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Robinah’s business is built on trust

By Patrick Kagenda

What is your day like?

I wake up at 5 a.m. and pray. I don’t normally have breakfast but I take hot water. I wake up my children for school and 6:30 a.m. is the latest we leave the house. After I have dropped the children to school I come straight to my office, open my shop and start work. This is what I have been doing for the last 20 years.

How did you succeed in the international tyre business?

It all started in the mid 1980s when I was introduced to a tyre brand called Siam. By then it was the only tyre with wrapping around it. It was very attractive to the eye but people were stuck to the Firestone brand by then. I was given 50 tires on credit and promised more when I finished selling the 50. Since I was opposite the old taxi park, it was easy for me to finish off the 50 tyres. What helped me most was the durability of those tyres and every taxi driver came looking for them. Since there were no mobile phones by then when the 50 tyres were over I got money bought an air ticket and went to Dubai where the business was based.

This was my opening into the tyre franchise business. But the most important issue here was trustworthiness. Because I was trustworthy when I reached Dubai, I was given more tyres on credit. I was later introduced to other tire manufacturers. Now they all know me and what I now do is just send an e-mail and they load the quantity I need. When I have sold off all the tyres I send their money.

What challenges do you face?

Robinah’s tips to successful business management?
Friendly to my workers and share their concerns.

You do not need to shout at them but to find out what is the cause of their work-related problems

Counsel them. We talk about their private lives because I have to understand them.

Understand the person you are working with, it makes it easy to work with him or her.

The challenges are many but the biggest challenge is competition and taxes. Competition has forced me to bring quality tyres that people will appreciate because if a person buys a tyre today and tomorrow it bursts you will lose that customer. We carry a warranty for our tyres if it is a factory fault we will replace the tyre. But most of the problems are user problems like driving over sharp objects and driving over nails, those are not faults of the factory but user faults.

How are you resolving these challenges?

The methods are that I am always here to listen to the customers problems. I make sure that the customer does not leave my business when he/she is not happy. Even if one has a big complaint, I have to find a way of resolving it amicably and we come to an understanding.

What is your opinion of Ugandan workers?

It is the biggest challenge. When a person comes here to work, he or she does not know that whatever he/she earns here is what he/she shares at the end of the day. They think they are working for me as a person not knowing that if this company is not there both of us are not there. That is the attitude they have. They think they are doing you a favour not knowing that if they leave, another person will come and even work much better than them.


Robinah Batte Kalungi is the proprietor of Tropical Tyres. She started the business with 50 Siam tyres as a commission agent 20 years ago but today is a representative of various international tyre brands.


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