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Meet the young “king” of outdoor advertising

This 28-year old caused a retail earthquake when he bought a supermarket and appeared in a Forbes list in a span of few months.  Trushar Khetia shares his story

Trushar Khetia showed entrepreneurial instincts from an early age, and all signs pointed towards him making it big in future.

When he was a young boy growing up in a village in Kitale, Trushar started renting books he had finished reading to his classmates, charging them Ksh5 (US$0.05). By the time most students were done reading the storybook, he had raised enough cash to buy the same book.

This acumen has paid off for the founder of Tria Group, a transit outdoor company. The 28-year-old has been named as Kenya’s eight youngest promising entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine.

But it has been a steep climb for Trushar.

Upon completing his O-level education at Kitale Academy, he got a job as a marketer with Securex, a security company in Nairobi when he was only 18 years old. He then went to study for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in Marketing at the Manchester University in the United Kingdom.

The budding entrepreneur did not stop there. He applied to join the Graduate Management Programme advertised by consumer Product Company Procter & Gamble (P&G) and got picked at the age of 21, beating other hundreds of applicants.

He worked as abusiness development executive for P&G before calling it a day after only three years in what was then ‘his dream job.’

“My plan was not to stay in the company for long. I wanted to acquire enough experience which would give me an insight into how to start something of my own,” he reveals during an interview in his office in Westlands, Nairobi.

What is more, his father had in 2011 compelled him to return back home to help run his family retail business in Kitale town. He came back home, albeit reluctantly. But his reunion with the father would not last long.

Trushar says despite having the skills and knowledge of running his father’s retail business in Kitale, he felt out of place and wanted to work in an environment where he would make both business and managerial decisions on his own without interference from family members. So he quit for the second time and went to start his “unknown” business empire.

“It is not easy making decisions when everyone around you wants to have a say.  I felt caged and what followed was my departure from a business that literally raised me. I equally wanted to know what it takes to start from zero. I was eager to start something of my own,” says Trushar who is a part-time deejay.

Though he did not know the kind of business he wanted to venture in then, he was certain it would be media-related.

During his studies in Manchester, Trushar says he was inspired by the seriousness with which retailers in the UK used public transportation as a medium for advertising. So he chose to gamble with the idea and tested the waters with it.

“Most companies just designed the ads and placed them on the vehicles and never bothered to look after them. My team and I wanted to go an extra mile so we designed full-wraps that no one was offering,” says the man who draws his inspiration from his entrepreneurial father.

He had Ksh2 million (US$21,820) in savings and borrowed another Ksh5 million (US$54,550) from a bank to start Tria Group-a transit outdoor company.

Two and half years later, he has become a millionaire who also owns other businesses. He is also the owner of Society stores- a budding, young start up acquired from a Thika-based family owned supermarket at an estimated cost of Ksh90 million (US$981,900) late last year.

Currently, the business has a turnover of more than Ksh 100 million and prospects to hit Ksh 1 billion by the end of the year.

The company has partnered with major bus companies like the Kenya Bus Service Management to carry its advertisements.
Most of the branding is done either at night or early in the morning before buses start working.
He now wants to expand in EAC countries and has already opened Tria Group Tanzania.

He is also planning to acquire other businesses in retail under his Society Stores. That will give him muscle to take on big players like Nakumatt, Naivas, Uchumi, Tuskys and international brands like Massmart, who want to penetrate the Kenyan market.

“Retail industry is not 100 metres race, it’s a gradual process and Society Stores is going to change retail business in Kenya completely in the coming months. It is just a matter of time before you begin to see Wi-Fi (wireless internet connectivity) being offered in our stores as well as other innovations that are still in the offing,” he reveals.

“I always learn to remain humble no matter what. Money is not everything but my ultimate goal is the success that comes with it. Be willing to take risks,” he advises budding entrepreneurs.

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