Meet The 29 Year-Old Entrepreneur Behind The Sh.700m Retail Investment.



In recent times, the 70% of Africa’s population that is less than 30 years of age, is buzzing with entrepreneurial spirit. The continent has never had a more inspired generation of young entrepreneurs and risk takers who are fervent in their resolve to succeed and transform the continent.

These young men are, to say the least, impatient to explore new possibilities and slowly but surely, they are building empires. They are making the most dramatic impact in manufacturing, technology, real estate, media & entertainment, financial services, agriculture, fashion and the service industry. They may be today’s upstarts, but they are surely tomorrow’s legends.

One of such magnificent brains is 29 year old Trushar Khetia, Kenyan serial entrepreneur with multiple businesses in different sectors across East Africa.

Khetia is the founder of Tria Group, a Kenyan outdoor advertising firm that uses public transit vehicles to market consumer goods in Kenya which was founded in June 2013 and already has annual revenues exceeding $1.3 million (About Sh. 130m). He is also the founder of Society Stores, one of the most popular supermarkets in Thika. Combined, his two companies earn revenue exceeding $7 million (Sh. 700m).

Last year, Trushar made an inaugural appearance on Forbes list of Africa’s 50 most promising entrepreneurs for 2015.

Society Stores opened the first store in Thika and later two additional branches in Maua and Meru. They then opened their first ever hyper mart in Naivasha, formerly Uchumi when the loss-making entity gave up its shop. Later they opened another branch in Limuru. The sixth store is scheduled to open in the Nairobi suburb of Kayole, during the second half of 2016 as the emerging retail chain embarkes on an aggressive expansion plan.

Kenya’s supermarket business is dominated by four big retailers – namely Nakumatt, Tuskys, Naivas and Uchumi. Besides the publicly-traded Uchumi, the other three are family-owned chains that started as small shops.

Addressing the press after the re-branding and re-launch of what was initially Leens Supermarket in November 2014 in a ceremony that was presided over by Thika MP Alice Wambui Ng’ang’a, Khetia said that he wanted to bring a transformation of the supermarket industry not only in Thika and in Kenya but also regionally.

Sh100 million was used in its acquisition of goodwill, assets, stocks, refurbishing and rehabilitation of the premises. By then that his company had already employed 150 employees, had already attracted 500 suppliers and on the first day of business recorded more than 5,000 customers.

“We want to be the Walmart of Africa. We want to bring in what has been lacking in the industry. We want to be unique in ensuring that our customer gets value of their money,” said Khetia, who was flanked by his wife, Shreya Khetia.

Khetia was born and raised in Kitale, then went abroad for further studies. The business management and marketing graduate who enrolled at the University in Manchester in the UK for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Marketing at 17, said Thika needed a clear environment for business growth.

His family is also involved in the retail and wholesale industries. His grandfather, a Hindu priest who emigrated from India to Kenya shortly after the country gained independence, founded a small retail shop in 1982 that has morphed into Khetia Supermarkets. Today the company is a big player in the retail business in western Kenya.

Earning His First Million

On returning to Kenya from UK, Khetia went to work in the family business, saved some money then moved to Nairobi. At 18 he as marketing manager at Securex, a security company in Nairobi. He later became a business development executive at Proctor and Gamble in London when he turned 23.

When he decided to pursue his business idea, all he had then was a laptop which he used to make presentations with to prospective clients.

At 26, he became the proprietor of an outdoor transit advertising firm, the Tria Bus Media with a potential of $1 million in turnover that used public service vehicles to market leading consumer goods in Kenya. Unlike other entrepreneurs in the transit advertising, Khetia applied Quick Response Code (QR codes) to track each of his advertisements and engaged the consumer at a more personal level.

He partnered with major bus companies like the Kenya Bus Service Management where he labeled the vehicles with a brand’s advertising. Other transport companies that later came on board were Metro Trans and Triple S. Easy Coach. His fees for the service depended on the size of the advertisement.

“Since I was an academically gifted student my plan was to study to postgraduate level then get a good job. However after working in different capacity at Securex and Procter & Gamble, I realised my true passion was in entrepreneurship. My main venture was Tria Group which mainly deals with advertising on transit media like buses and planes. I started the company in June 2013 and in August 2014, we launched its subsidiary, Tria Group Tanzania with the offices in Dar es Salaam,” he said in a different interview.

Before pitching he had made some intensive research for 6 months on the market, trends and competitors. He also had taken time to understand the problem each of the potential clients was undergoing consequently customised the pitch to cater for their needs. He then approached Unilever which at that time was facing stiff competition on its washing powder from Ariel and suggested that instead of using the same media and similar slogans they should try something different.  Luckily, it coincided with the launch of their new look Omo so Unilever Ltd ended up being his first client. The second client was Kenafric Ltd which we did a campaign of their Fresh mint.

“I remember signing my first contract at a half-empty house in my pyjamas! I landed the second Contract 7 days later. The two contracts had a total worth of Ksh 7 million! You can imagine I didn’t even have an office then!”

During his stay in Europe, he was inspired by the seriousness with which retailers in the UK handled outdoor advertising.

“It deeply contrasted the Kenyan outdoor scene where the business is dominated by brokers who just design the ads put them on the vehicles and never bother to look after them. When I came to Kenya I wanted to go the extra mile,” he said. 

How he has succeeded This Far?

Khetia says he had to sacrifice all his short-term goals for so as to reap in the long run. He says that he never draws any salary from his businesses. He concedes that most start-ups fail because the entrepreneurs get excited when they make some money which they end up misusing. He adds that he gives his very best to his clients.

His Advice To Upcoming Entrepreneurs?

“First of all, discover what you are most talented and passionate about then venture into a unique niche. Don’t do what everyone else is trying to do. Focus all your attention, energy and persevere. Being impatient can be a virtue since successful entrepreneurs don’t wait too long before pursuing their business ideas. Nonetheless don’t be in a rush to go shopping on getting your first check. Money should never be the main motivation; it is simply a reward which should be ploughed back into the business. Remember you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”

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