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Industrialist Manu Chandaria: My tips for success

Industrialist Manu Chandaria. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Manu Chandaria retired at age 90. He is now 93 years old.

During his long business life, he was known for his stewardship of Comcraft Group, a multinational manufacturer of steel and aluminium, and the Chandaria Foundation, a philanthropic entity.

In those decades at the helm of Comcraft and in leadership positions of various organisations, Chandaria learnt crucial lessons that have kept him at the top of his game and placed his businesses ahead of the competition.

Learn to trust other people - you can’t do it all alone

When his businesses started to expand far and wide, there was a need to hire more managers. It is, however, hard to trust new people to steer a business that one has built from scratch and for so many years. But Chandaria believes in other people’s abilities, as long as they show commitment and dedication.

“If I have the capacity, why should you (the other person) not have the capacity? We are all human beings,” he says.

This was the same approach he used when he needed to finally step aside and into retirement, trusting that those he left in charge are capable of steering the business to prosper in the future.

Mr Chandaria says failure to leave and retire for the fear that other people may not perform as well is detrimental not only to oneself but to the business as well.

“If I refuse to leave and suddenly something happens and I am not on earth anymore, how will they take up my positions and run the business? I will not be here forever; sometimes someone else has to take over and run the business,” he says.

When you decide to detach, detach completely

The decision to finally make an exit and retire was a hard one to make, says Chandaria. He had been there for the longest time and doing everything to make it work. Now, he would keep away from its operations. That was not all.

Industrialist Manu Chandaria. [Samson Wire, Standard]

He has detached from his businesses so much so that he does not discuss them at all. “Businesswise, I have retired from everything. If someone asks me what is happening in Comcraft Group, Kaluworks or Mabati, I would not answer. Unless you detach completely - even with that which you have been running for these many years - you will always be thinking about it and will not be in retirement,” he says. He belongs to a faith called Jain which he says requires that once one detaches, they do it completely.

Retire when you are still in good health

Chandaria’s one regret is not retiring at 80. He says he should have done so, spending his retirement years offering advice and giving ideas to those running the business after him. But he is happy that when he eventually decided to call it a day, it was not because he could not manage to work anymore. “My body is still okay. I chose to retire when I am still healthy and do social work and other things, not wait until I am sick. I retired from the businesses, I do not have that worry any businesses,” he says.

Material wealth can be distracting

Chandaria was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He could afford to taste the finer things in life later once his companies were blossoming, but he was not thrilled with immense wealth.

“Nobody knows Chandaria because he owns a Rolls Royce, or something. I have different trousers upstairs but I cannot wear more than one at the same time. The day people realise that material wealth is not everything, they will stop putting too much focus on it and instead prioritise serving humanity,” he says.

Hard work and consistency pays

Mr Chandaria remembers being woken up at 5am by his father so that he could study. In the end, most of his siblings went on to get their degrees, some acquiring Masters and PhDs. As a boss, Mr Chandaria made it routine to be up very early in the morning daily and to be ready for the office. This practice became a part of him in such a way that although he no longer goes to the office, he still wakes up as early as he used to even though his first assignment is coffee many hours later - at 10 am.

Profits are just the means, not the end

Chandaria is cognizant that without the society they serve, his companies would not be in business. As such, he has made it his routine to give back to society in form of philanthropy, supporting so many worthy causes across the cities where Comcraft is found.

The Chandaria Foundation is probably one of the best-known charity foundations in the country, and in the region. Mr Chandaria prides on making a positive impact in society, helping those that are less fortunate.

Industrialist Manu Chandaria. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Ensure those managing your business subscribe to your ethos

The managers at Comcraft are solidly advised to follow a code of conduct that includes investing (time and resources) in helping societies and the vulnerable in the societies. He has inculcated the idea of philanthropy in those that manage his businesses, and they understand that they have to consider more than the company’s profit margins.

“Sometimes we tell them, ‘Go, be in charge of this organisation, or that other organisation’, and sometimes they may wonder why we have to do this, but with time, they understand that that is what we believe in - the betterment of society through service to those who are not very fortunate,” he says.

Strive to be known for your impact on society not for your wealth

Mr Chandaria believes there are many people who know him not because of wealth, but because of the philanthropy and the impact he has had on society.

“It is a good thing that people know Manu Chandaria because of what he has done. The country can tell who I am without meeting me because through what we do, people feel I am a man who has love for the country. They don’t know I have a Rolls Royce (one of his most expensive acquisitions), they don’t know about the mansion, and they don’t even know where I live. But they know Manu,” he says.