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Meet the Boss: Atul Shah, MD, Nakumatt Holdings (east Africa)

‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series, where we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.

Atul Shah

Atul Shah, managing director, Nakumatt Holdings

1. What was your first job?

My first job was as a shelf stocker and general shop assistant at my father’s shop in Nakuru (Kenya). In this role, I would basically help on all fronts from stacking sacks, making deliveries to customers and manning the till.

From such a background, I am an all-rounder retailer at heart and can easily serve at the till, drive the deliveries truck, stock the shelves and even stock-take manually.

2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

I owe my career path to my father the late Maganlal Shah’s passion for retail. My father taught me the ropes of retail trade and provided a solid grounding for my career. All through, I’ve worked very hard to live his dream and expand the horizons for retail trade in Africa.

The main reason for my passion in retail trade is borne out of the fact that the retail sector is a critical economic driver. In Kenya, the economic survey has just confirmed that the wholesale and retail trade sector grew at a comparatively higher rate last year and is ranked second to the financial intermediation sector.

3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?

The desire to be the best retailer in Africa providing value for my customers across diverse markets keeps me awake. In actual fact that vision, which is embodied in our Nakumatt 2.0 strategy keeps me going. In addition, the inspiration I derive from the hard work put in by Nakumatt’s 5,500 employees, hundreds of suppliers and associates always makes my day.

I am also proud to be playing a key role in social development by engaging in various activities. This year I’ll be proudly representing east Africa at the London Olympic Games as an Olympic torch bearer. I was recently nominated through Samsung Electronics to help raise awareness on the positive aspects of this region including our entrepreneurial capacity.

4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?

I believe I owe my success and that of the entire Nakumatt fraternity to a firm belief in God. Our almighty God has guided our paths and our continued personal and corporate discipline firmly anchored on serving our stakeholders with integrity and respect. Personally, I am a Hindu but proud that no Nakumatt branch is opened for business without a word of prayer every morning.

5. What are the best things about Kenya?

I am a son of east Africa in heart and soul. The best thing about my region is its people. In east Africa, you have some of the most happy, polite, hardworking and intelligent people in the world. Despite the obvious political and economic challenges, we still maintain a sense of pride and innovation that is truly authentic. Proudly east African!

6. And the worst?

In east Africa, even the worst of situations are easily turned into positives. Our resilience is second to none.

7. Your future career plans?

My plans will revolve around nurturing the next generation of retail leaders across Africa. My dream is to facilitate the training of retail management graduates in all African countries in collaboration with respective business schools. I also wish to see the recognition of retail trade as a key economic driver through the formulation of national retail trade development policies.

8. How do you relax?

I rarely relax given that a walk through any Nakumatt branch provides me with a soothing and calming effect after a long day or week at work. However, I do spare time to relax with my family and also play a stimulating game of volleyball with friends. I also enjoy taking the stress out by taking long walks and engaging in challenging sports like mountain climbing.

9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?

Simple, my message is the virtue of hard work, honesty and persistence. By all means, nothing comes easy!

10. How can Africa realise its full potential?

Africa can realise its potential by improving on its governance and leadership. This remains our biggest drawback in development. We have numerous natural resources, which we can exploit for our common good.

Atul Shah is the managing director of Nakumatt Holdings, one of east Africa’s largest supermarket chains. He was named by the Financial Times of London as one of the top 50 emerging market business leaders.


  • Leila Akinyi

    Wow! Encouraging! Prayer is essential to success.

  • koushikgrs

    Hello Atulji, just I was watching on BBC your interview . very nice to know as an Indian you have been very sucessful businessman owner of big chain of retail stores, so simple so humble so enduring aperson you r surely sucess goddess laxmi
    bestowed on you always. God bless u ur family always

    with regards
    Srinath koushik

  • moses omwenga

    Hi Mr Atul sir i kindly request you to give me job in your company currently working with midcom east africa as store manager thank you

  • moses omwenga

    i kindly could like to work with you company

  • Alex Khayumbi

    Am looking forwarding working with nakumatt am in kakamega please consider my request.



  • so encouraging

  • fred

    surely your business is in greater heights is there any vancy in supplies dept



  • Freddy Mokaya

    Goodevening Mr. Atul, kindly is there any vacancy in your company? Im eager to work in your company as customer attendant.

  • You are really a man and may you live a long life to have more people succeed,have total blessing and extent to your children.

  • evans kyalo ngeti

    Hi Mr. Atur sir, I have been wishing and hoping,faithfully to work in your shops.Thank you.

  • evans kyalo ngeti

    Hi Mr. Atul sir,your life history is very encouraging.its true that nothing comes has to struggle and work hard to get.thanks.

  • Having worked for Nakumatt for a few years back, I have gradually developed the passion to emulate Mr. Shah. To me he is a hero. Am compassionate about the number of employment Nakumatt is creating to the east African region, and above all the experience I got while I was working there as a shop assistant. I have always remained to be proud of this retail channel.

  • K. Shah

    I want Nakumatt to tell Kenyans how Moi and his men tried to destroy his business, at the same time please do tell us why the govt. destroyed 2 outlets in the false pretense of clearing out structures on road reserves.

  • Ravi Varadarajan

    It is a pleasure to know that Mr.Atul Shah is one of top 50 emerging market business leaders. Also proud that he is going to represent East Africa in London Olympics. He is hard working, polite and very humble, honest and always optimistic. These must be the secret behind his great success. God Bless you and your family. Wish him and his group a Great Success in the coming years!
    Ravi varadarajan, Giant International FZE., Dubai. +971 56 1400238

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