A new generation of Karana businessmen are taking over the reins
A whole raft of Madagascar's business elite, some of them well over sixty, are in the process of organising their succession. These founding owners of major companies, most of whom are French nationals of Indian extraction (known locally as Karanas), are urgently trying to identify successors among their offspring to secure the future of their family businesses.
It is a delicate undertaking, because taking retirement is not something they had originally planned for, and some of them are finding it difficult to stand aside, both when it comes to handing over the management of their companies and transferring their capital to their heirs. The children, for their part, are torn between conflicting cultural pressures – becoming the head of the family business in Madagascar was not necessarily how they envisaged their future.
Notwithstanding this, the process of transition is giving rise to a new wave of entrepreneurs with a different educational background and a different outlook to their forebears, and this new generation is beginning to establish itself across large swathes of the Madagascan economy (import-export, hotels, energy, oil, vanilla etc.).
Boasting numerous qualifications, and having spent a great deal of time in Europe or the United States, where some of them have already embarked on careers, these cherished sons (very few of them are daughters) have abruptly found themselves pitched into a Madagascan context which bears very little relation to the economic orthodoxy that they were taught at their business schools (the cumbersome red tape, the fickleness of state institutions, corruption, etc.).
And to add to the difficulty of their task, they have had to contend for several years with the growing insecurity in Antananarivo, in particular the resurgence of the nefarious practice of kidnapping young Karanas and demanding ever more extortionate ransoms for their release. This is increasingly prompting some of these new-wave businessmen, especially those with young children, to restrict their presence in Madagascar to a strict minimum and/or to relocate their families abroad, thus establishing a sort of offshore management of their business portfolios.
While Karim Barday of Basan (agricultural produce, leather, food), Hasnaine Yavarhoussen of Filatex (property, hotels, energy) and Hasnein Hiridjee of Trimeta (vanilla, plastics, bakeries) continue to be based in Antananarivo, others are operating from abroad, such as Sameer Rajabali, the head of his eponymous construction, property and hotel business, who is based in Mauritius, and Mathias Ismail and Gauthier Ismail of Socota (textiles, shrimps, property), who are resident in Paris and Mauritius respectively. Similarly, Rizwan Rahim and his sister Naila Shirazee (née Rahim), the two children of Iqbal Rahim, the founder and head of Galana (oil products), who have been members of the company's board of directors since 2011, live in Dubai, as does their father.
Having established strong positions in the Madagascan economy, some of these companies have extended their operations abroad, including Galana (Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya) and Socota (property in Mauritius, seafood in France). Others are also looking to Europe (or the United States) to sell their wares (vanilla in the case of Trimeta and green beans in the case of Basan), to find partners (Filatex in Spain and Rajabali in France) and to import equipment.