Narendra Raval is one of Kenya’s elite businessmen who once upon a time, worked as a temple assistant in a Swaminarayan temple as part of his duties as a member of the ruling priestly caste of the Hindu religion. At the age of sixteen, he moved to Kenya to complete his duties at a temple in Kisumu, but in his early twenties he got married and had to give up his priestly duties permanently. However, when one door closes, another one opens.
Once Raval left the temple, he received an offer to work as a laborer in a steel factory in Nairobi where he was able to save up enough money to start small steel processing store that he ran with his wife. The visionary that he was, he expanded his business into roofing and fencing solutions and received a loan to set up a steel rolling mill. He and his wife eventually established the Devki Group of Companies, a multi-dimensional and widely diversified organization in East and Central Africa, which primarily deals in steel, cement, infrastructure and real estate. In an interview with Kiss TV, he admits that although it was initially difficult to pay the salaries of his workers in the early years, his employees never left him. “They said ‘Guru, no problem’. As long as we are getting the money for food and rest, you can pay us when you can”. True to their word, these same individuals are still with the company.
Today, Raval is a multi-millionaire, but his upbringing has kept him grounded and fully aware of the needs of others around him. Through Devki Steel Mills, Raval gives back to the growth and support of his local community. In Kenya, some of his initiatives include the distribution of clean drinking water in a number of villages where waterborne diseases were a major problem, community kitchens for the poor and the provision of support to disadvantaged children for their education and welfare.
Raval has received a number of accolades for his service, including the President’s Award of Kenya in 2007 and the UK’s philanthropy award in 2012. He was also honored by the Lions International Foundation with the Melvin Jones Fellowship in Nakuru, becoming the 12th person in the world to receive such recognition.
Image: Business Daily Africa