“The Sky is NOT the Limit Anymore” ~ Vimal Shah

It‘s not every day that you get to be in a room filled with greatness, but The GrowthHub AgriTech ideation workshop was an exception to that for a whole 3 days! Some of Kenya’s top Agribusiness CEO’s and experts spend a substantial amount of time sharing and giving valuable feedback and insights to our entrepreneurs.

Vimal Shah, CEO Bidco Oil Refineries was one of the CEO’s that spoke to our agripreneurs. Having gained several years of experience in running a business, the advice he shared was priceless. Under his leadership, Bidco Oil Refineries is one of the leading manufacturers and distributors of edible oils, fats and hygienic products in East and South  South Africa. Vimal’s remarkable leaderships skills have seen him accredited with various awards such as: The Former President Mwai Kibaki’s ‘First Class: Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS)’award for exceptional effort and contribution to national development.

Ventures Africa voted him as one of Kenya’s most successful entrepreneurs, and he was also Forbes 2012 entrepreneur of the year.

Currently Vimal is the chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the East African Business Council, he also holds the chairperson position of the Kenya agro-industry alliance and enterprise solutions to poverty.

Vimal Shah is a serial entrepreneur and when he spots a great idea, he doesn’t hold back from pointing it out. During the AgriTech ideation workshop delegates got an opportunity to interact with him as well as some other entrepreneurs like; Samir Ibrahim and Charles Nichols co-founders of SunCulture.

The goal of the ideation workshop was to enable early stage entrepreneurs identify a particularly big problem in agriculture and together with input from fellow peers and experts come up with a proposed solution around this problem that will be developed further at The GrowthHub’s Impact Lab Program. So Vimal’s discussion was centred on how one actually manages an idea and takes it to the next level.

Here are some of the key points he shared:

1. What is your differentiation?
As you lay out your idea, make sure you start by understanding your customer. That should be the starting point of determining your customer value chain. For example, the price of the product/service verses its value. As you do your grocery shopping, why would you decide to buy groceries from Nakumatt or Zucchini as opposed to going to one of the markets where it is much cheaper? Is it because of the price or more so of the convenience that you get? As you start your business, you need to understand who your target market is and what value you are giving to your customer. Who is the customer, who do they buy from and where do they purchase the goods from?

2. Do you understand the supply chain?
This helps you place yourself and understand what you are doing and to do it effectively. Who are you in the supply chain? Are you informing, transforming, producing or packaging the product? You need to understand your entire supply chain. Understand what the supply chain is all about.

It all starts from the end. The customer; your customer should be your core focus. This is the person that creates and determines what need is really there. Always start with customer and their need. 

Apply the KYC concept:

  • Know your customer
  • Know your company
  • Know your competitor
  • Know the current price of the product/service

You need to ensure you respond to your customer needs. Ask for customer complains, delight them and seek out the right direction from them. Some of the best ideas as you grow will come from co-creating with your customers.

3. What are your financials?
You need to be able to understand your financials as you venture into your business.  Being able to understand your cost, margins etc, enables you determine viability. Don’t work on assumptions, you need to get your facts right. You need to understand the costs. As you work out your financials, you need to account for your expenses and even your time.

4. What are the risks involved?
Agribusiness has a lot of risks; you need to consider the factors. Can you mitigate against these risks? Test out idea, at least 5 times. This helps you improve on your idea. The biggest challenge is re-inventing yourself, change is inevitable and for you to stay relevant you need to keep re-inventing yourself. Risk is there but, you should never give up on your path-change your direction but don’t give up unless you are completely off. Sustainability is key! Therefore, you need to ensure that your idea is going to be profitable. Have all your facts right NEVER go on about assumptions ALWAYS verify your assumptions.

5. Have you considered logistics?
This is usually a big expenditure and knowing this helps you to determine the location to be at. Should you be close to the suppliers or the customers? You may have a farm in Western province but your market is in Nairobi how do you work around that? You need to consider the storage and distribution of your goods. Figuring out such logistics is very crucial.

Vimal Shah believes that the biggest economic growth area is in agribusiness. Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent in the world with about 1 billion people and this figure is expected to double by 2050. So there is a lot of demand for agribusiness. You just need to be competitive.

Well there you’ve heard it. The Sky is not the limit anymore, so let’s go out there and invest in agribusiness!