Top 60 Most Transformative CEOs Impacting The Economy

Dr Rao's strategic guidance has been pivotal in directing Crown Paints towards impressive successes, including the expansion into new markets, the optimisation of products, and the substantial growth of market share across the Eastern African region.




As the Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Crown Paints PLC, Dr Rakesh Rao is a distinguished and award-winning business executive. His remarkable achievements include a track record of high-impact leadership that has propelled the company to new heights.

Dr Rao’s strategic guidance has been pivotal in directing Crown Paints towards impressive successes, including the expansion into new markets, the optimisation of products, and the substantial growth of market share across the Eastern African region.

Over the course of the last 17 years, Dr Rao has adeptly guided the growth of Crown Paints into a Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)-listed industry leader. This achievement spans across four East African countries, where the company’s operations have flourished, engaging a workforce of more than 1,000 dedicated individuals.

His impactful leadership during his tenure at the Group can be encapsulated as a dynamic journey that underscores the undeniable importance of both consistency and innovation in driving a company toward enduring market success.

Before joining Crown Paints in 2005, Dr Rao held pivotal roles within multinational corporations such as General Electric, Tata Group, and Mitsubishi. Through these experiences, he honed his leadership skills and deepened his understanding of effective management strategies, uniquely preparing him to confidently guide Crown Paints.

Dr Rao’s term at Crown Paints has witnessed the solid evolution of the company, showcasing his visionary focus, strategic acumen, and cutting-edge business innovations. His stewardship has ushered in noteworthy achievements, including the tenfold surge in sales turnover revenue, skyrocketing from KES 1.2 billion to an impressive KES 12 billion since 2005. Moreover, he has spearheaded production capacity amplification, elevating it from 5 million litres to a whopping 60 million litres annually.

Another one of his standout accomplishments involves raising the company’s market share in Kenya’s premium segment, propelling it from 48 percent to an impressive 65 percent. Dr Rao’s leadership extends beyond national borders, as he has successfully led the company’s expansion efforts into new territories. Under his guidance, Crown Paints strategically established Regal Paints in Uganda, as well as introduced the Crown Paints brand in Tanzania and Rwanda.

Guided by his innovative mindset, he has orchestrated the successful introduction of 17 new products and pioneered East Africa’s first digital platform for home décor. In a bid to further empower the industry, Dr Rao conceptualised the Painter’s Loyalty Program, functioning as a SACCO, designed to foster savings for painters’ individual and familial needs. In parallel, he has overseen the development of mobile applications, including the Crown Color Visualizer, enhancing customer engagement.

Furthermore, under his leadership, a new facility boasting a state-of-the-art showroom and a responsive call centre has been established, providing enhanced customer experiences. Notably, Dr Rao also championed the inception of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiative, firmly cementing customer satisfaction at the core of the business’s priorities.

Dr Rao’s exceptional track record of performance has garnered him widespread recognition both locally and internationally, manifesting in a series of prestigious awards. His most recent accomplishment was securing the esteemed Africa’s Most Respected CEO Award in 2023, presented during the ceremony held in Mauritius. Additionally, he received the distinguished 2023 Presidential Award during the St John’s Ambulance inspection conducted by the President of Kenya.

Dr Rao’s influence on the business landscape was further underscored by his inclusion in the esteemed roster of CNBC’s top Businessmen Of The Year between 2011 and 2016. It was during this period that Crown Paints itself was bestowed with the title of ‘Company of the Year’, a fitting tribute to the collective efforts and strategic direction overseen by him.

Beyond his professional endeavours, Dr Rao is a dedicated philanthropist with a strong commitment to making a positive social impact and fostering community development. His passionate interest in these areas has led him to spearhead a range of crucial corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that have touched the lives of individuals across both rural and urban areas in Kenya.

A particularly noteworthy contribution is his leadership of the ‘Team Kubwa Initiative’, which remains instrumental in elevating the educational prospects of painters in Kenya. Focused on uplifting individuals from impoverished circumstances, the initiative has significantly contributed to enhancing educational opportunities and, consequently, opening new avenues for these painters to escape the cycle of poverty.


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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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