Kenya has many successful businessmen and entrepreneurs, but Manu Chandaria’s success story is different. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth but through his focus and determination combined with his entrepreneurial and business skills, he has managed to defy the odds to become one of Kenya’s wealthiest individuals and one of the most successful businessmen in East Africa. In this article, you will learn more about Manu Chandaria’s background history, wealth, and industries.
Manu Chandaria is a renowned Kenyan businessman, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and industrialist of Indian Origin. Before he retired, he was a long-serving chairman and CEO of Comcraft Group, a large privately owned group of companies that are present in over 40 countries. He is also a board member of several companies in East Africa. Aside from the businesses, he had institutional leadership roles as the Chancellor for Technical University of Keya (TUK) and United States International University-Africa (USIU).
Manu Chandaria Background History
Manu Chandaria’s father was an Indian Merchant before he relocated to Kenya in 1915, where he opened and operated a shop along Biashara Street in Nairobi. Manu Chandaria was born on 1st March 1929 in Nairobi as Manilal Premchand Chandaria. He grew up in Ngara, Nairobi, with three other families living in the same house. He gave his father a hand in the shop during his childhood years, which was probably his earliest exposure to business.
On completing his primary and secondary education in various schools in Nairobi and Mombasa, Manu Chandaria headed to India, where he joined Jamnagar India University in Bombay to pursue his undergraduate studies. He graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Science Degree.
He went to the University of Oklahoma in the USA in 1950, where he pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, graduated, and immediately enrolled for a Master’s Degree in the same institution. When he was done with his education, Manu Chandaria returned to Kenya, where their family business had improved. With his excellent business skills, he took on the mantle, and together with his family, he steered the business to greater heights, giving birth to the formidable companies under the umbrella of the Comcraft group of companies that we see today.
Family and Religion
Manu Chandaria got married to his wife, Aruna Chandaria, in 1955 in Mombasa, making it over 65 years since they tied the knot. They, however, formalized their marriage in 2019. Together, they have two children, their son Neal Chandaria and daughter Priti Chandaria.
Manu Chandaria practices Jainism, an old Indian religion whose teachings are based on purity and non-violence.
Manu Chandaria Wealth and Industries
Manu Chandaria’s venture into business has been a success. The accumulated capital from the family business was enough to get them into the aluminum and steel industry. His would-be father-in-law introduced him and nine others to the business. The ten individual businessmen collectively acquired a kitchenware and steel manufacturing company called Kenya Aluminium. The company was owned by an Indian Merchant and had collapsed in 1929 during the great depression. Even though the ten partners separated later to get into different ventures, it was a launching pad for Comcraft Group, now worth over $2.5 billion.
Comcraft expanded in the 1950s and 60s to other countries like Nigeria, Zambia, India, Congo, and Ethiopia. Manu Chandaria was a senior member and CEO of Comcraft Group for a long time before he retired. He is a board member of the following Kenyan and East African companies:
- Mabati Rolling Mills Limited
- Aluminium Africa Limited
- Kuluworks Limited
- Bank of India Advisory Committee in Nairobi
- Uganda Baati Limited
- University of Nairobi Enterprises & Services Limited
- East Africa Reinsurance Company Limited
- Kenindian Assurance Company Limited
Manu Chandaria is the founder and chairman of Kenya private Sector Alliance and the East African Business Council. He is the former chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and former Director of the Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Limited.
Today, Manu Chandaria’s business interests span over an extensive part of the economy of Kenya. He also has business interests in 50 other countries. He is reported to have a net worth of around $1.7 billion, making him one of the richest people in Kenya.
The government of Kenya appointed Manu Chandaria to help in different areas such as being a trustee, task force member, and many other roles. Below are some positions the Government of Kenya has appointed him to play in the past:
- Member of the Environment Policy National Steering Committee in 2007
- National Economics and Social Council Member
- Joint Industrial and Commercial Consultative Committee Member
- He was a member of the National Disaster Emergency Fund Committee that was formed after the 1998 Nairobi Bomb blast
- Representative of Special Interest Groups in the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission
- Appointed as Capital Markets Committee member
- Appointed to the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund as a Chairman and Trustee
- Police Reforms Task Force Member
- Insurance Advisory Board Member
- Member of the East African Political Federation National Consultative Committee
Apart from appointments in Kenya, the Indian Government appointed Manu Chandaria in 1988 as a member of the Non-Resident Indians (NRI) consultative committee.
Philanthropy and Charity
Manu Chandaria is a very charitable individual. Being a Jain, he tries to fulfill Jainism’s principles by setting up his Charitable Organisation called Manu Chandaria Foundation, in which he is the chairman. The Organisation is not only present in Kenya but also in 11 other countries where Comcraft Group operates.
In Kenya, he is a founder, trustee, member, and chairman of countless charities and social works in education, health, and the general welfare of the needy. He draws his inspiration for charity from the American philanthropists Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller for their charity organizations: Henry Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation respectively.
Below are some charity organizations he has formed and social works that he has been involved with in one way or another in Kenya. Please note that the list includes some of Manu Chandaria’s past charitable activities:
- Founding Chairman of Chandaria Foundation
- Chairman of Kenya Ear Foundation
- Chairman of Limuru Girls Centre
- Trustee for Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Fund
- Chairman of Starehe Girls Centre
- Founding Chairman of Asian Foundation
- The Sir Ernest Vasey Memorial Foundation Chairman
- Centre for Corporate Governance Trustee
- Undugu Society of Kenya Trustee
- Chairman of Kenya Rural Blindness Eradication
- Watoto Kwanza Trust Founding Chairman and Trustee
- International University of Kenya (IUK) Trustee
- Trustee for The Heart Foundation
- Member of Desai Memorial Foundation
- Goodwill Ambassador for World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)
- Trustee for Pan African Parliament in 2006
Manu Chandaria awards, honours, and Recognitions
Manu Chandaria’s business and humanitarian work achievements have been noticed and won him several prestigious local and international awards and recognitions. Below are some of them:
- Honorary doctorates from 6 universities, including Kenyatta University, University of Nairobi, Kenya Methodist University, and Technical University of Kenya (TUK)
- Pravasi Bhartiya Sanman (overseas Indian Honour Awards), which the Indian government awards through the ministry of overseas Indian affairs to people of Indian origin in foreign countries doing excellent work
- Order of the British Empire (OBE)b by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 recognized his efforts in his community work in Kenya.
- Awarded the elder of the burning spear (EBS) by Kenya’s retired president, Mwai Kibaki, in 2003. The award is one of the highest presidential honours to civilians in Kenya.
- Under his Chairmanship for the Global Peace Foundation hosted by Kenya in 2010, it was nominated to the UN person of the year awards. His role in youth empowerment through entrepreneurship and culture did not go unnoticed.
- Through a survey by the PriceWaterhouseCoopers done in conjunction with the Nation Media Group, Manu Chandaria was named the most respected CEO in East Africa for three consecutive years: 2000, 2002, and 2002.
- He was awarded the Korea Trade Day award in 2001 by Korea’s Commerce minister for being the best trading partner for Korea that year.
- Was awarded the ‘Hindu Vibhushan’ in 2001 by the Hindu Leaders Forum
- He was awarded the Vishwa Gurjari Award in 1982 in India for his excellent services to businesses.
What We Can Learn From Manu Chandaria’s Success
Manu Chandaria’s life history is not a “Rags to Riches” kind of scenario since his father could afford a lot when he was young. But because of his hard work and resilience, he has managed to build an international business empire. Even though that is so, he is a billionaire who does not show off or brags about his wealth. He has instead used it to help the needy, build schools and hospitals, and support small businesses among other charitable work.
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