Naushad Merali: Who is This Man?

Merali’s two companies have issued profit warnings.  He is blaming it on post-election violence, but why do I think it’s more than that?  The CEO of his Sameer Group of companies has effectively been fired and because Merali is an astute businessman, he quickly replaced him with another Kikuyu.

Now, I don’t want people here to start hyperventilating about this statement.  If Raila had become the president, Merali would have picked a Jaluo. It’s the way the game is played.

So, what’s happening to Merali? Everyone knew that he run Firestone with Moi and everyone knew that when Moi was in power, it was the Indians who were running those businesses, not people like Moi and Kulei (they just got their cut at the end of the month).  Is it getting harder for Merali to extract political favors or is it just pure business as he says? (post-election violence, rising fuel costs, a more competitive economy, etc, etc).

The Sameer Group website doesn’t give a lot of information about who he is.  There’s also very little information on other members of the management team. Too many Kenyan “businessmen” operate in secret and it can’t be because they’re all scared of the political winds.   There’s a shadiness about business in Kenya and I think it explains why the country is still so poor.  When I look at the business moguls in India, it’s refreshing to see how open they are about their businesses.  They talk about how they did it, they’ll tell you where they went to school, they’ll give lengthy interviews about their business practices and you can only do this if you have made your money fair and square (& this criticism is not just about Merali, it applies to 90% of the business people in Kenya).

Everyone has said that in order to reduce poverty, you have to create new wealth (this is what the Indians did with their outsourcing industry).  You can’t reduce poverty through the redistribution of  wealth. However, what’s been happening in Kenya for the last 40 years is very strange: Nobody talks and what that tells me is that you have a few well connected players who are grabbing what they can get and then just hiding it.  This is not how a “real” economy is supposed to function.  In a real economy, you are supposed to create new wealth by creating new industries in manufacturing, technology and other things like that, but you don’t see that happening in Kenya.  It’s not a real economy because nothing is being created.  Kenya is an agrarian society, which is fine because people need to eat, but at some point, you have to start producing something, especially if you don’t have oil or diamonds.

So, someone like Merali, is nothing more than a distributor.  He doesn’t make the tires.  They are made in China.  All he is doing is getting a hook-up from Moi that allows him to sell tires to farmers in Kenya.  Do you see why these political hook-ups are so crucial? Chris Kirubi gets the hook-up to distribute bic-pens.  Those pens are not made in Kenya.  They are made in China.  Biwott gets the hook-up to distribute oil, but the oil doesn’t come from Kenya.

So, what the heck’s my point? if you want to get rich in Kenya, you better find a way to get the political hook-up so that you can become a distributor.  Since we don’t make anything, you have to import and distribute;  And of course, hope that the farmers keep making money because they are the main purchasers of these imported goods.  It’s an agrarian economy afterall.

24 comments for “Naushad Merali: Who is This Man?

  1. eunice opondo
    September 10, 2013 at 8:08 am

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  2. bachu
    July 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Wow I read all your comments and was thinking reading on internet and judging somebody is very easy….you guys are working all day and can’t afford a toyota and here your judging somebody who pays thousand of staff salary…..grow up and stop being racist…let’s learn from him, We should be bring our nation in the world map..let’s compete globally let’s produce the worlds richest and finest businessman.

  3. Lilly Bridget
    September 27, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Bravo Mr. Merali! God Bless you mightly coz you have created jobs to the jobless.

  4. Lilly Bridget
    September 27, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Persons like Merali who is able to create jobs for the jobless worldwide should be supported by all means!Its my humble prayer to those who are concerned to see the potential of this competent Kenyan for Kenya. request. I request MR. MERALI,I can add value to any of your challenging business as your Personal Secretary etc, I am hardworking with good PR I am told so at my current station. BRAVO! ABOVE ALL GOD.

  5. kibigo
    June 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Merali only came to lime light just recently only to be screened by malicious and idle Kenyans..we are proud of an entrepreneur who against all odds stood out among many of our corrupt leaders and impacted positively on our economy for the last 20 years..good work that has been Merali….

  6. Antony
    February 14, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I believe we all have a right to our opinion. But i also believe that we ought to support our allegations with sufficient evidence and not just from hearsay!

    I must say i do respect Mr. Merali irrespective of everything people have said here. I believe with or without connections, somehow bwana Merali would still be where he is to date. After all, who doesn’t require these connections as long as they are clean ones?

  7. kenyanentrepreneur
    January 1, 2011 at 10:35 am


    Interesting comment and reflections. Thanks

  8. Cyborguru
    December 31, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I know of people who know Merali from the days he used to sell ice on a bicycle in Tanzania. It is true he bought a car dealership where he was working from a mzungu and then went on to make his political connection with Moi to sell the vehicles at inflated prices to the Police.

    With Moi’s help he managed to buy Firestone at a gross undervaluation, then came various other businesses and finally to top it off the Vivendi deal. This is not business acumen but theft of public resources. I am an asian business man, and quite successful, I left Kenya because I couldn’t stand the corrupt practices, and there were overt threats that one had to give a share of one’s hard earned business otherwise obstacles would be put in your way.

    I wonder if Merali, Somaia, Kamlesh could really compete with genuine businessmen, muhindi, african or mzungu, on a level playing field, the answer is no, because when they start to do business the first thing on their business plan is how can I defraud the government. so to all of you, including his son on here trying to justify that he is a great businessman, just think of all those children dying without medicine due to the theft of government funds, their sould will haunt you forever.

  9. T.N.OKUMU
    August 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    smart and focused bussinessman.Keep it up!could you please help a widow educate her 4 kids

  10. jimmy ouko
    March 3, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Merali is a great and smart businessman,who really wants to bring business to kenya by using his wits and ability to explore the best that kenya can bring out.He is a great guy like john michuki,chandaria and Thiangarajan Ramamurthi who evolutionised Nakumatt to become a world class superstore.Chandaria wants to make kenya a great business hub so guys do not become racists or tribalists.He is our Mhindi who loves Kenya so much.so give him credit.

  11. Rob
    December 15, 2009 at 4:02 am

    I agree with you, Mohamed.

    Let us give credit where it is due. Mr. Merali is a highly respectable businessman with strong ethics and a high level of respect for the people that work for him. He treats each person like a member of his Family.

    Jealousy brings no positive results. Gentlemen, I would suggest you learn from this man to make yourselves more succesful in all your endeavours and in all areas of your life.

  12. Mohamed
    November 12, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Gentlemen, please try to be honest to your self, Naushad Merali is a Businessman, he came up by his own effort, unlike other Political figures who grabs the other people business and become rich, Naushad Merali has built his Empire, He is a proper Kenyan(Mwanyeji) not Naturalized citizien, he is the son of the well known Businessman going back in 1800, He has provided employment to KENYAN and International citizens, he has brought Technology in Kenya, so let us support him rather than talking evils.

  13. Mohammed Merali
    February 12, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    i am Mohammed son of Naushad and brother to sameer.
    The aim of our company is not to be stuck on pocketing profits and doing business unjustly, we aim to maximize growth of our companies and expand and create more firms in different market segments such as we are trying to do in Europe based on our successful East African experiences.

  14. Indian
    August 25, 2008 at 8:28 am


    You really need to know your facts before reporting. You need to have proof of your allegations.

    And how the hell do you ASSEMBLE a tyre???!!!!! You seem like an educated person. Tyres are made from rubber and poured into moulds, there is no assembly of parts involved!!

    In future, please make your comments after adequate research an proof.

  15. kenyanentrepreneur
    June 11, 2008 at 10:35 am


    You must not have read my post clearly because I did say that many people (besides Merali) have benefitted from this corrupt system.

    But let me ask you a question: are the tires actually manufactured in Kenya or just ASSEMBLED in Kenya?

    Merali’s firestone business was partly affected by the flood of new imported tires into the country and he might have had trouble adjusting to this new competition.

  16. Richard
    June 10, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Either you are one of the NSIS agents or you are one of the agents of the propaganda machine.First, Of Merali, I have been to Firestone/Yana factory and have seen the tires been made(Discounting the fact that he is just a broker). Another point, lets assume that he is a broker, he has to be completely daft to spend so much money in employing people including many Kikuyus (Even kimani should have advised him that) on his payroll. i think we should give credit where it is due irrespective of whether he is Indian or Mzungu or kalenjin or Kikuyu.
    As for political favours there are many kenyans (across all tribes which includes Kikuyus too) who have taken it for business growth.
    Case in example – Jinmah Mbaru – Chairman of Dyer and Blair and Chairman of NSE -no wonder Nyagah and Francis Thuo went down – both of them KIKUYUS.
    Transparency – Transcentury, Equity, British American – Kikuyus! what transparency are you talking about there – Amos Kimunya and Dela rue!. this society is full of it.

    We have to get the ethnicity factor behind us and accuse or reward the individuals as per the acts. First and foremost they are Kenyans.
    Please lets get sober and realize there is lot in Kenya we can achieve and if we keep on playing the vicious game of tribes we will have a repeat of what happened earlier this year and unfortunately ther might be no KOFI ANNAN then. wake up people!!!

  17. Leoedd
    June 9, 2008 at 4:16 am

    Buy any shares of meralis companies at your own risk. He has always left on time, leaving other shareholders suffering. Whatever he sells aint good for investment, what he has kept was not by choice, and what he has for keeps is what seems to be working. Sacking is evidence something is damn wrong. And since he has the insider knowledge, no man cries for nothing…..about his smartness, just look at Nairobishops now and compare them with Mois time, im sure you see the difference, and now that KRA is working very hard. It was not smartnes, after all where are they now! It was just political connections and the fact that they were paying no taxes! Mugo Kabati managed to turn East African Cables around after it was bought from these crooks. Im sure Merali cried after he saw what that young guy did to the company……. I would have hired him instead of selling! Theyre not too smart after all. There are many othere unproven guys who are Kabatis, all thy need is opportunity, and companies that can handle their adrenaline!

  18. kenyanentrepreneur
    June 8, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Big Ben:

    If Naushad Merali has relied on a corrupt system for the last 20 years, he will never catch up to a Lakshmi Mittal. You can’t become a world billionaire by relying on corrupt african politicians.

  19. BigBen
    June 8, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Nashuad Merali and his senior management have failed to recognise three key things in modern world business:

    1. Speed

    2. Simplicity

    3. Chindia – China – India Effect

    Perhaps he ought to get some lessons from Lakshmi Mittal.

  20. weslie
    June 5, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Maybe he is a Patel, I hear Indian Patels are real good businessmen

  21. MZEIYA
    June 4, 2008 at 2:16 am


    Long time since iwrote something, i’ve been awfully busy the last couple of weeks.

    about Merali, he was in the UK In his youth, he’s a chartered accountant by profession. he came back to kenya and worked for a car dealrship which he eventually bought from the mzungu owner- i guess one of the first buy-outs in kenya.

    that’s how he started. however one cannot discount the political connections he’s had as one of his assets. He broke off from firestone to start his own yana tires. something tells me that was/is a very tough competitive business.

    about the CEO guy he fired, was it the kimani guy ? if so I’m not surprised.

    maybe he hadn’t fully apprciated the extent of the comptitive business nature involving tires.

    Tru, most managemnt and directors profiles are so shallow -basicaly because there’s really not much to these guys academically or professionally. ask harun mwau how he made so much money ? it’s an open secret……

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