Vishal Shah, who runs a company that manufactures window blinds in Nairobi, used to work as corporate investment banker in the UK. He quit his job after his parent’s business suffered a major setback.
A client had requested for bamboo-made materials measuring 240 metres a decade ago but rejected the cargo upon delivery.
“My parents were devastated as they did not know what to do with the consignment and I came in to try my luck at making curtain blinds for homes and hotels,” he recalls.
On recording initial success selling homemade curtain blinds for kitchens, Mr Shah and his father relocated to Nairobi where they continued making their products inside their car garage which they sold to their extended family members resulting in a Sh200,000 profit in their first year.
In Nairobi, they launched Vitendi and later built a factory for blinds in Kikuyu town as demand grew.
“Curtain blinds are an alternative to textile-based curtains and do present a wide variety of applications from window solutions to room partitioning as well as bathroom blinds,” he says.
Mr Shah adds that fierce competition, especially from imported curtain blinds has seen them diversify into other home and office products for the wealthy that includes customised lounge and outdoor seats as well as canvas-made veranda shades.
Popularity of vertical blinds, especially for healthcare facilities and hotels as well as offices has seen Vitendi sell directly to clients as well as to other blinds retailers.
“We also offer make and fix services for clients who prefer cut-to-measure products. We have an array of blinds whose materials are sourced from various manufacturers abroad and are made as per individual client tastes,” he adds.
Blinds retail for between Sh2,500 per square metre to Sh60,000 per square metre where the blinds’ market has expanded its offering to include wooden and aluminium blinds that are costly imported as finished products.
Vitendi has also delved into assembling imported furniture for corporate clients.
With slowed spending in real estate, the blinds subsector has also experienced a market stagnation where various firms have opted to market their products countrywide through social platforms seeking new clientele.
Vitendi, just like many Kenyan companies, has shifted to online platforms and door-to-door marketing campaigns.