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How Kenyan Billionaire Rose From Hawker to Ksh 1.5B Deal With L’Oreal

  • Starting as a hawker in the scruffy city of Nairobi, Nice and Lovely company founder Paul Kinuthia is the epitome of a grass to grace story.

    His ascension to the billionaires club started in 1995 when, armed with only Ksh3,000 capital, he conceptualized manufacturing his own shampoo and selling it to assorted salons.

    He would purchase ingredients, retreat to a shop along Kirinyaga Road before emerging with the product ready to hawk it in the streets. 

    Kinuthia relocated the company from Kirinyaga Road to Kariobangi and then Gikomba before his big breakthrough in 2001 when he hired professionals to help market the then newly incorporated Interconsumer Products.

    Entrance to L'Oreal building in Paris

    Entrance to L’Oreal building in Paris, France.

    Bloomberg

    “Kenya is a price-sensitive market and the mere fact that we were able to supply our customers with quality products at relatively much lower prices did it for us.

    “Before long, we were drawn into an all-out market-share war with the multinationals who had dominated the personal care business for decades,” he recounted in a past interview.

    The company gradually made its name on the national scale and after the first decade, it expanded to control 30 per cent of the market share.

    As of 2012, the company was commanding an annual revenue of Ksh1.7 billion with profits of Ksh200 million.

    His entry into the Billionaires Club, however, began in 2011 when L’Oreal, a cosmetics company from Paris, began acquisition talks with a section of the then successful Interconsumer products.

    The negotiations lasted for two years with experts estimating that the parties involved pegged the deal between Ksh1.5 billion and Ksh1.8 billion.

    In April 15, 2013 L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics company, penned the deal and agreed to acquire a section of the company beating out other competitors such as South Africa’s Tiger brands which had an eye on the fast-rising Kenyan company.

    “It’s a great Kenyan story for a man who started the business in Kariobangi and has now joined the billionaires’ club,” revealed one of the advisers who played an active role in the negotiations.

    Nice and Lovely body lotion products.

    Nice and Lovely body lotion products.

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