The TYCOON of the Week is Kenya’s Manu Chandaria

As a businessman who has felt the real cost of
two global financial recessions — the ongoing one
and another 80 years ago, Dr Manu Chandaria,
one of Kenya’s leading industrialists, said it’s
only by saving and investing that one can create
wealth which will cushion him from such a crisis.
In between these two recessions, business
empires have been built while others have
collapsed.
Dr Chandaria, with his extended family, has been
able to build the Comcraft Group that has a
presence in 50 countries with companies in a wide
range of industries.
Comcraft Group started the very year when the
US, and the world at large, was experiencing a
cash crunch in 1929.
Then, the man who would later become Dr
Chandaria’s father-in-law, brought together a
group of 10 individuals including Manu’s father,
to buy Kenya Aluminium — a manufacturer of
saucepans — from an Indian merchant who had
gone broke.
“Progress in the financial world is based on
savings,” Dr Chandaria said. “The business of
speculation is very addictive. If you go to the
casino once you always want to go back,” said
the renowned businessman.
But the journey to financial success is littered
with a myriad of challenges, key of which are the
search for the quick buck and a mind set that
wavers in its belief to achieve the ultimate goal,
Dr Chandaria said.
Twenty years after his father-in-law had brought
the group together to buy into Kenya Aluminium,
the group fell apart after going into businesses
they did not understand back in India.
“We would work together as a family to build the
business,” Dr Chandaria said at a meeting hosted
by the Kenya Association of Investment Groups
last week.
“Coming together gives individuals and the
business capacity to fight, especially when things
are going wrong.”
The family bond has been one of the reasons
touted for the success of Asian owned businesses
in Kenya as they provide a common bond and the
access to a cheap source of funding for
businesses which might take years to build.
Though, in the African setting, family ties have
been falling apart especially with the rapid
adoption of the western culture. This has served
to reduce the probability of establishing strong
family businesses.
Instead in Kenya, for example, investment groups
and partnerships have been in fashion as
individuals seek to pool their funds to take part in
bigger projects than they would have undertaken
on their own.
Though, most are dogged with a leadership and
long decision making process that often locks
them out of investment opportunities.
“There has to be a leader who presents a vision
to the team and everyone has to be willing to
follow them,” he said.

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