India is home to 101 dollar billionaires. Mukesh Ambani, the richest Indian is in the top 20 of the richest people in the World. He is worth over USD 36 Billion. His net worth is equivalent to all the wealth created in Kenya for six months. There are other 5 Indians including Azim Premji, the Hinduja family, Dilip Shanghvi etc. who are each worth over USD 15 Million. To put it into perspective, the 10th richest Indian in the world is worth 3 times what President Trump is worth.
Closer home, the richest Kenyan according to Forbes, is Bhimji Shah – a Kenyan of Indian descent. A third of the 15 richest people/ families are of Indian descent and include Manu Chandaria, Bhaloobhai Patel, Atul Shah just to mention a few. The Indian population in the country is less than 0.5% of the total Kenyan population. Statistically, they should have no one or at most, only 1 person in the list of the top 15 Kenyans, yet they almost dominate the list. It has to be that there is something they are doing right that enables their businesses to flourish.
Here are some of the lessons we can learn:
The first Indians to set up businesses in Kenya started with basic businesses. Manu Chandaria’s father started a provisions shop on Biashara Street in 1915. Atul Shah’s father started a clothing retail shop in Nakuru. When this business went down, Atul and his brother Vimal opened a clothing shop which grew and enabled them to buy a shop from their uncle called Nakuru Mattresses. Most Indian businessmen do not start big. They start small and grow their businesses. Ambani started by hawking spices at the age of 15. It is in starting small that they are able to understand how businesses work, how to relate to employees etc.
Start Where You Are
Manu Chandaria’s parents lived in Ngara so they started their business activities in Nairobi. Currently, his businesses are spread over 45 countries. The Shah brothers started in Nakuru, where they were living. They opened their first store outside Nakuru 8 years after buying out Nakuru Mattresses and it was in Eldoret and not Nairobi. Bhimji Shah started his business in Nyeri because that is where he lived. Bidco is now in 14 countries. Different places have different dynamics of doing business. If you have lived somewhere, you understand the dynamics of that place. When setting up a business, ensure that you understand your market well.
Involve your Children
Manu Chandaria helped in his parent’s shop from the age of 15. The Shah brothers were helping out in their father’s shop from an early age as well. If you go to any Indian business when schools are not in session, you will find their children helping out. This instills a business sense in the children from an early age. There are many stories of wealthy Africans whose children squandered their inheritance after their parents died because they did not know how to manage the businesses. Indians ensure that this does not happen by teaching their children practical business lessons from an early age. This makes the children even wealthier than their parents as the Shah brothers and Chandaria have proved. Here are 6 ways we can teach children about business
Indians are as frugal as they come. An Indian multi-millionaire will drive an old Toyota or Peugeot 504 or 505. Chances are, it will be their first or second car. The ones with new cars will have vehicles with small engines ensuring they spend little in terms of maintenance and fuel. They will avoid being flashy. You will hardly find an Indian with bling and those with expensive golden necklaces from Nagin Pattni will have it hidden. They will more often than not, carry packed lunch. No one does affordable quite like the Indians. They will transfer this quality to their businesses by keeping costs as low as possible. They will have shops in River Road, Keekorok Road or Luthuli Avenue where the rent is more affordable than in the uptown part of town. Further, they will spend much less in terms of wages and salaries. Frugal Living: Ways To Save Money
Indians take great care of their health. Their diet comprises of healthy foods that enable them to avoid lifestyle diseases and live a longer quality life. There is a common saying that Indians have brought us hospitals (Aga Khan, MP Shah, Guru Nanak etc) which are filled by Africans. Balobhaai is 79, Bhimji is 86. Living a long life ensures that they impact as much knowledge as possible to their successors who will most likely be their children and grandchildren.
Promote Their Own
Indians always promote their own. They will get services from fellow Indian businesses. They will always go to Aga Khan when sick, bank with Imperial, Victoria or Diamond Trust Bank, buy Nation newspaper, insure with Jubilee Insurance, shop at Nakumatt etc. Any Indian businessman more often than not has business from fellow Indians. This goes down to those with retail shops on River Road or Biashara street. They will always buy from their own.
Indians work longer hours. It is primarily the reason the British used them to build the railway. They will get to work early and leave late. Most of them who are in the retail business will be actively involved in their businesses. Go to Ibrahims or Kings Collection both on Moi Avenue and the Indians are actively involved in the business even when they can easily hire someone to manage their businesses in their absence.
It is not by coincidence that many businesses in major towns in Kenya are run by Indians and the businesses are doing well. There are some of the lessons we can learn from how Indians do business that can help us in our businesses as well.
I am a former investment Analyst who has recently ventured into the business world as a young entrepreneur. In my free time, I use the pen as a sword to shape the world so I can feel how awesome it would have been if I were a writer.