The community was not successful in settling elsewhere in India, because it was not
educated. There was a lot of competition in getting jobs. One had to have inﬂuence to
obtain jobs. The community members did not have any inﬂuence. They had little capital
and many were in debt. On top of this there was constant famine and so their position
was really worrisome.
In the late 18th century, under the control of the British Raj, opportunities commenced
to take a dangerous ocean journey across the Indian Ocean to East Africa which was
being opened up by the British to exploit its fertile soils and great climate. Because
of the poverty in drought stricken Halar, families sent their young men to seek better
outcomes for the communities from Halar.
These pioneering Halari Oshwals crossed the Indian Ocean in dhows (small sailing
ships) and arrived in Mombasa. Some of these Oshwals were at a mere age of 12 or
13 years old, and their voyages took several weeks to complete.
They worked extremely hard and gradually called over their families and slowly
established themselves in other trading centres like Nairobi, Thika, Kisumu, Eldoret,
Kitale, Nyeri, Nanyuki, Meru, Makuyu, Ruiru, Maragua, Saba Saba, Fort Hall
(Muranga), Karatina, Kisii and Nakuru. Some even moved onto the other East African
countries of Uganda and Tanganyika (Tanzania) as years went by.
The community members earned high respect with their puritanical qualities of
hard work, thrift, simplicity and prudence. Gradually as the numbers increased they
organised themselves into a community.
During the early 1940’s Oshwals institutions were established for social, religious,
cultural and educational purposes. In 1941 the ‘Oshwal Education and Relief Board’
was established with the objective of promoting education. To meet the needs of the
local Oshwals community centres (or Mahajanwadis) were set up in various towns and
cities in Kenya. In Kenya alone, Oshwals have established very successful nursery,
primary and secondary schools, boarding and hostel and even a college. Opulent Jain
Derasers have been built in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Thika.