- He opened his company in 1970, which started as a private investigation firm and later turned it into a security company.
- Before that he was a police officer for 20 years, working at the traffic department and later at the then Criminal Investigations Department.
Kishori Lal Sahni, the founder and chairman of Securex, was born in 1933. He does not look it. Actually, he looks distinguished with his snowy hair and a racy white moustache reminiscent of an ageing spy in an espionage flick.
He opened his company in 1970, which started as a private investigation firm and later turned it into a security company. Before that he was a police officer for 20 years, working at the traffic department and later at the then Criminal Investigations Department.
A technophobe (understandably), he reluctantly got on a Zoom call with JACKSON BIKO, bewildered and cynical (rightfully so) of this new form of interaction. But he turned out to be a sport, earnest as one with little to lose.
Did you work with a gentleman called Patrick Shaw, he was some sort of a bulky, big-deal crime-buster in the police force back in the heyday, revered and all.
I knew him quite well, yes. We worked together with him.
Was he the legend we heard he was?
Yes. He was a genius, a very special man. Whenever there was a crime happening in town he would always appear mysteriously — five minutes flat. It was almost like he was invincible. I think he used to get tips from the Nairobi area control room.
But he had one problem; he couldn't sleep and couldn’t sleep on a bed. I think he had some rare disease or something, so he’d sleep on a reclining chair for only a few hours, maybe two, then he’d be up again to go to work. He would work for 22 hours a day.
What do you find most confusing about the Internet and technology at 87 years of age?
Everything. Isn’t it all strange? I don't deal with these technologies or these things. I don’t take much interest in it. I’m more or less semi-retired so I don’t need to.
I only need this. (Holds up mobile phone)
What apps do you have in there that you use frequently?
(Pause) Huh? I don’t know... (Looks around for help)
Do you have WhatsApp?
Yes! That one I have. I use it.
Most Indians who are in business work into old age. Are you still showing up at work and if so why?
I still show up, but not every day. I’m always on the phone if they need me. I only go three times a week; Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The rest of the days I do social work or I relax. I try to keep myself occupied, to keep the mind busy because you know, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I don’t want to be idle but it’s also so hard to spend the whole day at home. My life now is home, work, home, and temple to pray.
When you pray what do you ask God?
Peace and prosperity for all of us and our country. Because we need that for our country, don’t we?
We do. What do you remember of 1944, you were 12 years old and World War II was just in its last throes. How was life then?
My God. (Pause) I can remember Pakistan being formed at the end of the British rule, but that was in 1947. Life was tough then, we had to migrate from Pakistan to India as a result. Then I joined the University of the Punjab.
Why did you move to Kenya? What lured you here?
My father who used to work for the postal service here decided to move back to Kenya. But first, he had come to Kenya in 1914 to find new opportunities, and later he said, ‘son, there is nothing for you here (in India), let’s go to Kenya.’
What about the world, or your world, has remained the same over these 87 years?
(Pause) I don’t really think much has remained the same. Everything has changed. The course doesn’t remain the same, we have changed as a country even as people.
What kind of music do you remember listening to in the 50s as a university student? What kind of teenager were you? What did you believe in?
Oh! We listened to a lot of Indian music, for sure. (Mentions inaudible artistes with complicated names). I wasn’t a naughty teenager, I was a good boy. (Chuckles). I had a normal education, nothing special. I had a lot of interest in sports. I played squash a lot with the first Commissioner of Police in Kenya. I was also the Nairobi Gymkhana Club chairman, trustee, and patron for a few years.
You have four children; three girls and one boy. Who has taken the most after you?
Tony (Sahni) for sure. He is a strong pillar of the Securex family. He joined the business in 1991 and now runs it. He has good business acumen like me, he is courageous and a risk-taker. He transformed the business from 200 security officers in 1991 to over 7,000 security officers. He’s capable, he keeps telling me ‘dad, please don’t come to the office, stay at home.’ But what will I do at home? My brain still works. My daughters, all married, are also successful in their fields. One is an optician, the other is a pharmacist and the other is in IT. I also have sons-in-law. I have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
What’s the most important thing for you now, at your age?
My entire family. My children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and sons-in-law. I like to see them flourish, to be happy. I would like to be as healthy as I can so that I can still go to the office to offer them words of encouragement. They get very happy when I come around. I like it.
Can money bring happiness?
I wish it could, but not always. It is handy, of course. There are certain things money can’t buy otherwise I’d pay a million shillings to live until 100 but it’s impossible to buy life with money.
Your wife is called Usha, right? You have been married 61 years now. What do you guys fight about now?
(Laughs) What’s there to fight about now? When I was younger, I could come home at 3am and we fought about things like that. But now? We are older, we don’t fight. She is my companion. I have none left. We understand each other. So we don’t fight. At some point in marriage, you stop fighting over simple things.
Are you happy?
More than that. With what I have around me, I shouldn’t be unhappy. I don’t worry now. Other than a hurting knee I try to eat right, sleep well, and have maybe some little alcohol. I also do yoga and walking. You should do yoga…try it.