The Chandarana Foodplus Supermarkets group has continued its well thought out and measured growth despite the multitude of challenges in Kenya’s retail industry.
Political upheavals, stiff competition and an erratic economy have made difficult the journey of growth.
Impractical and difficult regulatory compliance demands, coupled with the entry of seasoned and well-financed international players have not made things any easier.
Besides, the recent demise of giant retailer Nakumatt and the never-ending Uchumi saga have resulted in unforeseen repercussions and presented further challenges, to name but a few.
But the Chandarana Foodplus Group has continued to surge in the middle of a retail industry paradigm shift!
The Chandarana food chain was founded was by businessman Shantilal Mulji Thakkar as a small family business.
The firm opened its first grocery store at Highridge Shopping Centre in Nairobi’s Parklands area in 1964 and has since grown into a formidable supermarket chain with the three brothers Anil Thakkar and Sanjay and Dipan at the helm.
The opening of the Yaya store 27 years ago was the catalyst for growth and the beginning of an operating model that is still in existence today.
Hanif Rajan, the Director of Operations at Chandarana Food Plus took stock of success stories, challenges and how to navigate retail business terrain, 54 years on.
Born in Eldoret, Rajan is a seasoned retailer with vast local and international experience.
His skills in the food, meat, poultry and farming enterprises coupled by his operational and business experiences in Kenya as a farmer and founder and owner of Prime Cuts among many other enterprises, Wal Mart Canada, the government Seychelles and a retail stint in Tanzania made him well suited to be part of the executive in the Chandarana Foodplus group, where he has been part and parcel of the transformation of the group.
Mr Rajan says the retail chain’s success is the product of the conservative, calculating steps the management has taken to avoid growth for the sake of it.
He added that despite the illusion of “opportunities” created by the failure of the two retail giants, Chandaran Foodplus does not operate from the premise that it is “missing out”, because that often results in emotional and irrational decisions
Chandarana Foodplus has steadily grown from one branch in 1964 to 14 countrywide. The branches are located at Highbridge shopping centre, Diamond Plaza, Karen, Muthaiga, Yaya Centre, Ad life Plaza, and ABC Place.
Others are at the Lavington Mall, Cedar Mall in Nanyuki, Rupa Mall in Eldoret, Diani, Mombasa’s South Coast, Rosslyn Riviera and Eldoret. Fit outs at the new store at The Well, which is located opposite the Galleria Mall, is at an advanced stage.
The new stores come with cutting edge design concepts such as butcheries, hot delicatessens, enhanced wine and spirits sections with walk in chillers, more spaces for bakeries and fresh vegetables and specialty gastronomical elements like sushi and grab and go sections which have juices and sandwiches.
Chandarana FoodPlus will continue to augment its offerings and raise the bar of its core competence of being a food-oriented supermarket. Continuous refinement of the on-line shopping is another growth driver aimed not only at the tech savvy demographic but also the wider audience.
We currently employ one thousand one hundred staff and will add approximately two hundred more this year.
Perhaps one of the biggest headaches remains the endemic and rampant pilferage of supermarkets. The sums lost are staggering!
In recent months of turbulence in the larger retail chains, suppliers have been badly hit. They have become rigid and skeptical, with huge ramifications in the way we do business.
The entry of international players is another challenge to contend with. But it also inspires the home-grown chains to get better and compete.
Chandarana FoodPlus has exceptional rapport with suppliers. The executive has painstakingly developed an intricate and intimate relationship with suppliers over the decades. We are very personal about this and do not simply delegate this task.
The supermarket chain has decided to focus on small, unheard of charities that don’t receive much help and is “helping without shouting about it.”