The self-effacing, soft spoken and humble Dr. Manu Chandaria is one of the most respected businessmen in the country. In spite of his family’s immense wealth, Dr. Chandaria is now more involved in the Chandaria Foundation which he mooted to keep the family grounded and as a constant reminder of their responsibility to the society.
Dr. Chandaria credits his parents for instilling a culture of sacrifice and hard work.
“I got a Masters in engineering and my brothers were qualified in different fields. But we had to ask ourselves what we really wanted with our lives. It would have been easier getting a 9 to 5 job… Gandhi impressed us so much in our college years. He left a comfortable job in South Africa and chose to go serve his people,” says Chandaria.
Chandaria says the philosophy Gandhi introduced of ‘Build India’ encouraged Indians to abandon consumption of imported goods.
“We span our clothes when we were in university. We had two pants each, two shirts, two underwears. That taught us the sacrifices we had to make in life. One should decide not to give up. That’s the first principle we learnt from our parents.”
He says the family’s vision was to create wealth, and not work alone, adding a sense of common purpose and belief of ‘can do’ drove the family to go into manufacturing.
“We started with 40 people (in the late 50s). After 5 years, we got 500 people working. There were no Saturdays, no Sundays, no holidays. We worked hard. 18 hours a day. We were always trying to find a better solution to fulfill a need in spite of the difficulties we encountered,” says Chandaria.
The Chandarias spread across the region by sending family members in Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia. In 5 years, they were manufacturing in these countries, and exporting to over 10 countries. But the family lost millions in three of the markets due to political instability and changing regimes in the 60s and 70s.
Dr. Chandaria says youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb, not just in Kenya, but in Africa.
“I think the solution is for the youth to start as volunteers. This has worked in many countries. Having a sense of purpose helps the youth stay focused. Work teaches work and produces more work.”
The billionaire industrialist says he has always tried to learn from everyone he meets.
“There is always something to scoop from everyone and then see how to replicate the same in my life. If you are successful in one thing, you can multiply the same success in other areas.”
Watch video for more about Dr. Manu Chandaria
Dr. Manu Chandaria is a leading Kenyan industrialist and businessman. Along with being the Chairman and CEO of the Comcraft Group of Companies, a billion dollar enterprise that has a presence in over 40 countries, he is also on the boards of several prominent East African companies. He has won several awards in East Africa and internationally in recognition of his entrepreneurial endeavors and is also a noted philanthropist.
In 1997, he was awarded Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, by the University of Nairobi in recognition of outstanding achievements in the industrial manufacturing and business sector.
In 2003, Dr. Chandaria was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. In December of the same year, he was awarded the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear by President Mwai Kibaki, in recognition of his outstanding and distinguished service rendered to the country.