Sultanali Hasham Lalji Noorani

From Khoja Wiki
Sultanali Hasham Lalji Noorani
Sultan Noorani.png
Town of birth
Country of birth
Date of Birth
  • October 27
  • 1930
Date of Death
  • September 2019
Place of Death
Country of death
Name of institution of highest education achieved
  • Grade 10
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Business
  • Entreprenuer
Where-City or Country

Born in 1930 Nyeri

The information below has been provided by Khalid Emilio Noorani and also taken from his website:

Founder and Father, Business History & Personal Biography

Since the 1950s, Sultan Noorani operated many businesses in the Democratic Republic of Congo

- A retail shop & semi whole sale and beer distribution;

- A curio shop with goods from Hong Kong, Thailand and Lebanon (the shop was in front of Memling hotel, Kinshasa). From 1956-1959. Zahrina, his sister, would manage the shop;

- In 1961, he worked for the United Nations in Kinshasa and Bukavu for 6 months;

- a trading business in June 1961 Mbuji Mayi with goods from Kinshasa. It was a good business according to him. The business made a lot of money. The best selling goods were textiles;

- In Mbuji-Mayi, Kananga and Lubumbashi, Sultan opened 3 shops;

- he had an office for supplying his Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi shops in Lubumbashi.

- bakery and pastry shop in Kananga (1963-1974) with imported machinery from Greece;

- started Trabet, a river sand suction service from the river for construction. It operated from 1965 to 1974. It stopped due to nationalization by the government;

- Sopal that sold reconstituted milk (the factory was in Limiteme rue Kinshasa). with a Swiss machine to make the milk. In 1974 when the government nationalized, the company was forced to shut down;

- Isombe, the exclusive Honda dealer in the DRC selling motorbikes, cars and backup generators;

- Melotte Congo, a Belgian industrial supplier of agricultural equipment in the DRC including small engine driven mills and tractors;

- With his son, Karim Noorani, he established Unicompex Congo in 1997;

- And many other small businesses and projects in Angola and South Africa;

Sultan's Entreprenuerial Journey

1930s – Sultan's Beginnning

Sultan Ali Hasham Lalji Noorani was born in Nyeri, Kenya on October 27th 1930. He was the son of Mr. Hasham Lalji Virsam and Rehmat Bhai Jamal Daya Velani, who were originally from Bhanvad, Kathiawar, Gujarat. Bhanvad, Kathiawar, Gujarat.

1940s – Childhood

In 1940, 10 year old Sultanali moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to begin his studies. He went on to graduate in Bujumbura, Burundi.

1950s – Move to Belgian Congo

In 1954, Sultan went to the Belgian Congo with his brothers Badhrudin and Sadrudin, to look for new opportunities. He married Dolatkhanu Amersi Kanji at the age of 24 and lived together at Basoko Street. From 1955 to 1958, they moved to École Street where their three children were raised: Zahir, the eldest, Gulshan, and Karim, the youngest. In 1956, Sultan opened his own shop and started trading in general merchandise on Hôpital Street.

1960s – Congo Independence

The Belgian Congo, at the time, gained independence on June 30th 1960. In july 1961, a revolution took place and forced the family to leave the country.

Sultan later started to travel to Mbuji-Mayi with his old friend Amin Janmohammed and Jaffer who were Ismailis like him. They began trading goods like cigarettes and beers.

In 1965, Sultan remarried on September 10th 1965 to Kathoon Karmali. They raised their two additional sons, Firoz and Mahmood. Zahir, Gulshan and Karim also grew up in Kinshasa. They all attended TASOK, The American School of Kinshasa.

1970s – Sopal

In 1970, Sultan founded Sopal an ice cream factory, a dream he had had since childhood. He bought the first Tetra Pak Machine to the DRC and employed over 100 sellers. He then established an import-export company with his Congolese partner Jacques Isombe during Zairianisation .

He travelled to many countries but mostly to Brazil, China and Japan. In Japan, he met with the motor company, Honda and agreed to become their sole distributor in the DRC. Zahir, his eldest son eventually joined the company for a short period after his studies in the US.

1980s – Honda

In 1980, his youngest son, Karim, after obtaining his bachelor’s degree of mechanical engineering in Canada at Concordia University joined the family business at the age of 24.

Together, father and son, they developed the company and opened the first Honda garage in 4eme Rue in Limete in Kinshasa.

Leon Motema, a young Congolese manager at the time, went to Japan and returned to the company and helped grow and build the garage. He stayed with the company until the present day where he now heading the telecom maintenance department.

During that time, Sultan invested together with his friend and partner, Andre Schetter, in an established Belgian agricultural machinery company, Melotte Congo.

1990s – Isombe Honda

In 1990 and 1991, Isombe, Sultan and Karim’s business of Honda product took a huge hit with the lootings by the Zairian military of Kinshasa. They lost millions of dollars of goods after their homes and offices were emptied by angry soldiers who had not been paid. They fled the DRC to Congo Brazzaville for 2 years while they rebuilt the company.

Eventually things settled and after repaying huge debts to suppliers and taking out loans from friends and family, the company grew again. Karim had secured a contract to manage the Shell Oil Company fuel stations in Kinshasa where he kept selling Honda products like motorbikes, cars and small portable generators.

However, in 1997, the dictator of Zaire at the time Mobutu was overthrow by Joseph Kabila. The Honda business Isombe had to be closed down and the whole Noorani family left to the UK and South Africa.

But Karim kept coming back to Zaire, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo, to rebuild his business. On the 19th of July 1997, Karim and his father Sultan set up Unicompex and started again from scratch. They began introducing the sale and servicing of large diesel generator sets by FG Wilson, Lister Petter, Deutz, Perkins. They started servicing diesel generators for telecoms like Vodacom and Celtel.

2000s – FG Wilson

In 2001, Unicompex became the exclusive FG Wilson dealer in the DRC. FG Wilson is a company with over 50 years experience in diesel generator manufacturing. They are a UK company and are part of the Caterpillar group. They manufacture their generators in China, UK and Brazil. They only use Perkins engines which are also known for their durality and quality.

2010s – Telecoms

In 2010, Unicompex developed significant projects with Vodacom in Kinshasa with the maintenance of over 600 base transceiver station sites equipped with 20 kvA diesel generators.

Unicompex now represents the following suppliers in the DRC:

• FG Wilson, a 50 year old diesel generator manufacturer from the UK, owned by Caterpillar since 1999

• Datakom, a Turkish company specialised in control panels with remote monitoring and synchronisation

• Inforise, a static voltage regulator company in Turkey

• Deutz, a German engine company

In 2018,

• Unicompex won a maintenance contract for 400 telecom sites for Helios Towers Infraco in the east of the DRC : Goma, Kisangani, Bukavu, Bunia, Beni, etc… It is a region known for instability and difficult working conditions. Part of the project took place during the Ebola epidemic and conflicts. The project was lead by Rachidy Biladi, who had been leading the servicing of generators for Unicompex in Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi for 5 years prior.

In 2019,

• Lead by Karim’s wife and business partner, Aracelli, Unicompex began distributing and selling lubricants. “Unicoil” was born

• Opened of a branch in the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville.

Today, Unicompex employs more than 150 employees in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma and other big cities in the DRC. They are committed to their clients and employees in order to be a leader in the back up energy sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo for years to come.

Sultan's Family Life

Sultan was a dedicated servant and leader of the DRC ismaili community for most of his life.

He was also a family man. He married twice, his first wife was Dolatkhanu Kassam with whom he had 3 children :

He married Kathoon Karmali Noorani and they had 2 sons :

Sadly, Sultan passed away in 2019 in the UK at the age of 89 from a heart attack.

Photo gallery of Sultan's businesses in the RDC Congo