Indian-owned retail chain sets up charity in Ghana

Accra, May 29 (IANS) An Indian-owned retail chain in Ghana has set up a charity arm as its social responsibility in this west African country, barely six months after 13 people were killed when one of its outlets collapsed.

The charity has come up as the Melcom Care Foundation.

"It will give charity a real focus," Bhagwan Khubchandani, chairman of the Melcom Group, told IANS.

Thirteen people were killed and 33 seriously injured when a shop of the Melcom Group collapsed last November. The accident prompted the company to work on social responsibility activities.

"Melcom Care Foundation has already started supporting a few students and orphans and we have also set up a scholarship scheme for the benefit of children of staff of Melcom and the general public," said Godwin Avenorgbo, director of communications for the company.

The Melcom Group's journey commenced when Bhagwan Khubchandani's father Ramchand Khubchandani arrived as a 14-year-old boy in 1929 in

the then Gold Coast. That was 28 years before the Gold Coast attained independence and became Ghana.

He worked as a store boy and later opened a shop -- Glamour Store, which went on to become a leader in retail market.

In an interview, Khubchandani told IANS how his father started the business along with his brother.

"They started that business with 10,000 pounds and through their hard work and determination were able to grow the business to become a household name in the retail business throughout the country."

It shows that the "Indian investment and trade with Ghana is not a new phenomenon".

"It goes way back long before the country's independence," he added.

Today, the Melcom Group operates the biggest supermarket chain, employing over 1,800 people in over 24 supermarkets across Ghana. The company is today Ghana's largest retail chain.

The company is at present partnering the Energy Commission and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to undertake a nationwide exercise to phase out old and high energy consuming refrigerators and replace them with low power consuming ones at a rebate of between 150 Ghana Cedis ($79) and 200 Ghana Cedis ($106).

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at fkokutse@hotmail.com)

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