Meet the Boss: Darshan Chandaria, CEO, Chandaria Group

Darshan Chandaria

Darshan Chandaria

Darshan Chandaria, Director and Group CEO, Chandaria Group (Kenya)

1. What was your first job?

When I joined Cardiff University in 2004 I was eager to engage in any form of work. My first job was to lay out catalogues at the stadium for the local football league matches. I earned the equivalent of $5 an hour. I was 18 years old at the time. Although it was winter and very cold to be outside laying out catalogues I was eager to get work experience. From an early age I always wanted to understand if I ran my business what it would feel like for the employees I manage. I wanted to get that experience.

2. Describe the parts of your job that keep you awake at night.

Production efficiencies, brand building, stability of the political environment, and to a certain extent pilferage issues.

3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

There is a very clear answer to that and it’s definitely my parents. From a purely business perspective it’s my dad. His commitment, dedication and vision have been incredible in shaping my life and my vision to do more with our businesses.

4. And the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

A motto that I live by which my dad always said to me: “Be clear about where you want to go and be dedicated to get there.”

5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?

I am very passionate about starting new ventures, launching new products, new projects, and seeing them through from start to finish. I get great satisfaction in seeing the end result when something comes into fruition. The two major visions that keep me going are a drive to create something innovative, and to transform lives.

6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?

On the job, without a doubt. I always wanted to do an MBA with one of the renowned institutions. In fact I had offers from a number of business schools. However, after spending two years in our business I realised I was learning more about our businesses and the practical elements of working life than I would in business school.

7. How do you relax?

I love food and fine dining. I love playing squash, tennis and travelling. I also love interior designing and architecture.

8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?

It varies depending on my schedule. I like to have at least 45 minutes to an hour first in the morning to reflect on the day ahead. Generally, I am on my phone and looking at emails from about 7am.

9. Your favourite job interview question?

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ambition, self-drive and the hunger for growth are the key traits I look for in a potential employee. I believe that a person can learn specific job related skills but without these three key traits they can’t be a potential future executive within our group.

10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?

A quote I live by is: “Success is not a destination but a continuous journey. The question is what is that journey for you?” I truly live by this and it has helped me redefine my journey.

Chandaria Group, established in 1964, is one of the largest and most diversified privately owned groups in East and Central Africa.