Rami Ranger was born during the horrors of partition. Waqas Qureshi met the business tycoon who rose
from an Indian refugee camp to establish a £200m business in the UK.
India, 1947. Various parts of British India are up in flames.
Multan, in modern day Pakistan, was also experiencing
civil strife and violence, with pro-India and pro-Pakistan
parties facing off against one another.
In the violence, one pro-India party worker lost his life saving
a group of students.
His son, Raminder Singh Ranger, was two months old, and
the family fled on a refugee train to Patiala refugee camp in
modern day India.
Born in Gujranwala, business tycoon Ranger grew up in Patiala
and Indian Punjab. He graduated from Punjab University in
Like many south Asians, Ranger wanted to study abroad, andmanaged to get enrolled at a college in the UK in 1971.
“I thought the streets would be paved with gold but I had no
money and the law had changed – overseas students had to be
in the country for three years to qualify for a student grant,”
With no experience or qualifications it was very hard to get a
job. He managed to get work as a car cleaner in Sutton.
So the founder and managing director of the £200m Sun
Mark Group’s first job was a car cleaner; shades of rags to riches
Luckily for him, a while later Ranger happened to come across
a KFC restaurant advertising for cooks, with no experience
required.“I was very happy to get a job as a cook in KFC, earning 35p an
hour, because I was in the warmth inside, unlike at the car wash.”
He worked very hard and always stayed positive, with a plan
to earn as much as possible and go back to India to finish his
He worked at the KFC in Brixton, working his way up to
“This became the number one KFC outlet in the country – and
the English senior managers were naturally surprised.”
He was eventually made district manager and in charge of 10 stores.
The long hours took their toll and Ranger decided to look
at other roles, working for McCain’s as a sales person, before
deciding to open a sub post office in Sidcup.
He said it was hard for ethnic minorities to work their way up
in 1970’s Britain. “They say when a bad employer does not
look after his staff, the staff moves to the competition. But
the competition did not even want us! It was prejudice. They
underestimated us and they were not ready to fully accept –
things changed when Uganda Asian came they spent money on
house and bought shops.”
After a two-year stint in Canada, Ranger returned to the UK
and worked in sales at Dixons.
This gave him the experience of electronics sales as well as
an understanding of the demand for electronics worldwide.
In the late 1970’s electronic items were shipped in huge
numbers to the UK, and foreign buyers would increasingly order
their electronics from the UK and not from the Far East.
In 1987 Ranger started a new business – Sea, Air & Land
Forwarding – shipping electronics from a shed.
“I set the company up starting with just £2. It was essentially
freight forwarding – I would drive to Tottenham Court Road in
the West End, and pick up TVs, microwaves and other electric
items that needed shipping to African consumers. The shops
had the orders and I was there to offer very competitive rates
to ship – reliable cargo was always received intact, wrapped andpacked. DHL and other companies were out there, but would
only do letters and smaller packages.”
In this new business he came across a lot of people ordering
British grocery goods – baked beans, cereals fruit juices – all top
end of the British market.
He saw an opportunity to source products for foreign based
customers – and in the process he cut out various middle men.
In 1995 he founded Sun Mark, which exports British
supermarket products to over 100 countries worldwide.
The opportunities kept coming and he seized them. He was
regularly asked to collect grocery items from big supermarkets
by his customers for onward shipping. There was a lot of demand
for British supermarket products all over the world, and he began
collecting those and consolidating them into sea containers for
“The foreign based customers were saving up to £2,000 per container,
and at the time I was only interested in the freight forwarding.”
Eventually he saw an opportunity in starting a new brand
distributing in former British colonies which have a healthy
demand for British companies.
“Why do customers buy brands? Because they trust the
brand. I decided to start my own brand.”
He arranged for the packaging and packing companies that
were working with brands to produce and pack products in his
brand name too.
Merger, acquisition or strategic alliance
“Business is about, merger, acquisition or strategic alliance,”
says Ranger. “I will sell British products without compromising
taste or quality by keeping prices low; I will be able to attract a
different market who cannot afford branded products.”
By the year 2000 Ranger was shipping branded products to
former British colonies such as The Caribbean, Africa, IndianOcean, and the Middle East. Simultaneously, he was able to
ship his own products priced lower than branded items, to the
same demanding consumers searching for British products.
These included beans, biscuits, groceries, air fresheners, fruit juices,
salad creams, energy drinks, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
“Today we are in 130 countries, with turnover over £200m. We
have won five consecutive Queens Awards through connecting
trade. Big brands did not want to set up there, and I did not
want to waste my time in an over saturated market in the UK.”
Though Britain is not Sun Mark’s main market, Ranger has
been experimenting with both Bulldog – the energy drink he
launched seven years ago, and more recently non-alcoholic
drink Pure Heaven.
Ranger is conscious about the past, having been born through
the partition of India and its ramifications.
“It’s important that what we draw a line with what happened
in 1947. The South Asian community has no problems here in
the UK. For example, British Indian people voted for the British
Pakistani Mayor of London. It shows the character of this great
country – we are concerned with policies, not personalities.”
He said while he voted for Remain, he understood that Brexit
occurred because of the amount of legal immigrants entering
the country under freedom of movement.
“I voted for Remain but I do believe a country should have some
sort of control of who does or does not come in to the country”.
So what does Ranger think about ethnic media and marketing
“As a business man, I am conscious that I am running a business
not a family. My personal preferences cannot influence me.
I advertise on almost every South Asian channel because
consumers are my customers. My customer is every nationality
and every religion, every race. We advertise on Pakistani channels,
Indian channels, and main stream British channels. Because the
business is for everybody, I cannot rely on just one community.
We have to reach out to as many people as we can. That’s theway every business should approach media and marketing.”
Bulldog launched in 2009, and the marketing strategy was all
about maximum exposure on Asian TV channels – PTV, ARY, Zee
TV, B4U, NDTV, PTV, GEO, as well as the BBC world service.
“I am very happy with the results. It’s very important that
you repeat your message seven or eight times to register with
the consumer – TV advertising gives you that opportunity.”
Ranger said TV and marketing can forge bonds – in India
Pakistani drama are very popular as well as musicians, while in
Pakistan Bollywood films and music has always been popular.
“We love each other’s music and films. We should put the Kashmir
issue on the back burner and first develop trade and tourism so the
economies benefit rather than spending money on arms.”
Ranger wants to see some changes in the ethnic media
“Media should promote social cohesion – learning from the past
to make our futures together. They should make sure quality
programmes are broadcast and keep hardliners away from
the screen. Bring the positive side of South Asia.” His freight
business Sea, Air & Land Forwarding, received The Queen’s Award
for Export in 1999, and Sun Mark won The Queen’s Award for
Enterprise in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.Sun Mark was ranked 25th in The Sunday Times Profit Track
100 2012, up from 33 in 2011.
Ranger is chairman, founder or patron of numerous
organisations, including chairman of the Pakistan, India & UK
Friendship Forum, chairman of the British Sikh Association and
a patron of The Princes Trust.
The company is setting up new offices in the UK and taking on
a more staff. A hub has been established in Dubai, and the next
move is to go to Miami to more effectively serve the Caribbean
Ranger said that at the moment he does not have any plans
to retire or sell the business – health permitting, he will carry on.
When asked what the hardest part of his long career was, hesaid, as is often the case, getting the business off the ground
“No one takes you seriously, no one believes in your vision.”
When he first started his freight forwarding business he
could not afford drivers or other workers. “I had to pack cargo
myself, drive to Heathrow or Gatwick, and wait in queues for
hours. Behind me my wife always supported me – when I had
His best moment in business was when he was invited to
Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen in 2000.
“That was an amazing experience to drive the car right inside
Buckingham palace like I was a president of a country! I walked
on the red carpet with my wife. A humble immigrant had nothing
and now the honour from the Queen.”
Rami Ranger has come a long way from a refugee camp in
Northern India 70 years ago. His career has been all about hard
work and grasping opportunities to innovate his business – a
fine example of the success that can be achieved.