5th of February ought to remain a memorable day for young folks across Taita Taveta County, more so the over 500 young men and women who graced the forum. A forum co-championed by both offices of Governor H.E. Granton Samboja and the first lady Stellah Samboja. I remain glad, I attended. The Chat with the billionaire, with numerous accolades, was certainly worthwhile, and here is why.
By 9.am at the center of not so lush grounds of Taita Taveta University, was a massive dome pitched elegantly and under it, sat 100s of lads and lasses green with dreams and eager to scoop steel nuggets from a couple of key speakers but most importantly the Steel Tycoon, NARENDRA RAVAL once listed in Forbes Top 50 in Africa.
I stepped in slightly late amidst the introductory, geared by the eloquent MC Msafiri, got a seat on the 4 row or so, skimmed through the Jungu Kuu newspaper as I stole glances at the array of fellow enterprising folks, I had interacted with from time to time. And off very subtle glances at the vilambo soft.
The summit would kick off with a couple of successes stories as we waited for the governor’s and chief guest’s entourage. This wouldn’t take long.
At the segment, Zoghori’s Founder and Chairman, Mr. Danson M. Josai, would deliver an inspiring success journey of the outfit founded over a decade ago, beat all odds and is currently one of the vibrant micro-finance institutions regionally. He highlighted the need to encourage savings culture from a young age and also the need to be patient in any venture, cleverly articulating the seed planting analogy.
Plant the Seed, Nature it and be patient, He would emphasize. It would only be a matter of minutes before we would get a broader perspective of this analogy in Billionaire NARENDRA RAVAL story who clearly planted his seed back as a teen.
The testimonial would be cut short with the arrival of H.E and his guest. As usual, the Olele ni omoni timeless tune sprung for the DJs booth, an abrupt switch of attention to the entourage would be inevitable, virtually all were up from the seats to welcome the Billionaire.
There was a mic switch from the MC Msafiri to the veteran presenter, Kirigha, whose soothing, enticing and calming radio voice, has been trusted for local state functions for ages now. She carefully guided the morning protocol before inviting the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Too, (read ‘too’ooh’) to officially welcome all to the varsity grounds.
In a dapper suit, prof, recounted the brief history of Taita Taveta University founded as a Teachers college in the 80s, encouraged applications to join courses with recent inclusions of the School of Education and Agriculture. There were quick mic successions from the First lady to the governor and after precise speeches, the governor ultimately invited Narendra Raval, the GURU, a recent honorary of the Emblem of burning spear, EBS. to take up the stage.
I quickly recalled a news feature on KTN about money and power years ago. In regard to the physique nothing much seemed to have changed, except for the hairs at the center of his head that seemed to have been meticulously combed and deliberately spaced strand after strand. About his helicopter, that was included in the KTN feature and was now a couple of meters away from the venue, it seemed to have retained the same colors with the signature yellow crossing strip on its side.
About his Hindu accent, it was way heavier and in person he was way more comic. I least expected the latter. But that made his delivery on stage a lot more candid and friendlier.
The opening segments recounted the life of a less privileged kid in India. Guru was careful however right from the start to remind the audience that he’s never considered any situation as a struggle but would rather modestly term any challenging situation as a lesson.
A couple of recollections puzzled most of us especially when he boldly stated that he was once compelled to steal shoes at a temple just to fit in. A mistake he admitted to and took responsibility for.
In the early life in India, NARENDRA RAVAL recalled innumerable desires that crossed his mind but at that juncture, neither was he nor his family capable to afford the privileges. One case however stood out; spotting a helicopter and swearing to one-day own one.
Perhaps that was the onset of his philosophy around Daring to dream. This became a paramount reference point amid the rest of his speech urging all to dare to dream, and more specifically with eyes wide open.
A boy who dared to dream
NARENDRA RAVAL threw us back to his teenage years, in which a phase that stood out was his stint as a priest at one of the temples in India. Albeit not comprehending much, he remained dedicated to that path for quite some time until an opportunity arose for an overseas mission to Kenya.
Guru would be the eventual choice for such and while still a teen, guru landed in Nairobi, a fairly cold stop as compared to his hometown back in India. This would eventually be his home for decades.
He narrated, a choice to marry from Kenya prompted his demotion from the temple and the kick-off into the business.
The current presidential appointee to the COVID 19 Emergency funds team, would set his first shop in the infamous Gikomba in Kenya’s Capital and this would be the humble beginning of the mammoth DEVKI GROUP one of the few companies in Africa currently employing over 6000 people in its workforce.
It was a boy who dared to dream.
‘I believe everybody can do it. Believe you can do it’ The billionaire emphasized from time to time.
Humorously, NARENDRA RAVAL maneuvered around the concept of money, education and recognition earned in respect to the above subject.
To the surprise of many, especially the young audience packed with current undergrads and recent graduates, NARENDRA RAVAL, who is the current chancellor of the university of Egerton, having not have stepped in any tertiary institution.
However, he did emphasize the need for all to still seek and attain such levels as it sharpened critical thinking, brought forth exposure and also more life skills necessary for success.
Guru equally did not hesitate to remind the audience that regardless of the above and without money, you would be subjected to disrespect whereas with money or wealth regardless of how you got it you were most likely to gain recognition in various circles.
“If you are poor nobody wants to know you. If you are rich everybody would like to associate with you” Guru, who is currently expanding his empire with the construction of a new plant in Samburu, advised.
In his authentic, heavy yet entertaining Hindu accent, he carefully spat an edible mix of wisdom and humor, balanced reflections of business acumen and humility.
“From an early age, I knew I wanted to make money, and there was going to be no magic around it” He pointed out. This seemed to remain a core driving force till date. And there is no doubt that he has evidently proved it via the vast empire build over decades.
Life itself is a risk
The curiosity for many, inclined towards what it was like in the beginning. What were the sources of his initial investment capital perhaps?
Guru reminded all that it took lots of risks setting things up. It also took innumerable goods on credit, selling, and repaying debts while building trust to get more goods in the next engagement with his original suppliers.
“Business is for risk-takers. Life itself is a risk” He reminded an audience that shifted from one tide of excitement to another tide of pensive listening. A pattern dictated by the nature of his varied sentiments from time to time.
A good credit score, trust built over the years would eventually see him expand progressively till he set up his first production factory as demand for his products steadily rose day by day.
In an age where most of the young folks are entangled with hundreds of mobile lending loans, Guru encourages all to borrow less.
A believer in setting targets, NARENDRA RAVAL would challenge himself continuously to envision a country or continent that would be independent as far as steel material would be concerned. And he was geared to actively play a role, create an impact and leave a legacy in the construction industry through his famous brands, Maisha Mabati and Simba cement that have specialized in roofing, cement, barbed wires, reinforcement steels, and concrete poles among others.
He still dreams
He encourages the need to equally alienate self from their businesses while maintaining discipline as far as the business resources would be concerned, urging folks not to dare even trust self in such a case.
Regarding work Ethic, the billionaire currently projecting to employ approximately 10,000 people in his factories across East and Central Africa interestingly stated that he still pumps in 16 hours a day as far as work is concerned. According to GURU Long working hours for any business leader are inevitable.
“As long as you are a leader, you remain to be the servant, the day you become a boss, you are bound to fail” He warned.
“I still Dream” He Asserted.
Beyond the Mullah and the grind, the philanthropist billionaire, who feeds over 500 families daily, is one among the very few who opted to retain the thousands of employees even in the face of COVID-19. Quite a commendable decision indeed.
The Kind-hearted, leader of Simba Cement, also a father to over 60 adopted children, has occasionally pointed to poverty as his leading fear, of course alongside the grim reaper. For this, he has, directly and indirectly, sustained thousands of households through his philanthropic projects.
On the concept of religion, the former priest ironically advised the young delegation against constantly turning to their GOD as constant beggars, but instead focus more on working seriously. He noted there were fundamental principles of business and life in general that worked for virtually everyone who dared apply them regardless of their religious inclinations, backgrounds, credentials, and so on.
He acknowledged Principles such as hard work, consistency and discipline.
Cleverly, Guru challenged all, to re-think that If indeed our God was a trusted father, then we needed not to worry much as long as we focused on our obligations in our respective ventures. Positive results would be automatic.
Business with the people.
Regarding who to do business with, he pointed out the private sector to be a key number once consideration for anyone wishing to venture out.
“Do business with the people. Win their trust and support and all shall eventually be well.” Holder of the Indian Pride Award encourages. He outlined, that governments had consistently disappointed quite a number of people and this often resulted in ripple effects on contractors and their associates with cases of delayed or defaulted payments.
While on the same matter he challenged county governments to reconsider their current contractual business and engagement methods that had disappointed many and are hardly attractive to the young people. On the same note, he encouraged young people to be less dependent on third parties. And also, not to be reliant on handouts asserting, “Ready Money is Poison and whenever you ask you become small”
On the issue of Specialization, he encouraged folks not to venture out on a project simply because their colleagues were in it or rather succeeded in it. Instead, curve out unique paths they genuinely believed in.
Put the sons and daughters into the picture. What are his thoughts on wealth inheritance? Guru argues it’s best to teach them how to fish.
But where was the place of a woman in this story? According to Guru, nobly encourage, the men in the building to have a proper woman by their side.
Queried on his idea of contentment, the Guru, sternly commented, “Don’t ever feel contented, till your last day on earth. And in a Steve jobs fashion, he quipped stay Hungry.
It was a great day indeed. And of course, the 1000 bob reimbursement to every attendee courtesy of the county government was the icing on the cake if not the ideal salt for the steak.
I can’t wait to lay hands on his autobiography, A LONG WALK TO SUCCESS, a global bestseller which according to India’s Prime Minister and namesake, Narendra Modi, is a book that paints a picture of everything is possible if you believe.
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