By Prudence Minayo
Tycoon Narendra Raval, often referred to as guru, is among the richest people in Kenya and Africa by extension. He was listed by Forbes in 2015 among Africa’s 50 richest people. His net worth is estimated at $500 million — or Sh50 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 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 to the needy. In an interview with a local daily, he said 50% of his properties will go to charity in Kenya and the remainder to his children.
Mr. Raval’s life depicts how determination, hardwork and taking risks, are key ingredients to a successful future. The soft spoken man was not born with a silver spoon.
He is 58 years old (born in 1962). He turns 59 this year.
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 salary. At the temple he was in charge of teaching children on Sundays. 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. He married Neeta, a medical practitioner then based in Thika, due to family pressure. This made him abandon priesthood as priests are forbidden to marry.
He has been married to his wife for 35 years. The couple worked together in their Gikomba shop.
The billionaire is a father of three aged 30 years, 22 year girl and his last born is 15 years. His first born is a Harvard University who works in the family business.
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 Centre in Gikomba in 1990. Together with his wife, they worked up to 18 hours. There were many challenges but he overcame with the help of his wife and workers. 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 6,500 workers and makes over USD650 million annually. Other subsidiaries 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 has provided scholarships to children around Kenya. He has adopted more than fifty children in Athi River and funds many orphanages. Nutrition, health and education are causes he is passionate about and donates generously towards those causes.
January, 2020, he announced a partnership with Kenyatta National Hospital where he would donate kshs300 million to go towards cancer treatment.
Like most rich businessmen, Narendra 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.”
What he owns
He is not known for his flamboyancy. Talking to Business Daily Jackson Biko, the businessman said he owns a simple mobile phone, six ties and four suits, because his wife insisted he needed more than one suit.
He drove an old Toyota but his family implored him to get a Mercedes Benz. He drives himself. According to the billionaire, he removes his tie and hops into a boda boda when traffic is heavy.
He owns three choppers.
His net worth is Kes50 billion.