Nanji Kalidas Mehta
Nanji Kalidas Mehta, MBE, Rajratna, (17 November 1887-25 August 1969) was an Industrialist and Philanthropist from Gujarat. He founded the Mehta Group of Industries in British East Africa, now having its head office in India.
He married Santokben Mehta and had three sons Dhirendra Nanji Mehta, Khimji Nanji Mehta and Mahendra Nanji Mehta. Shekhar Mehta, the sports car legend and Jai Mehta, the businessman are his grandsons. His daughter Savita is a well known social activist and in the field of dance.
He started his career as a trader and successfully ventured into growing vegetable, cotton and then sugarcane in swamps of Africa. He then turned in sugar manufacturing and tea and coffee plantations in East Africa. He in his later life also started Cement plant, ginneries, textile unit and oil mills in India. He thus founded the Mehta Group on conglomerate, which is now spread across the globe.
He was contemporary of some other Gujarati businessman and philanthropist of East Africa like Meghji Pethraj Shah, Muljibhai Madhvani and others. On the original building of Muljibhai Maghvani's office in Jinja, Nanjibhai's name still appears as DUKA YA KALIDASI, a mark of their friendship.
He established the present day Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited under the name Uganda Sugar Factory in 1924 at Lugazi. He was one of the first exporters of Uganda’s cotton to Japan and other places which greatly helped in the establishment of the cotton industry in Uganda.
In 1932 he established cotton mill named Maharana Mills in Porbandar, the land for which was given at measly sum by Maharana Natwarsinhji of Porbandar, which employed 2500 workers at time of independence. Nanjibhai was an Arya Samaji and was instrumental in giving Dalits the job in spite of protests by Brahmins. Again it was for breaking the strike in this Maharana Mills, Nanjibhai is said to have employed services of Devu and Karsan Vagher in late 1960s. In 1956 he established Saurashtra Cement Limited in Gujarat.
In 1966, he published his Autobiography named Dreams half expressed, where he said “The way to success is a hard road to travel. Disappointments and failures dishearten us in the midst of struggle but a man of enterprise has to pass through the period with patience and cheerfulness till he gets his well deserved returns.”
During his lifetime he was honored by British with the title of M.B.E. for his work in Uganda. His Highness Maharana Shri Natvarsinghji of Porbandar conferred on him the title of Raj Ratna. On the cultural front, the late Kaka Kalelkar honored him with a Dharma Ratna.
A. Milton Obote, the President of Uganda at the time his death of said: In the passing away of Mr. Nanjibhai Mehta, Uganda has lost a true friend and a man who made tremendous contributions in laying the foundations of our economy. It is sad to see the passing of a man of Mr. Mehta's stature, but he will, I am sure, be long remembered for his charitable acts, not only in Uganda and East Africa but also in India.
In Uganda, upon his death, the flag flew at half mast. Uganda mourned the loss of an illustrious son of India who was as much Ugandan as any native son of the soil. The Indian on whom this singular honour was bestowed was neither a politician nor any head of state, but a down-to-earth realist.
- Kirti Mandir at Porbandar, which houses the ancestral house of Mahatma Gandhi and a memorial/temple built in memory of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba, was mainly built due to efforts and money donated by Nanji Kalidas Mehta.
- In 1954, he donated a plot of land at Haridwar for Gujarati Dharamshala of which he also was a trustee.
- Arya Samaj Girls School and Collage / Gurukul Women's College of Arts and Commerce was started by him in 1956 at Porbandar.
- He built the Maharshi Dayanand Science College and donated it to the Education Society of Porbandar and named it after Swami Dayanand Saraswati, to keep people alive of memory of great saint of India.
- Jawahralal Nehru Planetarium also called Tara Mandir was started by him in Porbandar, being the first in Western India. The planetarium has a gallery dedicated to Quit India Movement.
- The Bharat Mandir at Porbandar is a unique edifice housing the cultural history and heritage of the country in paintings and in quotes on the surrounding walls and pillars and with a relief map of India in the centre.
- In 2006 the Shri Santokba Vidyamandir was inaugurated in memory of Santokba, the wife of Nanjibhai, under the auspices of the Arya Kanya Vidyalaya Trust at Porbandar.
- N.K. Mehta Hospital in Probandar.
- N.K. Mehta Science Collage in Probandar.
- At Bombay, the N. K. Mehta International House, a building built by Brihad Bharatiya Samaj, a non-political society designed for educational, social and economical interest of Indians abroad was built with a major donation from Nanji Kalidas Mehta. The building houses a library, research wing, auditorium and hostel.
After his demise
- Recently, Jai Mehta, grandson of Nanji Kalidas and husband of Juhi Chawla along with Shah Rukh Khan, who together are co-owners of Kolkata Knight Riders have decided to take over existing ground named Duleep cricket ground at Porbandar and develop it into a world class cricket stadium, which will be named Nanji Kalidas Mehta Stadium.
- The Mehta Group founded by him runs a hospital at Lugazi and various dispensaries and runs 2 Nursery Schools, 13 Primary Schools and 1 Secondary School to provide education for more than 6,000 children in various cities like Kampala, Jinja, Lugazi, etc.
- He started the very first nursery school in East Africa at Mombasa, which was founded in 1934. The school was named Santokben Nanji Kalidas Mehta Nursery School. In 2006 the Mehta Group completely renovated, refurbished the school.
- The opening of The Desai Memorial Hall built with donations dedicated to Manilal Ambalal Desai was done by Nanji Kalidas Mehta in 1934. The foundation stone of it was laid with hands of Sarojini Naidu in 1929.
- Women's Association Hall at Dar-es-Salaam.
- Shri Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta, the founder of the Mehta Group
- Persistence Amid Adversity:The Growth and Spatial Distribution of the Asian Population of Kenya, 1902-1963|Author:Charles Joseph Bennett|Publisher:Syracuse University|Year:1976|pp:182|quote:Probably the success of the most prominent Lohana families in Uganda, Nanji Kalidas Mehta and Sons, M. P. Madhvani and D. K. Hindocha had much influence on Lohana migration from Porbandar and Jamnagar
- Founder of Kirti Mandir - Shri Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta
-  Entrepreneurship in Africa: a study of successes By David S. Fick.
- Uganda’s Legendary Millionaires Revealed : Mehtas
-  Journeys to freedom: Dalit narratives By Fernando Franco, Jyotsna Macwan, Suguna Ramanathan.
- Bapu's children swear by guns
- Life of a God Mother comes to an end.
- Reporter, Issues 241-253. 1969
- Commerce, Volume 119, 1969.
- The whole credit of constructing this national memorial of Mahatma Gandhiji goes to the famous industrialist of Gujarat. Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta, and to the whole of the Mehta family, because the creation and construction of the Kirti Mandir could be possible only due to the donations of the late Nanjibhai Mehta. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel performed the opening ceremony of the Kirti Mandir. Afterwards this beautiful memorial was handed over to the Central Government of India.
-  The rise and fall of philanthropy in East Africa: the Asian contribution By Robert G. Gregory.
- Nanji Kalidas DAV Public School, Junagadh
-  The Crown colonist, Volume 19, 1949.
- Desai Memorial