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Daily Nation : February 20th 2014
DAILY NATION Thursday February 20, 2014 KENYA’S RICHEST Kenya’s first dollar billionaire built top brands in Africa Shah questions the accuracy of the data from the New World Wealth which estimates his net worth at about Sh138 billion BY MUTHOKI MUMO firstname.lastname@example.org his brother Tarun walked into several banks in the early 1980s to ask for a loan with which to start a new manufacturing business, they were turned away. They wanted to go into an area M dominated by multinationals such as Unilever. The banks did not think they stood a chance. Fast forward to 2002 and Bidco Oil Refineries — the business that the banks were convinced would never beat the giants — acquired part of Unilever Kenya’s edible oils business. “We proved wrong all the bank managers who had warned us that Unilever’s competition would kill our business,” said Mr Shah, Bidco Oil Refineries’ chief executive. He has largely been credited with steering Bidco’s soap and oil manufacturing business to success over the last 29 years. However, manufacturing soap and cooking oil weren’t always the company’s core business. 29 years Period during which Mr Vimal Shah has steered Bidco’s soap and oil manufacturing businesses 2030 Year Bidco hopes to have the company expand to all African countries The Bidco brand was estab- lished in 1970 in Nyeri, when Mr Shah was only 10 years old, as a garment factory. The company was named after its founder, Mr B.D Shah, who was also Vimal’s father. When the younger Shah joined the family business in the 1980s, it was struggling from the effects of Kenya’s crumbling textile sector. The Shah family took a bold step. They decided to close down Bidco, the clothing factory. In its place, they started Bidco, the soap manufacturing company. “Getting capital was absolutely difficult,” Mr Shah recalls. “Two banks finally came to our rescue: Biashara Bank and Industrial Development Bank.” From the ashes of the cloth- ing business, Bidco has grown to become one of the largest Kenyanborn multinationals. The firm has over 30 brands in its portfolio with a presence in about 16 markets in Africa. r Vimal Shah is ranked the richest man in Kenya today but when he and Today, BD Shah is Bidco’s chairman and according to the company’s website, his workday begins at 4am daily. Mr Tarun Shah serves as the Bidco Group Executive Director. “We are a family owned com- pany. Our foundation has been instrumental in our growth so far but we are very much professionally run,” said Mr Vimal Shah. According to Consumer Insight data, Bidco controls 61 per cent of the cooking fat and 54 per cent of the cooking oil market in Kenya. Mr Shah’s vision is to have the company expand to all African countries by 2030. In addition to expanding or- ganically, Bidco has acquired various brands that have given it a competitive edge locally. It bought Kimbo from Unilever and Elianto from Unga Ltd. The family has also diversi- fied beyond manufacturing and invested in Tatu City, the proposed $3 billion commercial and residential development in the outskirts of Nairobi. Although he is undoubtedly one of Kenya’s wealthiest individuals, Mr Shah questions the accuracy of the data from the New World Wealth which estimates his net worth at about Sh138 billion ($1.6 billion). “Of course I am not a dollar billionaire. If you gave me that kind of money I would sell you my business,” he said with a laugh. The New World Wealth data, he said, was highly derivative of the performance of other businesses in the consumer goods sector within the sub-Saharan region. He also claimed that it had not taken into consideration the joint partnerships that Bidco had entered into in Uganda. And neither was he interviewed nor contacted when the data was being compiled. Besides being at the helm of Bidco, Mr Shah wears numerous other hats. He chairs both the East African Business Council (EABC) and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). He sits on the boards of several local educational institutions including his alma mater, USIU, and the Kenya Polytechnic University. He is also a member of Mauritius’ International Advisory Board and of the Presidential Investors Roundtable in Uganda. Mr Patrick Obath, a local busi- ness leader and his predecessor at KEPSA, described Mr Shah as a focused and hands on leader who holds a multiplicity of positions. Mr Shah holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and has said that until he can sit in a classroom and work to earn another degree. No honorary titles for him. “I have been offered honorary degrees but they seem to me fic- National News 3 MANUFACTURING | Bidco controls 61 per cent of the cooking fat and 54 per cent of the cooking oil market in Kenya BACKGROUND Bidco started off in Nyeri The Bidco brand was established in 1970 in Nyeri, when Mr Shah was only 10 years old, as a garment factory. The company was named after its founder, Mr B.D Shah, Vimal’s father. When the younger Shah joined the family business in the 1980s, it was struggling from the effects of Kenya’s crumbling textile sector. I have been offered honorary degrees but they seem to me fictitious. I want to work for more academic qualifications. I just don’t have the time” Mr Vimal Shah FILE | NATION titious. I want to work for more academic qualifications. I just don’t have the time,” he said. Top: Mr Vimal Shah at the International Conference on Climate Change Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 21, 2013, and above, the Chipsy production line at Bidco.
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