Throughout the clock, thousands of Kenyans walk into the factories in Thika in shifts. The sound of roaring production machines buzzes. Trucks are loaded and driven out with fast moving consumer goods from over 40 brands. This happens at Bidco Africa, Kenya’s largest producer of household goods.
Unknown to many people, though, Bidco’s journey into a market leader has been evolutionary. When it was started over 30 years ago by Bhimji Depar Shah, Bidco was a garment manufacturing company. In 1985, it shifted to soap manufacturing. In 1998, it acquired the Elianto brand from Unga Limited and went ahead to make it a household name. In 2001, Bidco acquired a soap manufacturing plant in Dar es Salaam and a year later, it acquired a number of brands from Unilever. It continued expanding its products to include liquid soaps and the Germonil toilet cleaner. In 2017, Bidco Africa launched a new detergent factory and a new washing powder called Msafi. This plant was put up at a cost of Sh. 2 billion and produces over 3,000 tonnes of detergents per month.
In January 2018, Bidco Africa and Denmark’s CO-RO, one of the world’s leading providers of fruit-based soft drinks, launched Suntop juices into the Kenyan market. The Suntop juices were launched under a joint venture called BIDCORO. The joint venture launched four new varieties of Suntop juice including Orange, Mango, Berries and Blackcurrant in packs targeting every consumer group from the 1 litre family pack, a 250 milliliter pack and a 125 milliliter pack for younger children.
“Both parties bring world-class capabilities and a history of success to the partnership,” said Bidco Africa chairman, Vimal Shah. He added that the partnership was aiming to create the region’s largest producer of fruit based soft drinks and other refreshments. “We have a great knowledge of and insight into the Kenyan consumer, and our fantastic sales and distribution network. Our plans are ambitious and we hope to be able to supply not only Kenya but its neighbouring countries from our new factory,” he said.
Today, not only has Bidco Africa put thousands of Kenyans on pay roll, but also provided thousands of secondary jobs through its edible oils, cooking fats, and detergent products. According to a research study by Procter and Gamble (P&G), Kenyan consumers spend up to 60 per cent of their income on food and drinks, and 23 per cent of their income on personal and household care products.
These findings are echoed by Bidco Africa’s Group Director, Chris Diaz. He says that the African consumer is becoming more modern. They are now looking at their hygiene, health, diets, and the brands that align with these needs. “Half of the African consumers are youths. We have strategically aligned our products with them by bringing new youth-oriented products such as energy drinks into the market,” he says. The company has also set the bar in the soft drinks segment by offering products that are health-oriented. For example, the Suntop juice contains natural fruit juice, is enriched with vitamin C and contains no preservatives, artificial colors, flavoring or sweeteners.
Currently, Bidco is expanding its soft drinks plant in Thika. The company is also working towards setting up new factories at its modern industrial park in Ruiru. This is part of a Sh. 20 billion expansion blueprint that will see the company venture into other manufacturing streams. Bidco is also targeting to grow its annual turnover to over Sh. 100 billion by 2021. “We are entering a high growth phase with the construction of the industrial park in Ruiru. The facility will house 10 new factories four,” says Mr. Vimal.
Interestingly, Bidco Africa has also inculcated a code of ethics in its operations to ensure smooth running of its productions. “Institutionalizing our code of ethics is part of the ambitious growth journey that we have embarked on. They are our guide into creating a world class culture for Bidco, we have the will and scale to achieve it,” says Bidco chief executive officer Thiagarajan Ramamurthy.