In the list of Kenya’s richest people, there is one name that may soon be ranked as Kenya’s richest person. That name is Narendra Raval. This is the name of the gentleman who runs one of the biggest steel and cement companies in the region: Devki Group of Companies.
In 2015, Narendra Raval was ranked among the top 50 richest Africans with a net worth of $400 million (Sh. 43.2 billion) by Forbes. “Popularly referred to as ‘Guru’, has investments in steel, aluminum and cement,” said Forbes.
Born in India, Raval served as an assistant priest at a Swaminarayan temple before relocating to Kenya as a teenager to serve in another temple 1978. He was expelled from the sect when he got married to a Kenyan woman known as Neeta Raval in Thika.
After getting married, Raval decided to take up a job in a small steel factory where he learnt steel-making. In 1986, pulling together his savings, he started a small steel processing and trading outfit with his wife in downtown Nairobi.
That small operation has grown into Devki Group, the largest manufacturer of steel products in East and Central Africa. The company manufactures cement, reinforcement bars, and barbed wire. The group’s cement division, National Cement Company, manufactures Kenya’s bestselling Simba cement.
Despite his immense wealth that continues to grow beyond leaps and bounds, Raval has emerged as one of the most humble billionaires in a country where the rich and wealthy are renowned for their show off and acquisition of expensive accessories and collections.
In an interview with the Business Daily, Raval, a devoted philanthropist who supports a string of orphanages, revealed that he owns just one pair of shoes and still rides the boda boda. In a another interview with Citizen Tv, Raval said that he has not lost his love for the streets and still visits roadside kiosks for food and chitchat with small business persons. “When you stand too tall, you will miss the little things that matter. But when you stand on the ground and interact with people, you will realize that at the end of the day, you are all equal. I still go to the kiosk for food and this gives me a lot of joy. I sometimes have my launch with my workers and we don’t see each other as boss and employee,” he said in an interview with Jeff Koinange and Victoria Rubadiri.
According to Raval, when you are poor, your friends are likely to be poor. “When you have nothing, people ask you, ‘How are you?’ but when you have money, people ask ‘Who are you?'” he said.