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Our History

How did it all begin?

Operations began in 1920 under the name Radium Distributors, founded by Mr Abdul Hirji Damani, a first generation Ugandan (who emigrated from Kutch, India in the early 1900’s).  Radium was one of the largest Distribution House in the British East Africa,  with sole distributorship of brands such as Treetops and Rowntree’s. 

The company was very professional in its approach, as it gained momentum through its in-depth coverage and thorough distribution channels, reaching as far as Northern Uganda during a time where vehicle-led distribution was unheard of.  This is the genesis for Dembe Trading Enterprises Ltd, and explains why from an embryonic period, distribution has been in the blood of this company.

In 1962, Uganda gained independence from the British Empire and the Uganda Protectorate came to an end.  In 1963, a new constitution was adopted in Uganda and connections to the British Monarchy were severed.   The Principles decided that Africa was not a market worth venturing into and preferred to consolidate their European Investments. 

In January 1965, at the age of 48, Abdul Hirji passed away, bringing operations of Radium Distributors to a standstill.  

The family business needed new lifeblood and an invigoration of culture.  The new company, Dembe Investments was born and led by the 2nd Generation, Mr Karim Hirji (son of Abdul Hirji).  Dembe Investments (as it was called) was the sole distributor in Uganda for brands such as: Grants Whisky, Pirelli Tyres, Diageo Spirits and various Far Eastern Textile Brands.  This eclectic mix of items was borne out of necessity rather than a predestined choice of brands. 

In August 1972, Ugandan President Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of the country’s Indian/Asian minority, giving them 90 days to leave the country.  The expulsion led to significant damage to Uganda’s economy & international reputation.  The wife of Abdul Hirji and her children fled to the United Kingdom.  

Karim Hirji continued with Dembe Investments in the above lines but had to re-invent himself.  He diversified into Real Estate, Hotels & Pharmaceuticals. 

2nd Generation Anil Damani (youngest son of Abdul Hirji) returned to Uganda from the UK in the mid 1990’s under the guidance of his older brother Karim Hirji (who had remained in Uganda during the political turmoil).  Anil founded Dembe Trading Enterprises Ltd in 1997 and it is now the largest FMCG Distribution company in Uganda.  The group has diversified into Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.

In 2010, the 3rd Generation joined the business. Adim Damani (son of Anil Damani) expanded the business from an FMCG Distribution company to the Manufacturing Powerhouse it is today.  Dembe now directly employs 1,000 people in Uganda and manufactures Ubisco (Uganda’s no.1 Biscuit brand), Wakisha/Rio (matches and candles), Hermela (soaps), Odorex (cleaning products). 

Adim also founded Ponders Ltd in 2012- a specialised temperature controlled distribution & manufacturing company ( 

The company specialises in distribution of cold chain products and manufacturing of Ice Cream Yoghurt and Cheese.

Dembe Trading Enterprises Ltd is now a thriving Third Generation family business with investments ranging from FMCG Distribution, Manufacturing to Commercial & Residential Real Estate.