The Sunday Leader

Sri Lankan Born ‘Container King’ Ian Kiru Karan Becomes German Minister

Ian Kiru Karan

From rags to riches: documents the progress of Hamburg’s flagship entrepreneur, Ian Karan Kiru’s career, as he becomes Hamburg’s Economic Senator.
Ian Kiru Karan who was born in Point Pedro in 1939, moved to Germany in 1970 after studying in the United Kingdom — where he went on to build one of the world’s biggest container leasing companies in Hamburg.

He was recently sworn in as Senator for Economic Affairs in Hamburg.
As an orphan from Sri Lanka, Ian Kiru Karan obtained a scholarship to study at the London School of Economics and later worked for the English branch of the logistics company, Schenker.  Later, Karan moved to Hamburg in 1970, with no more than 3,000 DM with him.

Karan began life in Germany as a dishwasher in a vegetarian restaurant and later joined a container company as a clerk before being promoted to managerial level due to exceptional ability.

While continuing to work in the logistics industry, Karan founded his first company in 1977, earning the nickname “Container King” in the Northern Germany port city of Hamburg, as his business prospered. He sold this business in the mid-1990s and founded other companies related to container leasing.

According to Daily Mirror, the investment of Karan’s business is now worth US $ 400 million.

In a trade publication of the container industry, Karan revealed that when an American company head-hunted him at a time he was doing well in Hamburg, he demanded a salary of 10,000 (against the 2,500 he was earning then) Deutsche Marks (DM). But the US company, thinking in terms of dollars, agreed to pay him US$ 10,000 which he says was an “obscenely high” salary at that time.

German Ambassador Jens Plötner commended the Lankan-born’s achievements. “Germany is home to more than 60,000 Sri Lankans from all walks of life. All of them can be proud of Minister Karans’s achievements.”

“Ian Karan is not only an immensely successful businessman, but is now also one of Hamburg’s most prominent politicians. He has always been one of the most philanthropic citizens of Hamburg, contributing to many social welfare projects,” the Ambassador said.

As a part of this philanthropic approach, h e has donated to the poor and needy with projects such as “Education on Crime” and is a supporter of the Jerusalem Foundation. Among other things, he established the Ian Karan Auditorium in Bucerius Kunst Forum and is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Hamburg Theatre Festival.

Due to his immense generosity, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in June 2007 for his “social and cultural engagements”.
With regard to his concern on humanity, Karan said, “I want to give back a part of my happiness to the people in Hamburg.”

Recommendation of Merkel

For 40 years Ian Karan has been living in Hamburg. In his heart he has long been a German, even though he did not have a German passport, until eight months ago when Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, personally took care of granting citizenship to Karan.

“I was impressed that the Chancellor personally recommended this,” said Karan with regard to Merkel’s proposal.

His decision to accept German citizenship was a clear commitment to the city of Hamburg.

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