India’s Strength in Madagascar

It was in Antananarivo in 1972 that Sipromad was launched. New lines of businesses were created, and the group’s entrepreneurial tales swiftly spread across the length and breadth of Madagascar, and beyond
If first impressions last, then Ylias Akbaraly does make an impression the very first time. With his movie-star looks, polite visage, and a great smile, not to forget a business empire that’s now positioned his company Groupe Sipromad as one of the top 85 in the Indian Ocean rim and among the top five in Madagascar, a lovely family and a super lineage, it would indeed be surprising if Mr Akbaraly did not create an impression on anyone very swiftly. 

Madagascar is a country not too many Indians would be visiting regularly, given that it is not in the English speaking world. But his accomplishments speak so loud that Mr Akbaraly was bestowed with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award at the PBD in 2009, which he received from Indian President Pratibha Patil. 

Apart from his business skills and dynamism, the Indian Government took into account Mr Akbaraly’s responsible role as a citizen through his consistent activities in charity. Together with his wife Cinzia, Mr Akbaraly founded the Fihavanana Association in the year 1997. This is a humanitarian organization that brings aid to poor children or orphans throughout Madagascar. Today, around 2,000 children receive help and attention from the Association in the areas of education, nutrition and health. “Our objective is to give these less privileged children their esteem and dignity, and turn them into adults who can function responsibly,” he said. 

After the couple’s first child was born, the Akbaraly Foundation was created. The Foundation has built a hospital in Antanimasaja - Mahajanga. Drinking water facilities have been made available to seven villages at Antsaravary Ambiatibe. An agricultural and breeding training centre is being established at Ambiatibe. At Tsiroanomandidy, agricultural practices and food security have been promoted. The Foundation now has plans to attend to the poor and needy in New Delhi. The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman citation is, therefore, a clear recognition of all these activities. 

Groupe Sipromad was launched in 1972 in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. Today, it has a diversified mix of business with operations in segments such as trade and commerce, tourism, agriculture, real estate, manufacturing and industry, IT and education. The firm has operations in nine countries and strategic alliances in 23. In a short span, Mr Akbaraly, the company’s chairman, has managed to make Group Sipromad one of the most successful emerging holding companies in the southern hemisphere. “We are ready to expand and invest in the Indian Ocean region and India,” says Mr Akbaraly with the confident air of a man who has smelt success from very close. Today, the group turnover exceeds US$100 million, and over a 1,000 employees work in different group businesses. 

But things weren’t this good always. Mr Akbaraly’s great grandfather Merally Manjee left Gujarat to seek out better conditions, at a time when opportunities in India were few. In the year 1918, Manjee landed at Belo Sur Tsirbihina, a coastal village in the west of Madagascar. It didn’t take long for Manjee to realize that he’d made the right decision by choosing to set sail towards Madagascar. He acted mainly as a buffer between the local Malagasy and the then ruling French, trading in items useful to both. Merally Manjee’s dream was passed on to his son Akbaraly Merally who showed a remarkable knack for doing good business. 

While both Merally and his son chose to operate from the more remote areas, it was Mr Akbaraly’s father, Sermamod Akbaraly who decided to brighten his prospects and moved into Antananarivo. It was here in 1972 that Sipromad was launched. New lines of businesses were created, and the group’s entrepreneurial tales swiftly spread across the length and breadth of Madagascar, and beyond. Ylias Akbaraly, meanwhile, was busy completing studies in the US and France, and once upon his return he was trusted with the reins, he didn’t look back. The group has leapt to fame under his able guidance. Mr Akbaraly’s forefathers used to say, “Follow your dreams, they’ll give meaning to every step that you take.” Looks like those words of wisdom have fallen on the right ears.

January 2012

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