Maganlal Shah

Maganlal Shah, Nakumatt founder

Maganlal Shah was not born in Nakuru. Actually, he came to Kenya in 1947 from India. He settled in Nakuru only in 1965.

His first business in Kenya was a shop in Embakasi where he used to serve quarry workers. (Apparently, there was a quarry in Embakasi back then.)

Later, he was to move to Eldoret and Kisumu on business. At some point, he set up shop in Elburgon bit moved to Nandi Hills. In 1965, Maganlal settled in Nakuru town proper.

In Nakuru, he started a retail shop selling clothes and materials. The business did so well that just a few years later, he bought a building in Nakuru town.

However, it was during this time that Mzee Kenyatta’s government was appropriating foreign-owned businesses. Fearing that his business would be taken at a cheap price, Maganlal Shah decided to sell the building. He approached an entrepreneur from Rongai who was running a shop called Rongai Super Stores. The asking price was Kshs. 90,000 but the highest amount of money the RSS proprietor had handled until then was just Kshs. 6,000. (How Mr. Joram Kamau ended up raising the money for the building is a story for another day).

Mr. Mangalal continued doing well in business. However, due to many unpaid debts, he went bankrupt, closed business and ended up being employed by his brother Hasmukh.

Hasmukh Shah was then running a shop in Nakuru town that also sold clothes and beddings. His shop was called Nakuru Mattresses.

While Maganlal was employed by his brother, his two sons, Vimal and Atul started a business stitching and selling bedsheets. Their business was called Furmatt.

The business did well for the two sons. The coffee boom that started in 1978 favoured them. By the end of 1979, the two sons had helped his dad pay off his 1.2 million debts.

Mangalal’s brother, Hasmukh, who owned Nakuru Mattresses, was by now tired of living in Nakuru. He decided to sell his business and Mangalal with his two sons, Atul Shah and Vimal Shah decided to buy the business. However, they didn’t have enough money. Again, Mangalal turned to his old friend Joram Kamau who gave him the title of the building he had sold him to use as collateral for a loan.

The three turned Nakuru Mattresses from a clothes store to a general merchandise shop. Later, the name of the business was to turn to Nakumatt. Over the years, the business has grown to the largest supermarket chain in Kenya with branches outside the country.

One of the sons, Atul Shah, is the chairman of Nakumatt holdings.