People and prosperity

Tips from the top – have a clear goal

Narendra Raval, one of Kenya’s most successful entrepreneurs, reveals what it takes to start a business empire

The best ideas are borne out of passion

I was a teenager when I came to Kenya from India to work as a priest’s assistant in 1972. During the early days in my new home, I was disturbed by the fact that many Kenyans couldn’t afford basic materials to build a roof over their heads, and it stayed with me for years. In the early 1990s, I decided to bring affordable roofing and steel to Africa. It was not easy getting the idea off the ground, and securing financing was tough. I battled on, eventually securing a loan and setting up a small steel rolling mill at a time when there were very few of these in Kenya. Later, we secured more finance to build more factories and today, my business – Devki Group – employs 4,000 people.

Set your goal and stick to it

Often, the biggest challenge facing people starting a business is choosing the right idea. Once you decide which one to commit to, success will only come if you have a clear goal and stick to it. If you change it every three months or six months, you will struggle to build your business.

Loyal staff can get you through dark times

It’s never smooth sailing running your own business. There was a time when I didn’t have enough money to pay my workers. Thankfully, my staff chose to stick with me and took a 50 per cent pay cut for almost five months, and I paid back every penny owed to them when times were better. Make sure you do what you can to keep your staff dedicated, or you won’t have their support when you need it.

Have a reason to keep going

If your business is a success, think about what else you can do to keep up momentum. For me, it’s about giving back to communities in Kenya. Whether it’s by building schools, offering scholarships, providing easier access to clean water, or giving children a home in my orphanage, I want my success in business to have social impact.

Telling the truth is important

Good relationships help businesses prosper. Trust is important when building a customer and supplier base, or a talented and committed workforce, and you can only build good relationships if you’re honest with people.

Standard Chartered has been providing banking services to Devki Group businesses since 2004.