03/14/2012 02:54 EDT | Updated 05/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Transferring skills from TV production in Tanzania to video world in Saskatoon

SASKATOON - Navrose Ratansi built and operated a television studio for presidents of Tanzania. He designed and developed the podium that former U.S. president George W. Bush used for a news conference. He was in charge of a television station that was affiliated with CNN International.

Now, he has brought his broad range of skills to Saskatoon. By his admission, it is a long way from the State House in Tanzania to his new office on Third Avenue North, where he recently opened Shaping Dreams Productions.

"When you have children you always think about your children's future; you always try to do something better than your parents did for you and that was one of the reasons that brought me to Canada,'' Ratansi said in an interview.

"I have three children and I wanted to give them a better footing in life; that made me sacrifice what I used to do back home.''

He is convinced the decision was the right one.

"I have seen the progress of my two daughters — one is in high school and one is in elementary school. I am very proud that my decision was the right decision.'' He and wife Shyrose Jivraj also have a four-year-old son.

Leaving family, friends and his community was difficult, he admits.

"To achieve something, sometimes you sacrifice something. That's what we are doing, and we are OK with that.''

Ratansi and his wife came to Saskatchewan in 2010 to see what the province had to offer.

"We travelled around most of Saskatchewan and eventually decided Saskatoon would be the place we would like to be because it is the business hub.''

Ratansi opened Shaping Dreams Productions, a high definition video graphics company, in January.

"Times are a little tough, but I am sure in the future it will be a better forecast. We had enough finances to say, 'This is what I love to do; this is what we do back home. If we can do the same thing back home, why couldn't we do it here?' ''

Shaping Dreams Productions offers an array of services, including design of home theatres, making documentaries and commercials and producing training videos for local companies.

Ratansi landed in the multimedia world almost by accident. When he returned to Tanzania after studying computer science in the United Kingdom, he joined the graphics department of the first television station in Tanzania in 1994.

"Unfortunately, the television station was not being run professionally because it was a new thing and people were not aware how to go about it,'' Ratansi said. "Things started falling down and suddenly I became station manager.''

Not long after, he was instrumental in building two more television stations.

"We learned in a manner by getting to visit television stations outside the country. We built relationships with the French government; we learned a lot of things we could use back home.

"We created television stations with minimal money, and trying to give the news and the entertainment to locals back home to the point where I was given an option to build a television studio for the (government-owned) national television.

"I created a newsroom similar to what you have here for Global or CTV.''

Soon after, he left television and opened an advertising firm. One day a group of people from the communications department at the State House were walking past his store and came in. It led to him working for President Benjamin Mkapa.

"They saw me doing filming and editing and invited me over. The idea was to portray the president in a different look; he was very well spoken and very well read, so the Western presidents and leaders embraced him very much and he became a little darling of the European Union."

His work carried over to President Jakaya Kikwete, who took office in 2006.

One of the highlights was designing and developing the podiums used by George W. Bush and Kikwete during the U.S. president's visit to Tanzania in 2008.

"Today, my president uses the same (one) and uses it all the time.''

Now in the media industry for 20 years, Ratansi was responsible for the station that was integrated with CNN when the United States Embassy was bombed in 1998, leaving more than 200 people dead.

"We put that story out within 15 minutes.''

While proud of his accomplishments, Ratansi doesn't see it as anything special.

"It was fascinating to somebody that has never seen it before and hasn't experienced it, but for a person like me, it was a job I had to do. That is how I saw it.

"I never saw it as something that I was doing was extraordinary.''


Story by Cam Hutchinson, Saskatoon Express; distributed by The Canadian Press