Businessman Manu Chandaria. The Oshwal community has created employment opportunities and also strengthened primary education in the country. [PHOTO: WILLIS AWANDU/STANDARD]
Enduring world of the Shahs in Kenya’s economy
They came to Kenya barefoot, riding on rickety dhows but now drive top-of-the-range vehicles. Their population in the country is slightly over 12,000, yet, that small Visa Oshwal community affects millions on a daily basis. Their business acumen and resilience has immensely contributed to Kenya’s economic outlook for the last 100 years. Their influence goes beyond the well-known brands. The Oshwals have built one of the most respected networks of schools; from nursery to college level, delivering promising students and successful graduates. And plans are underway to build a university. Among the most notable sons from the community are industrialists Manu Chandaria, Atul Shah and Vimal Shah. “The community has not only excelled in business but also in social affairs. It has all been about teamwork and toil and the need to help one another succeed,” says Atul Shah, Nakumatt Supermarket’s chief executive officer. READ MORE When the youth dared to dream Mt Kenya won’t support you in 2022, Ruto told Football tournament: Kenya beat Tanzania Such a history of resilience is one that Mr Atul knows all too well. His father, Mangalal Shah, migrated to Kenya from India in 1947 and set a small shop in Embakasi to serve quarry workers. His search for greener pastures took him to Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Nandi Hills. He dealt primarily in clothes, before importing other forms of merchandise in order to diversify his business. However, he almost went bankrupt as some of those he supplied goods to ran off without paying their debts. At one point, Atul quit school after completing his primary education to help his father build the business. Today, the family runs one of the most successful retail businesses in East Africa. The story is no different from that of the Chandarias, a family that built one of the greatest business empires and philanthropic missions on the continent and beyond. Like Atul’s father, Manu Chandaria’s father came to Kenya with nothing but hope. For lack of a better opportunity, young Manu had to make do with a wardrobe that consisted of two pairs of pants, two shirts, two pairs of underclothes and one pair of socks. Humble beginnings “It was a very small beginning and lot of hard work—from nothing until when I was born, the family had built a reasonable business. We used to live in a concrete building except it was one room to a family. But, when one has grown in the country from nothing, one has that special kind of attachment to it,” said Mr Chandaria in an interview at the Harvard Business School. Then there was Meghji Pethraj Shah, who sailed to Mombasa in 1919 at the age of 15 years. After working at a shop in Mombasa for three years, he left for Nairobi where he managed to start not less than 50 trading companies within 35 years.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000208196/enduring-world-of-the-shahs-in-kenya-s-economy