Outstanding African Entrepreneurs: Vimal Shah

Vimal Shah

VENTURES AFRICA – Bidco’s CEO, Vimal Shah is one of Kenya’s most successful entrepreneurs. Shah has built one of the regions biggest manufacturer of edible oils and fats taking multinationals like Unilever head on, in East and Central Africa.

His company, Bidco Oil Refineries, manufacturers edible oil brands like Elianto and Golden Fry, cooking fats including Kimbo, laundry soaps, margarine, baking powder, and hygiene products. The firms oil refinery in Thika town, outside Nairobi produces 1,000 tonnes of cooking oil daily.

The Bidco Group under the leadership of Shah has established itself as a leading manufacturer, marketer and distributor of edible oils, fats and hygienic products in East Africa.

Shah’s father, Bhimji Depar, started the company in 1970 as a small clothing manufacturing unit. Shah is however credited for transforming Bidco from a small unknown company to one that can today hold its own in the face of foreign multinationals. Bidco after all, distributes its products to over 16 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

And Shah still has ambitions.

“We want to become the market leader across Africa in all our products and brands. We are now making a strong foray into new African markets in the south, west and north,” said Shah in a 2011 interview with The Economic Times.

The Harvard Business School conducted a case study on Bidco Group hoping to create a success model for other enterprises to follow.

“We believe in the full value chain model. From the soil and agriculture right up to processing and distribution, we are involved in all the stages of our products. Besides edible oil, this works for other products such as coffee and flowers as well,” said Shah.

Shah has just been awarded East African entrepreneur of the year award in the annual All African Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) organised by ABN Productions in partnership with CNBC Africa. He is therefore automatically a finalist in the AABLA grand finale which will be in Johannesburg later in the year.

Shah was recognised for having had “ a steering role at Bidco since its inception, playing a formative role in strategic planning and management of the company.”

This is not Shah’s first recognition. He has received numerous awards in the past including President Mwai Kibaki’s ‘First Class: Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS)’ for exceptional effort and contribution to national development.

He was also a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011, a position he held together with his brother and business partner, Tarun Shah.

Shah is also one of Kenya’s leading businessmen of Asian origin and maintains strong links with India. He was born and brought up in Nyeri in Central Kenya and later in capital city, Nairobi.

“I may be a second-generation Kenyan, but probably we are far more connected to our roots than many Indians in Delhi and Mumbai. The Indian community here (Kenya) is a vibrant mix of old business families, new entrepreneurs and professionals coming to work here as expats. The community believes very strongly in preserving our Indian culture and we organise vibrant celebrations of festivals such as Diwali,” Shah told The Economic Times.

Shah is the immediate chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) where he lobbied for a favourable environment for manufactures and other business stakeholders.