Kenya’s foremost industrialist Dr. Manu Chandaria was in 2010 declared the Global Peace Award recipient at the fourth Global peace Convention in Soul, South Korea in recognition of is philanthropic work back home in Kenya. It was but one of his long list of awards.
He is slated for the impending transform Kenya Awards in recognition of his work for the Leap Hubs Initiative, a novel educational approach that enables secondary school students prepare for the realities of life after school via activities that arm them with practical skills.
Besides being the navigator behind the Comcraft Group of Companies with branches in 18 African countries, Chandaria is the patron of Global Peace Foundation (GPF) for Africa whose subsidiary, GPF (Kenya) powers the Leap Hubs Initiative to which the Chandaria Foundation has donated 25 laptops in nine schools.
“Chandaria Foundation was set up by our family in 1956 by providing 10 per cent of the company shares for the wellbeing of the people of Kenya,” says Dr.Chandaria.
“Today, the foundation has substantial assets and has been giving 100 scholarships annually to secondary school students, 60 per cent of them girls and 25 students at universities. Such has been the case for the last 30 years.
“Elsewhere, we are the heart valves of the Chandaria School of business at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi and have helped set up the Chandaria Innovation and Incubation centre at Kenyatta University. We have started a Chandaria Centre for Performing arts at Nairobi University. The Mabati Technical institute at our flagship Company, Mabati Rolling Mills Limited in Mariakani near Mombasa runs courtesy of our sponsorship.
“We support many secondary schools across the country in one way or the other. Leap Hubs that we are rolling out in conjunction with the Global Peace Foundation will help students start learning and finding out with the help of others what they can do after school whether or not they proceed to universities and polytechnics. Our aim is to help them create sustainable business.
Dr. Chandaria says his contribution towards education projects is inspired by his background whereby his little schooled father identified higher education as the key to his children’s future success in life, given the challenges he had overcome to break away from despair.
“My father had only three standards of education in vernacular language. He did not speak, read or write English. He had started a shop after earning only 120 rupees in six months working in somebody’s shop. He realized that for his children to have a better start, they had to go to school and obtain high level education,” says Dr. Chandaria.
He reckons that education gave the four Chandaria children a vision of what they should be and how to be successful in their endeavours. “It gave us the direction of how we should plan our lives. This is the main reason why I see education as the main driver towards growth and development,” he says.
He is an ardent believer in peace as the fulcrum for development. “Under the aegis of Global Peace Foundation of which I am the patron for Africa, we called 2,200 children from all over Kenya in 2013 to a two day conference in Nairobi to discuss the importance of maintaining peace during election time,” he says
“I have attended conferences and spoken on peace in conflict ravaged areas including Indonesia, the Philippines and other parts of the world. Peace can only be achieved through discussion, not by the use of force. Certainly not by killings!
His assiduous work has been decorated with local and international awards. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth the second awarded him the coveted Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2003 for promoting Kenya/ British interests. Former President Mwai Kibaki conferred on him Elder of the Burning Spear (EBS) the same year.
Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Nation Media Group have three times in a row voted Dr. Chandaria Kenya’s most respected Chief executive. Twice he has been awarded the Life Leadership Achievement Award (2011 by Ernest and Young and 2013 by Forbes Africa).
What is his dream for Kenya? With a grin, Chandaria states thus: “I foresee a great nation, an African Tiger and a leader on the East African Coast and beyond. All that we need is the focus and determination to end poverty and create a conducive environment for all to earn a living.
Born in 1929 in Nairobi, Manu went to Duke of Gloucester School, the latter day Jamhuri High School in Nairobi’s Pangani area, later proceeding to India and the United States of America for University education. An engineer by training he joined the family business pioneered by his father, Premchand Chandaria and as fate would have it, eventually rose to the helm of the family business that today employs in excess of 3,000 people in Kenya alone and 16,000 elsewhere in Africa.
The industrialist has been married for 60 years to his wife, Aruna and the couple is blessed with two children, a son, Neal who lives in Singapore and a daughter, Priti who lives in Geneva. The Chandarias are doting grandparents to three lovely grand daughters.
The Chandaria family marks 100 years in Kenya in 2016 since family patriarch Premchand and matriarch Poonjiben arrived in 1916 upon which Premchand took up employment in a small shop, earning a pittance before he set up his own.