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Vimal Shah:From failure to success

Vimal Shah’s name is synonymous with Bidco Industries, the makers of Elianto, Golden Fry, Kimbo, Gental detergent, Gold Band margarine, Yellow Star bar soap, and other consumer products.

Bhimji Depar, Shah’s father, started the Thika-based firm in 1970 as a small clothing manufacturing unit.

After graduating from USIU-Nairobi, Shah would spend  27 years selling insurance policies for the American Life Insurance Company (now CfC Life).

It was the failure to meet targets as an insurance agent that led him to his father’s shop which he eventually built from scratch.

The clothing business environment was tough in the ‘80s because cheap  polyester yarns from South East Asia were coming to Kenya in a big way; they were more competitive and Kenya did not have any barriers to imports.

Worse still, people hated cotton garments then, as more sought polyester which is iron-free.

The idea of competing against the East African Industries (now Unilever) was met with skepticism and financiers were unyielding with their lending.

However,  the Industrial Development Bank, Biashara Bank, family and friends came to their aid. Shah would then use trucks to personally market the products to shops and supermarkets.

The firm’s oil refinery in Thika produces 1,000 tonnes of cooking oil daily. His achievements include being bestowed with the prize of the CEO of the Year in 2008.

He also chairs the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the Trade and Investment Committee – East African Business Council. In addition, he is the  2012 Forbes Entrepreneur of the year.