BACKGROUND, FAMILY, AND EDUCATION.
Mr . Dhanji Raghwani is the Group Managing Director of the Laxcon group of companies and we recently had a chance to talk to him about his company.
Laxmanbhai Construction Ltd was started 70 years ago in 1956 by Mr. Dhanji’s father, Mr. Laxmanghai Bhimgi Raghwani, who is now 94 years old.
“My father had the urge to promote construction in this country, so even though he had no experience and had no official training, he started as a mason and got experience.” He says.
His father was a mason for 7 years and he got the experience from his colleagues and the contractors he worked for. He then went back to India for two years where his family was, and he wanted to be a Priest. His Godfather urged him to go back to Kenya and start his own construction company because he had the knowledge and experience. When he came back to Kenya, he stayed for almost a year without taking any employment jobs although he was getting calls from his fellow employers to go work for them. He then started taking work as a sub-contractor and not an employee not knowing if it was going to be successful or not. In 1990, he officially started the company and then it was named after him, Laxmanbhai Company, which later evolved into Laxmanbhai Construction Limited.
Mr. Laxmanghai had two brothers all of whom became the family’s first generation to settle in Kenya. The three brothers have a total of eleven children and twenty-three grandchildren. As they grew up, the grandchildren developed an interest in the construction business and that is when the 3 brothers decided to expand the construction business.
Mr. Dhanji was given the task to handle all 23 grandchildren, and this is when he started mentoring them in the construction business. He then formed other companies namely Laxcon Hardware and Spares Ltd, Aluglass Africa Ltd, and Laxcon Interior Solution Ltd. Mr. Dhanji’s father decided that not everyone can be absorbed into the construction industry as a contractor so everyone was allocated their own company to run as he started venturing overseas.
Mr. Dhanji’s father set up Companies in different countries. Seychelles was started in 1972, Mauritius was started in 1973, and the UK was started in 1982. The company in India specialized in Construction and Manufacturing and the one in the UK specialized in Construction and Property Development. Some of the members of the family relocated to the UK, others to Mauritius, and some to Seychelles.
Mr. Dhanji was the only child of his siblings that had gotten to the university level. He studied at the University of Westminster in the UK pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Quantity Surveying. He then acquired management skills which enabled him to manage his company.
Mr. Dhanji is a sub-contractor within the industry and he has 3 main companies; One Laxcon Interior Solution which does complete interior fit-outs and Aluglass Africa Ltd which deals with aluminum and glass and Laxcon Hardware which is a retail shop for construction materials. These 3 companies were formed in different years; Laxcon Hardware & Spares Ltd has established 28 years ago, Aluglass Africa was established 5 years ago and Ltd and Laxcon Interior Solution Ltd was established 4 years ago.
‘The Construction Industry is thick in terms of traits and the market is evolving so fast; there are so many opportunities for sub-contractors.’ He said.
“Currently in the market, there is no contractor who has got outfits to do everything. They have to rely on other contractors to finish the projects. I cannot say I am the main contractor because the definition of the main contractor has changed over the years because of the complexity of the buildings that we are designing today. The market is changing, even the clients are changing. They don’t want to work with one contractor doing everything because they lose control. Today they bring in their specialist subcontractors who are allocated to a project to finish.” He added.
In terms of resources within the group, Mr. Dhanji states that the companies are ready to develop the construction industry and take it to the next level. They are very keen when it comes to health and safety.
He adds that vocational training should be done in companies to ensure they have skilled workers to avoid importing skilled labor. He saw so much potential locally and he explains how his company supported local skills from graduates in Kenya and trained them in what they did not know. He promoted people to his level and that moved him to a higher level enabling him to engage in his other projects and he was able to build other companies attracting investors to come to him for advice on various sectors.
“Supporting local Contractors will take our country to the next level because they have all the skills, we just need to support them,” he added.
- Central Bank of Kenya
- Britam Towers
- Nyayo House
- Telefax Tower
- I&M Bank Building
- Agakhan Hospital
TIPS FOR ACHIEVING QUICK BUSINESS GROWTH.
Specializing in a specific sector is more profitable and he asks contractors to join him in specializing to grow the Construction Industry. Before General Constructing was leading by 70 percent while sub-contracting was at 30 percent but now the market has changed and vice versa, the Sub – Contracting is now 70 percent and General Contracting is now 30 percent mostly because of the designs of buildings that are being built today.
“We as contractors need to change our mind frame because the market is evolving so fast and if we are not careful, we will go out of business.” He advices.
He also argues people support recycling and proper disposal of waste materials because it saves money and the environment.
When asked about his advice for upcoming contractors, Mr. Dhanji said “The fear of God and Honesty is what helped me build my company. This was my father’s advice and ways to succeed and so I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps.’’