Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.
~ Theodore Isaac Rubin
As our group sat in the departure lounge of Kenya Airways at Heathrow Airport on 6th July, we discussed what we were going to do to make our trip as productive as possible. We were all uncertain of what to expect. What were the industries going to be like? What was the accommodation going to be like?
After an 8 hour flight we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at approximately 6.45am local time where we were greeted by Jinit and Jay- members of the Economic Council of Oshwals (ECO). We were taken to Oshwal Boarding, where we were talked through the itinerary for the week and many of our questions were answered. After a chance to freshen up, we set off for our first industry of the trip – Acme Containers – a plastics manufacturing company. Here, we were given an insight into how the industry began and the various different processes involved in manufacturing plastics such as injection-molding and were given demonstrations of how each product is tested thoroughly before being given the go ahead to be distributed into the market.
Upon completing our tour of the factory, we were taken to the Nakumatt in Village Market, where we were pointed out various different products which had been manufactured by an Oshwal Member. It was surprising to see the wide range of products available. One point which was made very clear to us was the importance of keeping up with the constantly changing market, and targeting a particular market.
The next day we were lucky to get a taste of the Nairobi wildlife before the busy week ahead of us. We set off very early in the morning for our first stop: a game drive at Nairobi National Park. After completing the drive we set off toward Dephne (David) Sheldrick- the elephant orphanage, where we saw the elephants being fed. Our final visit of the day was the Giraffe Centre, where we had the chance to feed the giraffes.
Later in the evening, we attended a welcome dinner at the Oshwal Academy Nairobi, where we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to each of the directors and owners of the businesses we were due to visit.
On Monday morning, we set off towards Kapa Oil Refineries, where we were taken on a tour around their Mombasa road factory. We were guided through all the various factories, and saw processes such as the purification of oil, and the by-products which were produced as a result. We saw how these by-products were then used to produce products such as bars of soap and washing powder. This way everything is recycled and waste is kept to a minimum. Various cooking oils, soaps and detergents are only a few products they produce. Mabati Rolling Mills (MRM) was the next industry we visited. Here, we had the opportunity to listen to and ask questions to Kaushik Shah, CEO of MRM. We all found the talk very fascinating and learnt about the background, foundations and future thoughts behind the very successful business. Sanpac Ltd, a plastic packaging company, was the final visit of the day. We were shown the various different types of machinery being used and were shown prototypes of existing packaging.
During the evening, we took part in a business game at the Oshwal Boarding run by Dr. Mittal, Principal of Oshwal College. The game was interesting and very enjoyable; it put to use our negotiation skills in buying and selling as well as showing off our creativity.
Tuesday began with a visit to Chandaria Industries, primarily manufacturing paper/tissue based products. Next, we visited Kenafric Inductries, famous for its confectionary and now producing stationary and footwear too.
In the evening we took part in a football match with the local Oshwals. It was a great way of team-building, and we also got a chance to wind down after a busy day.
On Wednesday morning, we left for Furniture International, where we saw the wide range of furniture being produced. The high standards of quality and precision were clear; each piece of furniture had been designed for a particular purpose. Soon after, we set off for Deepa Industries, famous for its chevdo amongst all its other products such as its wide range of spices branded under the name of ‘Tropical Heat’. Polyflex, was the next industry we visited – another plastic manufacturing industry. ROK Industries, a candle making factory, was the final visit of the day. Being a fairly new business, we were able to question the difficulties and hurdles faced when initially starting the business. This was very interesting, as we heard how they planned to develop their business in the future. We spent the evening at leisure eating out in Art Caffe in Westgate – a definite favourite for us all.
On Thursday, we headed for Jetlak Industries- manufacturers of various juices and peanut butter, in Ruiru. Later, we left for Visa Oshwal Mahajanwadi in Thika. Here we had a chance to admire the beautiful Jain Derasar from both the outside and inside. We then set off for Broadway bakery, where we were shown the manufacturing process of bread – we were even able to taste some which had been freshly made…it was delicious! Our final stop of the day was at Thika Cloth Mills, where we given a tour of the factory and shown the different processes involved in cloth-making.
Being one of the final nights at boarding, we decided that we wanted to taste some of the local cuisine. The chefs at Oshwal Boarding kindly made Spinach and Oogali for us, which to some of us was a bit like marmite – we either liked it or we didn’t!
On Friday morning, we departed for Nakuru. On arriving at Nakuru wey visited the Rose farm, followed by the Spin Knit factory, and lastly the animal feeds factory. In the evening, we went to the Oshwal Mahajanwadi, where we were introduced to the Oshwal community of Nakuru. We stayed overnight in Nakuru.
On the penultimate day of our trip, once we had arrived back in Nairobi, we had the opportunity to visit the local market and purchase some curios.
For the six due to return home, most of Sunday was spent packing in preparation for their return flights later that evening. The four of us, who had extended our stay, remained back in Nairobi. We enjoyed a final meal together at a local restaurant before parting ways.
A few notes from us:
“This trip has definitely been an eye-opener to the world of business. I found it particularly inspirational, and am very thankful to have had this opportunity to see in action the way in which industries operate in Kenya. Observing the various different processes involved in each of the manufacturing industries was truly fascinating- the uniqueness of each product was simply captivating. I was pleasantly surprised at how far the economy has developed in Kenya over the years and how so many members of our Oshwal community have set-up and are running successful businesses. One aspect which has really stood out amongst all the businesses which we visited, and I feel has added to their success, is their future planning and positive approach towards their business. The emphasis on ‘quality’ as opposed to ‘quantity’ was clear. I found our visit to ‘Deepa Industries’ in particular, to be most interesting. Their high standard of quality control was impressive, and the reason behind their success was evident. The knowledge I have gained from this experience has been invaluable and has opened me up to the increasingly attractive possibility of starting my own business. This entrepreneurial trip has proven to be just as fruitful as I had anticipated and I would strongly recommend other students who are either interested in business or maybe wish to start their own business in the future, to apply for a place on the trip next year!” – Aarti Rumeet Shah
“One of the key messages taken away from the trip was the fact that modern management techniques are being deployed with great effect in Kenya. Kenafric certainly stood out as a business fully immersed in delivering Kaizen. Branding expertise is something that is also not a uniquely western phenomenon, as evidenced by the success of “Tropical Heat”. Arguably the highlight of the trip was the chance to meet Kaushik Shah, CEO of Mabati Rolling Mills who elaborated on the central conflict that faced many of us: that between entrepreneurialism and managerialism. His advice was invaluable in crystalizing the thought that the 2 require remarkably different skill-sets and that while young there does remain a real choice between these paths. All in all, the trip provided a fantastic insight into how businesses can operate successfully in challenging environments and many of the insights gained are applicable not just to Kenya but, arguably, the world over.” – Parin Bhupes Shah
“If I had to describe the Kenya Enterprise trip in three words they would be: fun, eye-opening and inspirational. Despite there being only two females amongst the eight male, we all instantly bonded and became friends. As a group, we visited many different industries which taught and exposed us to different situations. As well as meeting new people and visiting different places, we also had the opportunity to explore Kenya and enjoy the Kenyan nightlife. From the industries we visited, one particular word that stuck out was ‘kaizen’ – meaning “continuous improvement” in Japanese. This philosophy, famously used by Toyota, was adopted in nearly all the businesses we visited in Kenya where people at all levels of the organisation were aware of kaizen, from the CEO down to the factory workers. It was truly incredible to witness and meet some of the successful Oshwal’s in Kenya. had our own personal driver Peter, who took us everywhere and made the trip entertaining. From driving us to the industries, to a football match-where we played against fellow Oshwal members, to picking the group up at 4am after a night in town we definitely won’t forget Peter and the impact he made on us. The experience I gained from the Kenya enterprise trip was amazing. I learnt that there is little chance of success in business without a well thought-out (VISION) and executed strategy. Plan, Deliver, And Succeed.” – Priya Rajesh Shah
“As the attention shifts from developed to developing economies, and as Africa’s impact on the global economy begins to unfold, several entrepreneurs, including those within the manufacturing industry are looking to move operations to Africa in search for cheaper labour and new target markets. Within East Africa, Kenya is a prime example; with its government investing several billions of dollars into its infrastructure along with its recently reformed constitution has made it a hotspot for potential investors, including entrepreneurs within the manufacturing industry. The Oshwal Enterprise programme will provide the perfect platform for those interested in gaining an insight into Kenya’s manufacturing industry and its diverse product portfolio. What’s interesting is that in a country where basic utilities such as electricity and water cannot be taken for granted, businesses continue to grow exponentially and directors of such companies themselves explain their strategies to tackle issues such as these. Along with the ability to understand the industry is the opportunity to network with some of the most successful and inspirational entrepreneurs within East Africa and possibly create and develop business links.” – Vidyesh Ashok Shah
A special thanks to everyone who helped organise this trip: the Oshwal Committee in UK, the ECO in Nairobi for accommodating us and making us feel welcome, to Peter for everything, and to all the industries we visited for making our experience memorable!
One thing we learnt for sure is: “don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in and it will come naturally”
~ David Frost
Oshwal Enterprise Students 2012
Aarti Rumeet Shah, Dhruman Piyush Shah, Parin Bhupes Shah, Pratik Dhiren Shah, Priya Rajesh Shah, Rahul Jatish Malde, Rahul Pradeep Amin, Raj Nalinkumar Shah, Rajan Manoj Shah and Vidyesh Ashok Shah.