James Alemi is one of the most sought after Range Rover, Land Rover and other European high end cars diagnostic and repair expert in the country. Alemi is the proud owner of two companies Kampala Auto Diagnostic Center and Kampala Range Rovers limited located in Najjera.
Besides being an accomplished mechanic, he has skilled over 62 youth and plans to set up a modern training motor vehicle center in Najjera. How was he been able to not only secure his future but the future of others?
In an interview with Sunday Vision, the 31-year-old who was even forced at one time to hawk groundnuts on the streets of Koboko town because of lack of fees told Sunday Vision said his journey to where he is now was not an easy one.
“My journey to where I am today has not been an easy one. But its determination, sacrifice and self-belief that I must succeed that have seen me reach where I am today. Because of lack of school fees, I started going to school late and actually skipped some classes,” he said.
Alemi also says he is grateful to his grandmother Martha Apayi who set out the entrepreneurship spirit in him as he vended groundnuts at attender age to raise school fees.
He started school at Primary two at Koboko Primary in Koboko district in 1992 and in 1995, he was transferred to Kampala for better quality education. It was then that he joined Shimoni Demonstration School and was later transferred to Kireka Grammar Junior School where he his Primery Seven exams in 1999 emerging the best pupil in Mpigi district.
“I was admitted to King's College Budo from Senior 1 to senior 4. I loved sciences so much and when the school decided to give me an art course for my A-level, I joined St. Lawrence High School for my A ‘level and studied a science course,” says Alemi.
As fate would have it, Alemi did not get the required marks to make him join the University for an Engineering course but with the guidance from his father joined Nakawa Vocational Training Institute for a course in Automotive and Power Engineering.
“My father together with some of his friends owned a mechanical workshop that specialized in Land Rover repair having worked with CMC motors as their foreman before. Since I was an evening student, I spent the whole day at my father’s workshop and it was from here that I learnt to remove and then rebuild car engines especially the Land/Range Rovers.
It was my own father who molded me into what I am today. It took me three years to master the skills of assembling an engine and putting it back in the same position with all the parts,” Alemi adds.
In 2009 Alemi graduated from Nakawa Vocational Training Institute and together with a few friends opened up their own workshop in Ntinda. He broke up in 2013 and started his own firm.
Why he broke a way
“I wanted to keep our family name and legacy as Land Rover and Range Rover specialists. The garage we had opened specialized in small cars Japanese cars. I was interested in prestigious and high end cars which are owned by the rich who have the money. I had saved about shs 3 million at the time and I started looking for land to hire and set up my own garage,” Alemi says.
He says securing land wasn’t an easy task because the rent was very high in prime places and he opted for Najjera which was relatively cheaper. “I got the current piece of land and fenced off the place, and then started off work on the March 13th, 2013. Then I had three senior mechanics and about 5 trainees, and very little equipment I could call working machines,” Alemi adds.
Alemi called it Kampala Range rovers. He however says that a section of his clients were not happy that he was only specializing on Land Rovers and Range rovers and requested to have another company that could handle other type of cars.
“In 2015, I opened the Kampala Auto Diagnostic Center. We do repairs, maintenance, service, and consultancy among others. We also import cars for our clients and supply spare parts for their cars,” he says.
He says he also ventured into training the youth who were interested in Motor vehicle repair.
What challenges did he face?
Alemi says lack of proper capital was his biggest challenge. “Beginning in the automotive industry is very challenging. Modern cars are equipped with computerized systems and to solve complex car problems you need a diagnostic tool which comes preinstalled with the manufactures software that the human eye cannot see,” he says.
Alemi says he lacked the diagnostic tools and lost over shs 100 million at the beginning. “I was always asking for external help but I was able to overcome this because the business grew so rapidly because of referrals.
From 3 clients I grew to about 50 clients within 3 years. I also ensured that whenever I handled a client’s job, I did it to the best of my ability and this encouraged to always have me on their speed dial in case of motor vehicle repair.
He says he will forever be grateful to some of his first clients who include Stella Arumadri, Michel Sekkadde and Douglas Assimwe and many others who he described as his pillars.
“They trusted me and gave me good jobs and I also survived on referrals from some of these customers who I had worked. You can never have referrals if you are fake. I was also able to learn how to save and every that that I could make as a profit was ploughed back into the garage as an investment,” Alemi says.
Even though he hasn’t achieved much yet, Alemi says his turning point was when President Yoweri Museveni visited his garage on 24th August 2015, “I had a surprise guest at my workshop, President Yoweri Museveni.
Our 15 minutes discussion while standing focused on job creation for the youth to fight unemployment, reduce crime and also establishment of a national automotive training Institute to produce qualified car mechanics for the country's automotive industry,” he says.
Even though he says he has yet to get the necessary assistance from the President to help him establish it, he says he has remained focused and is currently training as many youths as possible. Among the youth Alemi has trained include female mechanics.
“Most of these youths especially from the Universities have a lot of theory. Some of the Engineering students cannot even change a tyre but I am happy I am skilling so many of the young people in order to make them achieve their purpose in life,” Alemi says.
He says he plans to pave his workshop now that he has been able to purchase world class diagnostic systems describing his garage as the home of Land Rover and Range Rover.
Besides his works in the garage, Alemi is also charity worker. Last year he assisted suicide victim Mustapha Lule who attempted to commit suicide at Mabirizi complex and took him in as a trainee and also helped his family.
“I do not believe in seeing someone suffer,” Alemi says. He has also been recognised by the Rotary club of Bweyogerere which offers support in the form of uniforms and boots for his students. “Rotary Club of under their, Vijana Poa initiative have supported us. They supply us with 50 pairs of safety shoes and 100 pieces of overalls. They have 15 slots for disadvantaged youth every year and food to feed them,” Alemi says.
Alemi also offer free Motor vehicle diagnosis to the Old students of Budo a move he says is meant to maintain the bond between the schoolmates.
Besides training youths, the budding entrepreneur is also says he is offers free advice to any aspiring youth entrepreneur. “Just call me on 0791246900 or 0703514685 and I will invite you over for a chat on how best to turn your life around,” Alemi says.