Driven: Robert Reuben has two passions; physical fitness and Zahara Toto. He talks to David S Mukooza about business, books and admiration for Sheebah Karungi.
Reuben Robert is the CEO of University of pain and operations manager at Beton. I wanted to set an example of how fitness should be inclusive instead of exclusive. Too many gyms are based on elitism and providing high-class services. I wanted to ensure the poorest Ugandans have access to a clean and modern facility too.
What are some of your cherished childhood memories?
I have this recurring memory of me as a little boy, riding on my dad’s shoulders with my mom and brother walking in a light drizzle while laughing at something. The joy of that simple-yet-happy memory has kept me going through many tough days.
What do you think about the progress of the fitness industry in Uganda?
To be frank, I am more focused on the sports sector rather than fitness. Fitness is definitely a burgeoning industry as more and more people are realising that the greatest instrument you can ever have is your own body. However, Ugandan athletes have a long way to go; our brightest stars are still hidden and we need to do so much more to find these gems and let them shine globally.
What has the University of Pain added to the fitness industry?
We are focused on bringing low-cost (not-for-profit) fitness to the mass-market while also ensuring that our poorest get free or subsidised access to hone their skills. We have been a disruptor in this market and our goal is to shake it up completely. For example , Ugandan sports promoters are usually bigger than the athletes themselves, that is a twisted model and we aim to change that. To us, the athlete is everything.
What has been your highlight in the industry?
We are gym-agnostic. That means we support our athletes no matter where they train or which club they belong to. Usually, sponsors require that their athletes fall under their respective club, gym or flag; but we are the first to say we do not care. Most of the sports people we sponsor compete under their existing clubs or gyms. We are only interested in our players winning.
What do you do in your free time?
I am a serial entrepreneur; I provide consultancy in IT, I am the local director for a European medical services company, and I am also the operations director for BetOn Uganda, an online betting and gambling company in Uganda. Recently, I begun co-investing in ethical and community-based farming upcountry and I am also starting up a joint project in honey. These are exciting times for me.
What was the last book you read?
I just wrapped up Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky, it was brilliant and I highly recommend it. Most people do not know I am an avid reader; I target 36 books a year but I always read more.
How often should someone exercise to keep fit?
Every single day. Exercising is not just about going to the gym or jogging. It is about making healthy choices every single day. For instance, do not use the elevator when you can use the stairs, walk to the store instead of using a boda boda, every time you walk , it should be brisk and active instead of strolling. Focus on always burning as many calories as possible in everything you do. I lost 39 kilogrammes in a year by just controlling my diet and doing consistent but simple exercises.
How do you want to be remembered?
I honestly do not care what other people remember of me, only my closest friends and family matter and I already know what they think. However, the only legacy I wish to leave behind is one where we learn that supporting our fellow men is the only thing that matters. We are all in this together and life is wonderful when we can all enjoy it collectively.
In your view what makes a relationship work?
Trust and patience. I have recently been trolled by people who think Toto and I have separated because we are not together on weekends. For starters, we are both working professionals with busy lives. Secondly, our time apart makes coming together so much better. Seeing my girlfriend living her best life and making the most of every single day is what I love the most about her.
Are you a suit and tie or a casual attire kind of guy?
I like seeing everyone around me in formal attire, it makes them look so good. As for myself, I prefer the casual look; jeans and sneakers all the time.
What cologne do you wear?
I do not wear cologne; my body always smells awesome naturally.
How often do you go shopping for clothes?
I am not a big shopper and only pick up stuff when I travel abroad. I do not have a favourite label and all the big-name brands in my wardrobe have been gifts from Milton Akuha, our manager at University of Pain or Toto.
Which meal would you prepare with ease?
I am pretty adept in the kitchen, and I can easily make a spicy Schezwan fried noodles.
Who is the one person you want to meet before you die?
Let others meet Bill Gates and Kofi Annan. My tastes are much simpler. I only want to meet Sheebah Karungi. From what I have heard, she started from nowhere but has decided to make it big in the entertainment industry. That is impressive to me. Do not worry, Toto knows I am a huge fan.
What did you want to become when you were a child?
First, I wanted to be an astronaut – I was crazy about all things related to space and speed. But when I realised I did not have the minimum physical qualifications such as height and endurance, I decided to become a pastor. But, in my opinion and based on the pastors I know personally, succeeding in this field would require me to be deceitful, greedy and bigoted and I was fortunate enough not to have any of those traits.