By Prudence Minayo
Tycoon Narendra Raval, often referred to as guru, is among the 50 richest men in Africa according to Forbes. The tycoon net worth is $400 million (KES40 billion). Apart from being an astute businessman, he is also a known philanthropist. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa are his influencers. He once said:
“ I believe that wealth should be considered as a trust of the whole society and trustees, individuals should use it for the benefit of the society.”
The down to earth businessman proved today that his statements were not merely PR stunts. Taking to Twitter, he said he was willing to give up to half his wealth to help Kenya fight COVID-19. He then went on to donate a substantial amount of money;
“I hereby confirm the pledge to donate Sh 100 million to all government hospitals throughout the country. Oxygen will be collected from our Mombasa, Ruiru, and Athi River Devki Steel Mill Ltd Factories in exchange of empty cylinders.”
It is not the first time, the tycoon has promised to give half his wealth. In an interview, he said 50% of his properties will go to charity in Kenya and the other 50 to his children.
Mr. Raval’s life depicts how determination, hard work and taking risks, are key ingredients to a successful future. The soft-spoken man was not born with a silver spoon.
The Devki group founder was born in Gujarat, a small Indian village in 1962. Before going to school, the firstborn child helped with morning prayers at the temple since he was a Swaminarayan priest. In 1978, he came to Kenya and worked as an assistant priest in Kisumu for Sh 2,500 monthly fee. At the temple, he was in charge of teaching children on Sunday. The children were lured with treats making the numbers increase daily hence the name Guru. Poverty prevented him from acquiring University education, he could not even afford a pair of school shoes. Family pressure to marry led to his marriage in 1982 to Neeta, a medical practitioner from Thika. This made him abandon priesthood as priests are forbidden to marry.
Being an astrologer, he once made a prediction of someone’s life. The person offered him a job in a steel factory. After saving enough money and gaining experience, he opened a hardware called Steel center in Gikomba in 1990. Neeta and him had to work up to 18 hours. There were many challenges but together with their employees they were overcome. Following this success, he set up a steel rolling mill in Athi River. The motivation was to provide Kenyans with affordable roofing and fencing solutions.
The success of this business gave birth to Devki group, one of the largest building materials producers in East and Central Africa. The company employs over 4,000 people and makes over 650 million dollars annually. Other subsidiaries you it are: Maisha Mabati Mills Limited, National Cement Companies Limited, and Northwood Agency limited – offering helicopter services.
The multinational company owns steel making factories in Ruiru and Athi River. It also has a cement grinding plant in Machakos and a clinkering plant in Kajiado.
ARM cement was also bought by Devki for $50 million, making Devki the second largest cement producer in the country.
The philanthropic tycoon provides many scholarships to children around Kenya. He has also adopted more than fifty children in Athi River and funds many orphanages. Nutrition, health and education are causes he is passionate about and also donated to them.
January, 2020, he announced a partnership with Kenyatta National Hospital where Raval would provide 300 million Kenyan shillings to go towards cancer treatment.
Like most rich businessmen, Marendra has political connections. Rumor had it that he facilitated the rise of Kalonzo Musyoka to vice president in 2008 and also helped in the formation of the coalition government.
Guru admits to having political friends even if they didn’t influence his success;
“No doubt in politics we know all as good friends and well – wishes. But we never did or do any business with the government as a policy of our company. And you can’t be a successful businessman if you are deepening your business on political connection.”
His net worth is Kes40 billion.