Chris Kirubi

The late business tycoon Chris Kirubi.

| File | Nation Media Group

The captains of industry we lost in 2021

What you need to know:

  • On Monday, June 14, the country received news that Chris Kirubi, perhaps one of Kenya’s richest men, had died.
  • With the death of Kibera Muchai on September 14, the country’s multi-billion shilling transport sector lost a great thinker.

Right from the beginning to the end, 2021 will go down as a bad year for Kenya’s business community which lost several of its renowned entrepreneurs.

Nilesh Doshi

Mourning began in the first week of January, when Nilesh Doshi, the CEO of Doshi Group of Companies, died at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi.

Doshi, which was founded around 1930, manufactures steel bars and other materials for building and construction. The phrase ‘Chuma ya Doshi, Chuma ya Nguvu’ (Doshi steel is strong) is popular among Kenyans.

Nilesh Doshi

The late Nilesh Doshi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Metal and Allied sector mourned Doshi, saying he had made a huge impact on the sector.

Vidhu Shah "Bachubhai"

On April 6, the Sarit Group of companies’ founder, Vidhu Shah (Bachubhai), died in Nairobi, aged 86.
Bhachubhai was involved in the establishment of Text Book Centre (TBC), Kartasi Industries, and the Sarit Centre -- one of Kenya’s most popular shopping malls, and he was mourned by business, academic and political players in the country.

“Beyond his many successful business ventures, Bachubhai made an indelible mark in the community through his stewardship, personal relationships, and championing causes to bring the community closer,” the Text Book Centre said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed Bhachubhai one of Kenya’s finest and most visionary entrepreneurs whose business acumen contributed greatly to Kenya’s economy.

“He strongly and truly believed, and lived the Kenyan dream of hard work, determination and success. His entrepreneurial spirit saw him establish Sarit Centre, Kenya’s first shopping mall in the 1980s when nobody else thought about it. He did not stop at that, but moved on to establish several other successful businesses, including Text Book Centre, which has continued to quench Kenyans’ thirst for knowledge,” the President stated.

Sarit Centre was established in 1983 and to date remains a popular destination for Kenyan shoppers.
Bhachubhai was in 2000 awarded the Grand Warrior of Kenya for his contribution to the business and education sectors.

Chris Kirubi

On Monday, June 14, the country received news that Chris Kirubi, perhaps one of Kenya’s richest men, had died. He had fought cancer for more than four years, and died at his home aged 80.

The businessman had investments in public and private companies, including Centum, Capital Media Group, Haco Industries, and International Life House. He also held leadership positions in at least 10 companies and organisations.

Kirubi revealed that he had cancer in January 2020, in an interview in which he openly spoke his thoughts about death.

“One thing I’ve come to discover is that in the end, you’re alone. Your friends may love you, but eventually, you have to deal with your sickness personally. You think about the past, the things that you could have done, the things that you have not done, and what you can do to compensate for things you ignored. It is a time of reflection. And prayers from friends do help, a lot. Death is rest. A rest from daily hustles. This is something that is irreversible. You’re born, you grow, you die. In the end, it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter the age or what you do to try and elongate your life,” he said in the interview.

He was mourned as one of Kenya’s greatest entrepreneurs; one who created some of the country’s largest enterprises.

“Chris was one of the most accessible corporate leaders Kenya has ever produced. He interacted with everybody and would show up in places where he was least expected. He interacted with Kenyans, especially the youth, on his radio shows, public appearances, and writings, through which he shared his experiences in business and life,” President Kenyatta mourned him.

Naushad Noorali Merali 

In August, Naushad Noorali Merali, a businessman who gained popularity for buying sickly companies before re-selling them at a profit, died. He was 70.

Merali, who owned tyre company Sameer Group, died on the Saturday of July 3. 

The buying and re-selling of Kencell stakes from French firm Vivendi in 2003 to Celtel International, earning him a $20 million profit on the same day, remains Merali’s most recognised business deal to date.

Naushad Noorali Merali

The late Naushad Noorali Merali. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

At the time, Merali co-owned Kencell with Vivendi, with 40-60 percent stakes respectively, but the latter decided to leave Kenya. Merali used his pre-emption rights to buy Vivendi’s stakes in Kencell at $230 million, only to re-sell them a few hours later at $250 million, to Celtel International, making a Sh2 billion profit.

In 2015, he was ranked by Forbes as the third richest man in Kenya and 48th in Africa with a net worth of Sh39.96 billion.

His business style, however, earned him criticism, when most of the businesses he bought and re-sold failed to make profits for their new investors.

Kibera Muchai

With the death of Kibera Muchai on September 14, the country’s multi-billion shilling transport sector lost a great thinker.

He was one of the founders of perhaps one of the most successful and well-organised transport service providers in the chaotic matatu industry in Kenya — Molo Line Services. He was the vice-chairman of the company.

Kibera Muchai

The late Kibera Muchai during a past event.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Molo Line Services is one of the most popular brands that have dominated the industry. The vehicles shuttle between Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nyahururu.

It transformed the sector, forcing competitors to benchmark with it, and use the name Molo in their brands to steal clients.

Muchai is described by many as a transformative, humble man who never discriminated against anybody he interacted with. He also did not care for class, unlike his rich peers who rarely mingle with the poor.

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