The Star (Nairobi)

22 August 2014

Kenya: Mombasa Trader Painting His Way Into Big League

You could easily brush him off as just another Kenyan youth on the streets with no sense of fashion owing to his casual, down-to-earth appearance.

But what you see is not what you get and what you might not realise is that at 26, Zaheer Chania, is well on his way to the millionaires' club, if he is not already there. What's more, he is not thinking of stopping at that.

In January, Zaheer felt the family's forex bureau business he used to help run Mombasa's central business district was no longer challenging enough.

He instead decided to venture into a completely new area prompted by an idea he had only thought of for a relatively short period.

With his savings, he formed a partnership with three of his close friends and they set up a paint production factory in Miritini.

"I wanted a business of my own. I wanted a new challenge for myself," said Zaheer, when the Star visited his one-machine, one roomed factory.

"Rangi Africa is a company that produces different types of plastic paint which is washable," he said with the pride in his voice.

"It has been less than four months since we started and we are already doing really well," said Zaheer.

The main product is acrylic, a plastic based substance which is used to make different items including sinks, shower tabs, among others.

Although the business is less than four months old, he has already cut a niche for himself, with about 40 hardware shops already stocking Rangi Africa's products in Mombasa.

"What made me get into it? It is an opportunity to create jobs. People always need paint. There is demand. There are always constructions and renovations going on. So, there is always a market," said Zaheer.

He said he is determined to see Kenya grow and believes entrepreneurship is the way to go.

Rangi Africa produces different types of paint including automotive paint, silk paint, emulsion paints, acrylic paint, among others.

Apart from paint, Zaheer also produces varnishes, wood glue, and other finishing products.

"It was challenging initially but now we're seeing positive outcome and now that we are getting into the market, we have to expand" said Zaheer.

He said if the business picks up at the current pace then they will be expanding their market to Nairobi and eventually other key towns in Kenya.

The small factory, which has employed 17 people so far including the management, can make a tonne of paint an hour, translating to eight tonnes a day.

"We started off with a workforce of five about three months ago, now we are 17," said Zaheer.

He says penetrating into the market and capturing people's trust has been the main challenge.

About his competitors, Zaheer interestingly said he does not think they know of his existence yet.

"But I'm sure in the next few weeks, they will know that we are around," he said.

The business was started with a budget of about $100,000 (about Sh8.7 million) after he saved for about 14 months.

The business has five depots in Mombasa at the moment through which distribute paint to various hardware stores.

"We have to satisfy the Mombasa market first before we can think of getting to other parts of the country," Zaheer said.

Rangi Africa was established at a time when there is increasing insecurity at the Coast and in Kenya generally, but Zaheer feels that the kind of insecurity incidents witnessed in the region and the country at large should not be used as an excuse not to invest.

"We are born and brought up in Kenya. This is our country and you have to believe in Kenya. You don't give up on your country," said Zaheer. "If you think positive sometimes, there are better outcomes to it."

All their production materials are locally available and their products target all market segments.

"Our target market is Africa. We want to supply goods to the whole of Africa eventually," said confidently.

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