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Book Review

Billionaire Narendra Raval’s long walk to success

Narendra Raval
Guru: A Long Walk To Success by Narendra Raval with Kailash Mota. September 20, 2018. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘guru’? Expert, right? Well, that’s the name of Narendra Raval’s new book published by Bloomsbury India.

First things first, let’s get the forewords out of the way. They’ve been penned by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Lord Raj Loomba, of the House of Lords. That aside, leaders such as presidents Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, Yoweri Museveni, and Joseph Kabila are featured in snippets and accounts of celebratory achievements by Raval.

Guru is based on the life and times of the steel manufacturer Narendra Raval, from his days in Gujarat, growing up in poverty, palm-reading and working in the temple, the way through which he found his way to Kenya from his place of birth, India, to find his knack for business, a move that has since snowballed into his business empire in Kenya, Uganda and Congo.

Raval, who owns Kenya-based Devki Steel Mill, writes Guru from a place of reflection, but mostly sharing lessons learnt. Of this, he states “These practical guidelines for succeeding as a trader or an industrialist are all based on my personal experiences in the world of commerce and industry, not drawn from any management textbook.”

The certified helicopter pilot did not start his journey to opulence and success from a silver spoon.

Abject poverty, with nothing to eat characterised most of his days growing up as the first born son to his parents. Mischief and practical pranks were not far from him, just as his desire to make his family proud was at the constant fore of his mind growing up.

Guru is 314 pages long, even though at times it feels as though the writer were repeating himself. There are also a few mistakes in the names of towns in Kenya. From a ‘local’ perspective, having a copy editor with knowledge of the towns, besides the general descriptions found in travel books could have helped add brownie points to the body of work. However, they are far less important than the bigger picture Raval paints.

He’s a spiritual man with a keen sense of self-awareness and a do-gooder, with evidence to boot. His resume speaks for itself.

Through reading Guru, you will not only better understand the business and regulatory environments, but also, that business and politics go hand in hand, as Raval himself admits in Chapter 35.

“I played a pivotal role in maintaining peace and order in the Kenyan political scene before the December 2007 elections.”

He met with former vice-president Stephen Musyoka and President Kibaki’s strategist Stanley Murage, to dissuade Mr Kalonzo from vying for president, and when the violence broke out, “organised this peace meeting, for the sake of the betterment of the Kenyan people and for the country’s progress.”

Raval underscores family is just as important as the work life and says he has no interest to join politics. The father of three says “family is where life begins and life ends”, a lifeline, his whole world. His wife Neeta, and son Devang, daughter in law Prakurti, daughter Tulsi and last born son Devrath all take turns to write in the book.

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