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A millionaire and inventor at 20

Ivan Karugaba

Ivan Karugaba

A young entreprenuer. At 20, Ivan Karugaba, an S.6 vacist earns more than Shs150,000 a day, writes Daniel Mukisa

It is not a common thing to find a young S.6 vacist who looks for no employment, but rather offers it. It even gets more interesting when you find one who challenges many brains that are deemed as the countries best science professors with his ability to invent and develop a car prototype.

Who is Ivan Karugaba?
Well, I am any normal Ugandan kid, born in a family of five to Lt. Colonel Godwin Karugaba and Ms Hariet Karugaba.  Basically, I am a product of my own imaginations and thoughts which are most concentrated around the areas of business, science and to a certain percentage, leadership.

Alright, first things first, tell us about your company Neblink and how you started up.
Neblink is a company mainly dealing in stock exchange and to a certain extent forex trading. We majorly invest in UK gold since it is very profitable. However, the idea of Neblink was kick-started three years ago while I was still in S.4. I always wanted to find a way of how to make money my slave and not the reverse, and so I convened a meeting in school aimed at generating ideas of being financially free. The total turn up of students was 50 and each was meant to contribute Shs20,000 to act as membership fee for the organisation which we were set to start. Thankfully, members complied and that was the green light for us.

Eh, you sound like you can even convince a mosquito to donate blood, I mean, convincing 50 people, for that matter students, to each contribute Shs20,000. How intriguing! Anyhow, so what did you use this money for?
As expected, we banked it. None of us had a clear idea of what we really could invest in, save for the overpowering suggestion that we invest in real estate building. And indeed in March 2011, we managed to purchase land from Hosanna Estates Ltd.

Oh, quite interesting. So, what was the exact cost of the land and where exactly was this land situated?
Actually, we acquired three plots of land (50ft by 100ft) in Kakiri at a cost of Shs3.5m. However, these payments were made in installments with an initial down payment of Shs4.5m.

How did the money rise from the initial Shs1m of the 50 members to several millions that you used to acquire the land?
Well, down the road, some members fell off track and we actually remained 10 active members. We then agreed among ourselves that each of us should be saving Shs200,000 from our school “pocket money” or any other sources, which we would then invest in the then prospective company. By March, 2011, which was during the second term holidays of our S.5, we had raised the necessary sum, and acquired the land on installment basis.

So what about the other members that fell off the track, what happened to them?
You know youths and their multiple desires. Most of the members fell out just because they thought that nothing was cooking up.

And how about their contributions, were they refunded or?
No. Never. Contributions were non refundable. We were up to something and we were not about to relent.

And are the 10 pioneer members still share holders till to date?
Of course. This is their thing, this is our thing and so no one is about to let go, unless they want to go back to where they came from.
So, how did the idea of forex trading and stock exchange crop up and when was this?
You know, land appreciates, so upon completing all our payments for the land, we let it stay for about a year. It was then sold off to a friend’s uncle, Mr Fred Kyeyune at about Shs15m. We then solicited for more funds from both our parents and other savings and then ventured into stock exchange with an initial sum of about $10,000(about Shs26m). However, this was after a lot of statistical analysis. This was in early December last year.

Eh you mean, it is that young? Anyhow, so what is your current turnover?
About the age, that is just a number, quite important, but unnecessary. Well, our current turnover is $250 (Shs662,500) a day. That is basically out of stock exchange.

And is this net profit or gross before costs have been deducted?
Net profit, minus all other costs.

Wow! This seems like a big dream for many other youngsters out there, , so how much capital are you using to trade?
We are currently trading with $25,000 (about Shs66m), and our main accomplices are two business developing companies (BDCs), both based in Europe.

Okay, apart from the stock exchange and forex trading, is there anything else that Neblink does?
Yes, we have several franchises within and out of the country. We have a bakery, The Baked, mainly specialising in producing cakes and some cookies as well. This one is in Mpigi and is controlled by Ernest, one of the members. The other venture is a jewellery shop in Rwanda which is under the hands of Doreen, she is among the other 10 members.

Just asking, what have you personally achieved from the business … car, house, land or more friends?
Huh, I don’t quite remember when I last thought about this. None the less, I think the most precious thing that I’ve achieved from the business are the many friends from across the globe.

Alright, here is a personal one for you. How much is your monthly take home?
Well that usually varies on performance, but the standard take home is about $60 (about Shs150,000) a day and for a month, you can do the maths.

And your friends…how much have they benefited?
Each of them has something they do. Something still aligned to Neblink, but also putting something in their pockets.

You have also developed a prototype for a car, how did it start?
Oh, as for that one, I guess, the day I was born. From childhood, I’ve always loved toy cars and things to do with technology and so when the Kiira E.V was invented, I saw it as a platform to actualise my lifetime dreams. The car could function on only electricity and yet I thought something better could be developed. I mean everyone knows Uganda and its Load-shedding problems. Why then not design something which can use fuel, or better still both fuel and electricity.

That’s when together with a group of colleagues we embarked on designing the prototype of the smart hybrid car which could use both electricity and fuel. It has special features like a gyro-censor which measures the distortion in the XYZ axes and compares the distortion to a certain threshold which would stand for an accident. So, beyond the threshold, it triggers a communication device in the car to send a text message to your next of kin, ambulance and police about your location and the speed at which you’ve been moving so that rescue missions are quickened. Then just at the start of my form S.6 vacation,  I was invited at the Centre for Research in Transport and Communication to work as a student intern so as to bring the concept to reality. That is actually where I spend most of my time in case am done with Neblink duties.

So, should we expect an explosion in the car industry within the country?
Certainly yes. By 2014, what we begun while still in school will be seen on the road. That is the set target.

Hmmh! Right about that time when this should be asked. Now that the Uneb results are out, how many points did you get?
I scored 20 points in PCM/Econ and I’m not complaining.

That was good performance. How did you manage to strike a balance between, academics, business and then your car invention concept?
No hustle at all. At Smack (St Mary’s college Kisubi), one had all the time to do whatever they desired. If it was not there, at least you could create it. This way, I managed to put together all that I had to do. My usual to do list also came in handy.

And what do you hope to do at campus, given that you are already in the line of technology as well as business? Will it be engineering or business?
I want to do Electrical Engineering at Makerere University, after which I hope to upgrade to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Mechatronics. But I will be doing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management as well during the evening sessions.

Mechatronics? Now that sounds like a new term for many people. Please help us understand what you are talking of?
It is a combination of mechanical, electrical, robotics, software and computer engineering. You see, as others will want to specialise at Master’s level, I want to diversify.

Just so to ask, with all this at your table, do you still live with your parents? Or because you have money, you are now on your own.
Yes I do. They are my parents and no matter how old I grow, I can not beat their age. They therefore have to keep meeting my needs as their son and I still belong home.

By the way, do your parents still give you money or they borrow from you, now that you are making a bit of money?
They still cater for my transport expenses.

You told us your father is in the army, does he see you following his footsteps?
Never. He actually has no clue of the things I exactly do.

And what do your friends say about your innovations?
Except showering me with praise, nothing.

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