November 2014 \ Diaspora News \ Indian Diaspora in Kenya

From a small shop in a village near Nairobi, Rasik Kantaria established a bank with branches in Kenya and other African countries

By Kul Bhushan
  • Rasik Kantaria

As Indian traders in Africa expanded their business operations from small shops became distributors and later established industries, they employed local people, contributed to local communities by donating to charities, setting up social welfare intuitions and ultimately, honoured by the community at large and the Government.

Bank baron Dr. Rasiklal Chhotalal Kantaria is one such example from Kenya who established Prime Bank in Nairobi. His family settled in a small village of Limuru near Nairobi in 1898 when his father, Chhotalal Dharamshi Kala Kantaria, opened a small shop. Rasik was born in 1943 and after finishing his school in Nairobi, he studied in Britain for his degree in economics.

Back in Kenya, Rasik joined the family business of a flour mill and a saw mill at an early age. The family expanded into other enterprises such as tea estate, auto spares, transport, hardware, tyre retreating, plastics and real estate. Rasik ventured into finance and founded Prime Capital & Credit Limited in 1988. Just four years later, he set up Prime Bank which has grown into one of the leading banks in Kenya with 16 branches all over the country. The bank offers a full range of financial services, including foreign exchange transactions. Partnering Visa and Money Gram, this bank offers speedy money transfers to any part of the world. Promoting small and medium enterprises in Kenya, the bank has tied up with European financial institutions. Now it has branches in five African countries. It has shareholding in similar African banks in Malawi, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.

Beyond banking, Rasik has expanded into real estate and manufacturing. In real estate, he has built housing estates and prestigious business properties in Nairobi. In tourism, he has owns a wild life lodge and industrial units to manufacture hospital supplies. His remarkable entrepreneurial spirit has provided jobs for over 3,000 people across Africa.

In addition to his business activities, Rasik has contributed in full measure to the community at large. He is involved with Jaipur Foot Project to help the handicapped. This project has enabled over 30,000 people to be fitted with Jaipur Foot that allows them to live a normal life. The former President of Kenya Mwai Kibaki congratulated him for his work with the Jaipur Foot Project. Donating wheel chairs for the disables, digging boreholes for water and feeding needy children are some community welfare projects with his active involvement. Helping children for a better life with proper nutrition, health and education is his passion and he has donated and worked for many such projects across Kenya.

His contribution to the community prompted him to finance a modern operation theatre in the Lions Eye Hospital in Nairobi, the largest such hospital in East Africa. This state of the art operation theatre has been named in honour of his mother, Prabhaben Chhotalal Kantaria. Similarly, he donated generously for the construction of the ultra-modern Usha Rasiklal Chhotalal Kantaria Maternity Ward in M. P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi. He is affiliated to dozens of social welfare bodies in Kenya for his support.

For his welfare projects, he has been awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities degree. Rotary Club and similar organisations have also applauded his contribution.

“Happiness does not result from what we get,” says Rasik, “But from what we give.”

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