Chamanlal Kamani: The Tycoon Who Made Billions From Selling Faulty Mahindra To Kenya Police

Chamanlal Kamani is not a new name among a section of Kenyans. He arrived in Kenya in 1950 with only Ksh 16 and within a short period of time he had amassed vast wealth both in the country and overseas. He first burst into the limelight in the 90s when he sold Mahindra jeeps at a cost Ksh 1 million per unit after acquiring each at Ksh 150,000 in India. In 2004, his name was adversely mentioned in Ksh 55 billion Anglo-Leasing scandal.

Here is the full story of Chamanlal Kamani as told by WoK.

Chamanlal Kamani

Chamanlal Kamani is a Kenyan Indian billionaire with interests in construction, agriculture and in the hospitality industries. He first landed in the country from Goa, India in 1950 after being invited by his cousin who was an accountant with the colonial police. At the time of his arrival, he had Ksh 16 only to his name and had to work as a mechanic at Marshalls East Africa to make ends meet.

He married his wife Sushila Priyaben in Mombasa and had four children – Rashmi, Deepak, Sudha and Preeti Kamani. Kamani moved to Nairobi where he opened ‘Africa Motor Spares shop’ along Tom Mboya Street. Deepak Kamani who was the most ambitious child joined the family business while aged 17 years old after he dropped out of Secondary school while he was in Form two. According to Deepak used to come last in almost all school activities.

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He however managed to secure a Diploma in Mechanical works from Kenya Polytechnic, now Technical University of Kenya (TUK). His father opened for him a branch of the spare parts shop in Mombasa in 1969 which diversified to posho mills before becoming Kamsons Limited. The Kamani family is also famous for intermarrying into other wealthy families under the slogan ‘money goes to where money is.’ The daughter of Deepak Kamani, Daisy, married the son of Naushad Merali, Sameer Merali. Sameer Merali is the heir of Sameer Group – a conglomerate with interests in agriculture, construction, IT, finance, real estate and manufacturing sectors.

Family Wealth and Businesses

Under Kamsons Limited (short form of Kamani and Sons), the family acquired the Diani Reef Beach Resort for Ksh 120 million. The family owns the Zuri Group Global – a multi-billion shilling conglomerate with interests in real estate, hospitality, floriculture and infrastructure under the leadership of Deepak Kamani. The brother, Rashmi Kamani owns the prestigious Zuri hotels in Dubai and Deepak’s son, Bobby, operates the Zuri hotels in Goa and Kumarakom and Whitefield hotels in Bangalore and Sikkim in India. The family broke record after constructing a 154 room hotel known as ‘Varca’ in Goa in just under 11 months.

The hotels are ranked among the most luxurious hotels in India with houseboat cruises, yachting and an international therapy center. In the United Kingdom, the family acquired The Liner hotel in Liverpool. The family is also into commercial floriculture owning flower farms in Athi River and Nyahururu where they export over 90 million roses in a year. They run a family foundation – The Kamani Charity Trust, where they pay school fees for needy people and support eye clinics across the country.

The Scandals

The Kamani family through Kamsons Limited secured lucrative multi-billion shilling government tenders. The company won a tender to revamp all police vehicles in Kenya in the 90s. They imported the Indian made Mahindra jeeps which they sold to the government at Ksh 1 million each after buying in India at Ksh 150,000. Few years later, the vehicles began breaking down due to lack of spare parts and lack of local expertise to handle the vehicles. According to the Daily Nation, the Mahindras were grounded because of malfunctions within months. 

In 2004, he made headlines over the Ksh 55 billion Anglo-leasing scandal. Chamanlal and his two sons, Deepak and Rashmi, were charged in court with five counts of conspiring to siphon over Ksh 10 billion of public funds for ‘Services not provided.’ Other controversial scandals Chamlala was allegedly involved in include the supply of boilers to prisons department scandal and the Deal to build a CID Forensic Laboratory.

Chamanlal Kamani died in September 2019 while aged 88 years leaving behind four children, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren.