Indian Association. Go for it, let’s shoot for the stars, and if we miss, will at least land on the moon.
And so, I end my term as your chairperson, in the words of St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the Faith.”
Once again, I thank you for trusting me; and your trust was the wind, beneath my wings
It’s been an honour to be your chairman.
Long live Indian Association, long live its members .Thank you all & God bless.
BUBU Policy is an economic Cum Patriotic policy for which H.E The President of Uganda deserves our gratitude.
BUBU can be a game changer for Uganda, if all its stakeholders are honest to themselves for its implementation & removing the hurdles observed during its implementation journey.
Consumers, i.e. the common people & leaders are Biggest & most important stakeholders of BUBU’s success. Apart from consumers, Community Leaders have an Important role, in the journey of BUBU.
Journey of Amendment.
From time immemorial, the modification or the amendment of any policy or Act is a key for its success. The first amendment for the BUBU Guidelines was brought, with the support of H.E the President of Uganda, where BUBU supplier definition was amended to include Local Manufacturing companies, among citizen of Uganda as the eligible suppliers.
The next very important Amendment, which is pending is to amend again, the definition of BUBU Supplier.
The test of BUBU supplier should be “where the goods are manufactured and not, who is supplying it”
MDA’s are currently issuing LPO’s to many locally registered companies, portraying that BUBU is complied, when in reality these locally registered companies are importing 100% of those products.
For Example: Sourcing of Primary and Secondary Text Books among others.
This loop hole in BUBU definition needs an amendment.
The recently passed Local content bill by the Parliament of Uganda, is another great step in this journey.
The biggest challenge in the success of BUBU is the ultimate consumer.
The common man within the Private Sector or Public Sector are the consumers within the society.
It is the consumer at the end, who will decide, on what they want to consume.
Consumers needs to change their mindset & support BUBU by adopting & consuming Ugandan made products.
Quality, Taste and price are some of the issues that could be a challenge for the consumers in the initial period, but once the consumers demand is picked, Quality, taste & price, all will be improved.
Public and Private Sector enterprises, also need to be educated & motivated to consume possible locally produced Raw materials or locally made consumables, at their work place as much as possible.
Public and Private enterprises, need to be made partners of BUBU through various Legal methods.
Excuses for failure of BUBU.
Some common excuse which is being embraced by Government entities for going away from BUBU is the term called “Security”.
Local manufacturers or local Indigenous people are considered as point of leakage and thus Manufacturers based outside Uganda, are given the chance.
For Example: Ballot paper printing.
We need to trust our own people & we need to train them to avoid such chances of leakages. Also, strict guidelines & legal penalties can be part of the contract, to answer this security aspect of doing things locally.
For products like Transcript, Passing Certificate and Results slip for UNEB and Universities, outside suppliers have wrongly convinced MDA’s to keep some security features in their products which are irrelevant. Their aim is to keep local suppliers out of Race.
The second most Excuse, we hear from Government entities is high price.
Government needs to support BUBU, even if local producer’s prices are high, because at the end it supports the bigger picture of Ugandan economy, by saving foreign Exchange, by local employment generation and by capacity building.
The BUBU Guidelines or local content Act should take care of this, price excuse suitably.
Quality & capacity are another set of flags raised by Government entities, in the matters of supporting BUBU Suppliers.
Government, if it gives a zone of comfort to purchase locally then, Manufacturers will develop the capacity, if it is lacking. No investor will invest without the commitment from the Government of buying locally. Hence, there is need of, proper dialogue between Government & Private sector.
Regarding Quality also, both Government & private sector need to come to an agreement for mutually acceptable solution, to this Excuse of quality but of course Quality needs to be improved eventually.
Recently in Newspaper, we saw a directive from H.E The president of Uganda to print locally, the currency, Ballot papers & other such high security printing material. This was a very welcome initiative
BUBU- # An Economic Fight against Covid-19
BUBU can save a huge foreign exchange for the country & can generate, also additional employment which is a need of the hour.
In Today’s time Uganda is suffering from unemployment and BUBU is a perfect answer to it.
By way of saving foreign exchange, even the devaluation of Uganda shilling can be reduced or stopped completely
Redefine the definition of BUBU suppliers i.e. The requirement of a BUBU supplier should be, “where the goods are manufactured and not who is supplying the goods”
Excuses of security, capacity, Quality and price brought by various MDA’s need to be eliminated by enacting appropriate Guidelines.
PPDA & Private sector need to have a dialogue & agree on a list of goods or services, for which importation need to be discouraged through Tariff & Non- Tariff Barriers.
Leaders need to lead the consumers by example and promote Patriotism to its peak.
(The Writer is A General Manager of Graphic Systems (U) Limited, Award winner for Pravasi Bhartiya Samman in 2009 being awarded by the President of India and also received the Golden Jubilee award in 2020 which is the Highest Civilian Award from H.E The President of Uganda.)
At this hour, every business organization needs to follow four Mantras:
2-Values and ethics
4-Robust and strategic business plan
Strong leadership is very important, at this time of the crisis. We need to be positive and bring positivity to our organization. Also at this moment, we need to be very careful, concerning our values and ethics. Losing values and ethics, at this time, can be harmful in the medium and long-term, even though they may be looking good, in the short run. We may have, men /machine/ and material, but to manage all these three, we need to have a motivated team.
A robust and strategic business plan comprises the following:
Defer capital expenditure which would not generate, any extra sales
Lobby and take advantages of the government financial package
Look innovative ways, of doing business after the lock-down.
How to Maximize Sales?
Look for diversification, look for new territories, look at new areas, and look for new products, in your field of business. Many of your competitors may fail, and we should capitalize on those opportunities. Make business cartels within the parameters of the law of the country, which would help you to maintain your selling price. Hedge your selling price, as against the exchange devaluation.
At this time, maintaining liquidity is also very important. Reduce your stock levels as much as possible. Give a special focus on your debt recovery plan. Negotiate with banks to restructure your EMI’s, if needed, as per the guidelines of the central bank. It will not affect your credit rating. Defer your statutory payments if your government has allowed it.
Lobby and take advantage of the various government packages. If you are not a member of any business association of your country, then take the membership.
(a) Employment Cost
Among the various heads of the indirect cost, employment cost is the highest. Reduction in the staff cost can be achieved in many ways,
By retrenching staff,
By reducing the salaries and perks
The combination of both.
Especially, when we are retrenching, local staff, we need to be very careful, that we are following, the law of the land. The Ministry of Labor might have issued some guidelines and clarification, in this regard, but see carefully if any relaxation is given. Maybe not.
It should be well noted and understood. While retrenching the staff, the following elements of the employment act should be kept in mind namely— notice pay, severance allowance, pending leave, and any terms and conditions of the employment contract, which have been committed by the company.
If companies will not take care of these provisions, of the employment act, then we may end up in the court. Also, be careful, as what we give in writing, to the staff, at the time of retrenching, because if not taken care of this, then it can create a legal issue for the organization. Staff cost can also be reduced by adjusting, their annual leave, with this lock-down days.
Reimbursement of some expenses like transport cost, training cost, telephone cost, lunch expenses, can also be deducted for this, lock-down period salary. Staff can also be sent, on long leave without pay, but this needs to be done, with the consent of staff. If the organization is Paying overtime to workers, try to find a way that can be saved without affecting the production. Companies can also think, for some of the staff, who can work from home and, thus save cost.
Some of the expatriate staff can be sent for long leave. Alternatively, some of them can work, from their country, and you may pay them, much less salary for that period.
Improve the efficiency of your workers and your staff, with creative thinking. Renegotiating the terms of employment, with the consent of the staff should also be explored.
One has to be very careful; that staff on duty, in any organization, are kept motivated. Working with the de-motivated staff would give hidden losses to the organization, which, we will never realize it.
(b) Force major clause in various contracts
Applicability of the force major clause, in various contracts, needs to be studied by each company, as to how you can invoke or how others can invoke against you in this situation. This can increase your cost or decrease your cost.
(c) Electricity cost
Run your factory in the night instead of the day and use the off-peak electricity rates.
(d) Imported raw material
Imported raw material prices can be negotiated in your favor. As supply will be more than demand.
(e) Marketing budget
A marketing budget can be curtailed while keeping a close watch on your competitor policy.
(f) Other expenses
Traveling is going to be very costly as airfares will be high, so minimize air travel – Control wasteful expenses like production wastage, repair, and maintenance ( focus on preventative maintenance )
COVID policy or Pandemic policy
Draft a Pandemic policy for your organization. This will help you in many litigation and remove the ambiguity in the employment act, like you can define severance allowance in your policy.
In the end, I will only say, that during this lock-down period, develop a cost reduction plan, to save your company, from any cash losses.