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Narendra Raval - From Priest, Palmist and Astrologer to Tycoon

NEW DELHI India -- From an assistant priest, palmist and an astrologer, Narendra Raval became a shopkeeper, an industrialist and now a multi-millionaire, writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan.

Today, Raval owns Kenya’s largest steel and cement empire with a turnover of $650 million.

Born in 1962 in a small village near Surendrangar, Gujarat, in a Brahmin family, he followed the Swaminarayan path from his boyhood.

Getting up at 3:45 a. m., he helped with morning prayers at the local temple before going to school. After school, he helped with evening prayers.

So when he got a chance to travel abroad to work as an assistant priest in Kenya, he wasted no time to land in Nairobi in 1978.

Then he became ‘guru’.

He was told to hold religious classes for children every Sunday.

To tempt them to attend, he prepared tasty snacks for them after lessons.

Soon the number rocketed from 12 to 250 children and he was called guru.

When he reached 21 years, he was pressurised by his family to get married.

So he married a medical doctor in 1982, but had to stop work at the temple as priests could not marry.

He had no money and did not know many people.

But his astrology came in handy.

At the temple, he met a person for whom he made some predictions.

This person offered him a job as a worker in a steel factory which he grabbed.

  Narendra Raval on the cover of Forbes Africa magazine | Coastweek
NEW DELHI India -- Narendra Raval on the cover of Forbes Africa magazine.
He worked and saved and opened a small shop and steel processing unit selling metal products with a loan from a benefactor in Nairobi’s low income suburb in 1990.

He and his wife toiled. They worked up to 18 hours every day.

Gradually, he expanded his business, and established a steel rolling mill.

Today, it has expanded into the Devki Group which primarily deals in steel, cement, infrastructure and real estate.

It was not easy.

In the first factory, he laboured with the workers and developed a close rapport to treat them as his family members.

The big competitors undercut him; so his raw materials piled up along with huge unsold stocks.

He had no cash to pay his workers or his bank loan. In this desperate situation, the prices of metal products rocketed three times in a short period and he was able to sell his stock and pay wages and the bank loan.

Since then, he has expanded his business.

In 1992, he set up a small steel rolling mill near Nairobi to manufacture roofing and fencing materials.

Now Raval’s Devki Group owns four such mills, two cement factories in Kenya, and one in Ethiopia, Uganda and the Congo with $650 million in annual income.

The group employs more than 4,000 workers and is the largest building materials company in East and Central Africa.

Awarded the Order of the Burning Spear, the highest civilian award of Kenya, and a special philanthropy award by the British government, he has been interviewed in many African media, Times of India and made it to the front page of Forbes Africa this year.

Raval’s priority is helping the needy as he donates millions for education, nutrition and health care in Kenya and other African countries.

"I am deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa," he told Times of India:

"I believe that wealth should be considered as a trust of the whole society and as trustees, individuals should use it for the benefit of society."



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