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Dilip Shah: From Tiny Rented Space to 35 Stores Across Kenya, the Story of Umoja Shoe Products Founder

Umoja Rubber Products founder Dilip Shah PHOTO/Instagram

Dilip Shah is the founder of Umoja Rubber Products, a producer of footwear offering rubber products, sandals, boots, school shoes and flipflops for men, women and kids.

He established the business over four decades ago while trying to emulate his father who was a reputable businessman at the time.

Shah’s idea worked and his company has grown to have over 45 stores scattered around the country, additionally employing over 3,000 people.

Here is his story as told by EAFeed.

In an interview, Shah shared that he established Umoja Rubber Products in 1978 in a tiny rented business space in Mombasa.

At the time, Shah and his family had returned from Tanzania where his father ran a rubber business, and he was hoping to make a name for himself in the African footwear market.

Before branching off, he was working at his father’s textile factory where he was in charge of handling imports, clearing and forwarding and accounting.

After settling on venturing into enteprenship himself, he got a loan from a local bank which he used to set up Umoja Rubber Products.

““I had nothing to fear or lose, whether I failed or succeeded. Luckily, ABN Amro Bank which had been our family bank since 1951 came in handy,” he said.

With imported machinery from abroad, he hit the ground running.

“I started in a small area of 7,000 square feet, making flip flops with a staff of 22, using imported machinery from Hong Kong and China,” he said in an interview with Business Daily.

At the time, Shah said his company’s major competitor was Bata but at some point they were hit with a fire tragedy which destroyed their shoe factory unit forcing forcing the out of business.

Umoja Rubber Products staff PHOTO/Instagram

Following Bata’s hiatus from the market, Shah flooded the market with products from his new company, and even gave out goods in credit to retailers.

“This gave me a chance to sell my goods and I was encouraged by that. Fortunately, there were no delayed payments so money started flowing in,” he said.

In 1993, Shah bought land in Kikambala in Mtwapa but the money to build a factory was a challenge forcing him to enter a deal with the contractor that saw the factory built on credit.

When the factory’s construction was completed, he convinced his brothers who were running their businesses in the UK to join him.

“We had a very good relationship and we are still all together and strengthening the structure of the company,” Shah said.

Shah also discussed challenges that he encountered, pointing out lack of finances while starting off as some of his main challenges.

“Finance was the main challenge even though the bank was of help but repayment timing had to be done right,” he said.

Additionally, Shah is also the founder of Mzuri Sweets, makers of candies, lollipops, chewing gum and long-life cakes.

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