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Sant Singh Chatwal

Vinod Dayalbhai Vadera

The King of Tea Gardens

All he wanted was just a chance; he got one and turned the tide in his favour.

An aspiring student Vinod Dayalbhai Vadera flew to London to study law in around 1950 from Uganda, and why not… his father was a flourishing businessman of tea estates. However, Vinod was forced to come back when his father’s health deteriorated. He was not the one to be disheartened. As he started assisting his father’s business he noticed a few flaws and suggested some remedies. His father gave him a chance to prove himself and his methods. Could he have disappointed?

Leaving no stone unturned, Vinod led to a better yield. He was discovering new aspects to the business, but surely encountered just as many hiccups; he felt confident with his father by his side. His confidence, sharp business acumen and eagerness to find new technologies soon started reaping him results. Starting with better prices, formidable reputation among the tea-estate business holders in Uganda, he was soon appointed the Chairman of Uganda Tea Association.

Though tea production in East Africa was on an ever-high, 1972 ruined it all. When Indians were forced out of Uganda, the company too had to be brought down. However, the Vaderas made sure to pay every employee not just their salaries for 2 months but also the gratuity. The Vaderas flew back to India, leaving their hearts back in Uganda, only to return two decades later when Indians were invited back. However, it took them another decade to settle down well.

Had it not been Vinod’s zest for life, love for Uganda and hunger for success, hardships and challenges could have overthrown him. However, whatever stones life threw at him, he turned them into gold and learned to be an extremely humble man. He now knows what it means to lack the right media to grow forward and thus supports many philanthropic activities by participating in borewell projects and surgeries of the poor. Taking education for girls forward, he has built schools for them.

In 2015, we featured him in our coffee-table book, Jewels of Gujarat, of which we are proud. His efforts are today being taken forward by his daughter Shriti Vadera, Baroness Vadera, son, Rupin, an investment banker and CEO at First International Group Plc, and daughter-in-law, Minakshi Vadera, Director at First International group.