His business, he said, has grown quickly because he concentrated on his competitors’ weak points, turning them into the strengths of the Safari Lounge brand.
Shah is set to give the foreign market another shot as he believes Safari Lounge has what it takes to compete with international brands.
“We are already in talks with a number of markets, mainly South Africa, Middle East and the UK,” said Shah. “I am not looking at going to Europe and saying: ‘I am the next Starbucks.’ We can break into the market and slowly eat into the market. [It takes] patience. Rome wasn’t built in one day. Patience, perseverance and sticking to the quality that we have will grow us exponentially.”
He is also planning to expand within Kenya and East Africa and enter the retail market. “Retail is our primary focus at the moment. We want to give consumers something different. We want to create a buying experience, which is why it’s taken us a little bit longer to get into the retail space,” he said.
Shah has also got his sights set on opening a coffee house to tap into the growing coffee drinking culture in Nairobi.
“Coffee is a fashionable thing. It is a cult, it’s a culture. A lot of students are coming from the US and Europe. There are a lot of NGOs here and people who went to university abroad and they are coming back with this coffee culture. That is why you see the massive growth of coffee shops.”
In the face of challenges, Shah remembers the lessons he has learnt by running marathons. “I took on marathon running and that gave me the biggest perspective of life,” he said. “Every mile I completed was a milestone. Break it down to small pieces, life becomes so much easier. I have got ambitions but I have to be realistic. A business is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The former banker said he finds satisfaction in running his own business.
“It has been an amazing learning experience. It is not a family business that I stepped into. This has all been my vision, my dream. There were times when I would have said enough is enough, but I stuck by it. Failure doesn’t cross my mind.”
Shah advises other entrepreneurs to be patient and not be deterred by the stumbling blocks they encounter in business. To be successful, he said, entrepreneurs ought to build on their strengths and fight their weaknesses.
“There will be many other people trying to trip you up, but believe in yourself and what you want to achieve. My father said to me: ‘You are wasting your time,’ six years ago. Today he hasn’t really said much other than ‘well done’. Prove people wrong.”