Sunday, September 9, 2007
To our own, Manu Chandaria. Businessman & Philanthropist extraordinaire
Don't ask me how I knew who Manu Chandaria was when i was just 10 but i just did. His family has been involved in various forms of trade ever since Sir Micheal Macdonald, Kenya's white governor bestrode our lands like a collossus and when Johnstone Kamau wa Ngengi was a little known Kikuyu activist.
His name commands attention and utmost respect in business circles not only in Kenya but in all the 40+ countries where his company, Comcraft has a business prescence. The Comcraft Group is a $2.5 billion conglomerate that was founded in 1929 and now boasts over 200 companies that stretch across all the 5 continents. In Kenya, it includes Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd, Galsheet Kenya Ltd, Booth Manufacturing Africa Ltd, Eslon Plastics of Kenya Ltd and Kaluworks Ltd among others. In Uganda, it has Uganda Baati Ltd, while in Tanzania, these are Aluminium Africa Ltd, Metal Products Ltd and Tanzania Chesemen Ltd. Chandaria has been thrice voted East Africa's most respected chief executive, an honor he downplays.
Withought a shadow of a doubt, most Asian businessmen in Kenya who run mega enterprises have achieved their gargantuan wealth through unsrupulous deals crafted in association with exceedingly corrupt power barons and members of the political elite who have fleeced treasury coffers with impunity for decades. Think Naushad Merali, an accountand with Ryce motors in 1984 who rose to dizzing heights of success in a relatively short time frame and now sits at the helm of The Sameer Group of Companies which has a heavy prescence in every sector of the economy, construction, agriculture, finance, IT, transport, communications etc...you name it and Meralli is there. People like Ketan Somaia, Kamlesh Pattni, The Kamanis and many others whose names were synonymous with underhand ventures that evolved into monstrous scandals involving shady contracts were billions of dollars went up in smoke only for the said individuals and their collaborators to walk away scott free and enjoy the spoils of their ill gotten loot publicly!
Not Dr Chandaria. He has never been remotely associated with any dubious deals nor have his businesses benefitted the economic mileage that political patronage bestows. Here's a man whos wealth dwarfs the Ndegwas and Kenyattas, eschews publicity, has been honored worldwide for his contributions to commerce and charity work and hobnobs with world leaders; a true enigma.
Said he, " Back in the 1950s we heard about the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and what they were doing in America. When my brother and I came back from America we thought of starting The Chandaria Foundation. This was in 1954. "The idea was to help people without waiting for them to approach the Chandaria family. "We thought that with a foundation there would be a focus on our giving and over the years this has proved true,"
Today, the cause of his charity work has been geared towards the disabled, children and the sick. It is said to whom much as been given, much will be demanded. Chandaria, through his deeds has truly embodified compassion and selflessness by making a difference in the lives of the less unfortunate.
Only in America is the culture of giving back ingrained among the creme de la creme. Both corporations and individuals. It was just the other day another hero of mine, super investor, the oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett was announcing his $31 billion dollar pledge to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Going back in history, like Chandaria alluded to, You will find that nearly all fabulously wealthy American families going back to the robber barrons donated large sums of their monies to charity and set up foundations that advance human achevment, fight poverty and injustice and promote social respondibility.
This is in sharp contrast to Kenya where magnificent wealth achieved through sheer plunder of public institutions and through political connections is repatriated to foreign countries with very little of it trickling back to the economy and worse yet, none of it is given back to society except in small sums through political harambees and counterfeit public displays of sympathy.
Always dream and you will be-I aspire to be like Chandaria someday. Not in the monetary sense because my parents never started any business that I could take over and grow into a billion dollar corporation but more so in the humane aspect. The world is filled with abundance through right application of thought and effort I will have my share of it and hope to use that blessing to help the downtrodden and be remembered not for my fortune but for what I did with it.