Kenyan Billionaire Who Started Out as a Priest

  • A person holding a stash of cash. Billionaire Narendra Raval started out as a priest when he travelled to Kenya from India in 1978. File Simon Kiragu
  • In life, the most accomplished among us often have unique stories behind their successes. This includes one Kenyan who unexpectedly started off as a priest and rose to become one of the country's richest investors.

    In his book titled Guru and published in 2018, the tycoon, Narendra Raval, documents how he rose from humble beginnings in India and worked hard to make ends meet.

    The story starts with his life in India where he was born in 1962 in a small village near Surendrangar, Gujarat, to a family that observed teachings by Swaminarayan, which are considered as a part of Hinduism that originated from Gujarat.

    Throughout his childhood, the businessman would help in the morning and evening prayers before going to school until 1978 when he got a chance to migrate to Kenya and practice as an assistant priest.

    Devki Group of Companies Chairman Mr Narendra Raval, EBS, (Guru) delivering a lecture of opportunity to course
    Devki Group of Companies Chairman Narendra Raval delivering a lecture at the National Defence College on August 7, 2019.

    While in the country, Raval was assigned to teach children in Sunday school, a craft he mastered so well by offering tasty snacks which multiplied his audience from 12 to 250.

    When he attained the age of 21, however, his family reportedly pressured him to marry, which he did in 1982 and could no longer practice priesthood.

    After getting married, Raval didn't have much money but luckily, he secured a job at a steel factory owned by someone he had met while serving as a priest.

    He worked hard and saved until 1990 when he opened a small shop dealing with steel products.

    The mill expanded gradually and is today known as the Devki Group which has operations in Kenya, Uganda and Congo. Forbes Magazine estimated the company's revenue at Ksh60 billion in 2018.

    In mid-October, Raval dropped a whopping Ksh5 billion to acquire Athi River Mining (ARM) after approval from the Competition Authority of Kenya.

    In March 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed him as the Chancellor for Egerton University and he offered his entire salary to cater for the education of needy students.

    Billionaire Narendra Raval (right) with President Uhuru Kenyatta while launching a road's construction at the coast region.
    Billionaire Narendra Raval (right) with President Uhuru Kenyatta while launching a road project at the Coast region.