I finally met Mr. Trushar Khetia at his office on the 5th floor of Reliable Towers located in Westlands, Nairobi. This was after an unsuccessful attempt to book him for an appointment the day before. I got a chance to interact with his employees before we began the interview. They all spoke highly of Trushar, citing how charismatic and open-minded he is. He arrived a few minutes9 amter 9am, attended to a client before ushering me into the boardroom for this interview.
Briefly tell us about yourself
I’m Trushar Founder and CEO of Tria Group of companies. I’m 27 years of age, married but without kids. I’m passionate about brand marketing and retail business. I was born and raised in Kitale then went abroad for further studies.
Since I was an academically gifted student my plan was to study to postgraduate level then get a good job. However after working in different capacity at Securex and Procter & Gamble, I realised my true passion was in entrepreneurship so I started Tria Group two years ago.
What exactly does your company Tria Group do? Is it your only venture?
My main venture is Tria Group. It mainly deals with advertising on transit media like buses and planes. I started the company in June 2013 and in august this year we launched its subsidiary, Tria Group Tanzania with the offices in Dar es Salaam.
I recently acquired a supermarket based in Thika, closed it down for 10 days in which we took over its inventory and rebranded to Society Stores. I decided to move away from the trend where supermarkets are named after people or towns. This is my first retail business which I’m keen on growing and opening new branches in a few years.
How did you make your first million?
On returning to Kenya from UK I went to work in the family business, saved some money then moved to Nairobi to pursue my business idea. All I had then was my laptop which I used to make presentations with to prospective clients. I remember signing my first contract at a half-empty house in my pyjamas! I landed the second Contract 7 days later. The two contracts had a total worth of Ksh 7 million! You can imagine I didn’t even have an office then!
That’s Impressive! How did you manage to clinch such lucrative contracts in such a short period of time?
Before pitching I did intensive research for 6 months on the market, trends, and competitors. I also took time to understand the problem each of the potential clients was undergoing consequently customized the pitch to cater for their needs. I approached Unilever which at that time was facing stiff competition on its washing powder from Ariel and suggested that instead of using the same media and similar slogans they should try something different. Luckily, it coincided with the launch of their new look Omo so Unilever ltd was my first client. The second client was Kenafric ltd which we did a campaign of their Fresh mint.
How did you come up with the transit media business idea?
During my stay abroad I noticed that almost all buses had adverts but the situation in Kenya was completely opposite, very few buses carried brands. I believe it’s the uniqueness of the transits media that made it easier to break into the Kenyan market. The traditional billboards are static however you cannot ignore a moving bus!
Most start-ups fail within the first 6 months, how have you been able to thrive 2 years on?
I sacrifice all my short-term goals for so I can reap in the long run. Would you believe it if I told you that I don’t draw any salary from my businesses?…take for example if I paid myself Ksh 150,000 a month which isn’t much, in a year I would have reduced the capital by almost 2 million. Most start ups fail because the entrepreneurs get excited when they make some money which they end up misusing. I’m an ardent follower of the law of delayed gratification.
How do you survive competition?
I give my very best to clients. In wouldn’t want to have 99% control of an industry that is only 1% of marketing! I like competition since it gives visibility, credibility and helps grow the transit media industry. It maybe painful to lose a client to a competitor however I’m not about to lose sleep because someone else is making money!
What kind of car do you drive?
(Laughing) did you have to ask that?…well my weekend car is BMW Z4 while my weekdays car is a Toyota Rav4. I moved down from UK with the sports car since I really loved it. During the first year of running Tria Group I would use a Toyota TownAce to drive to work and back and my guys would use it for branding at night. Though now the TownAce is a fully-fledge company car.
What do you look for when hiring employees?
I look for creativity and passion. I demand that they give me two things; their brains and the hearts. I want the name on the door to remain long after I’m gone so I ask my employees to operate as if I’m already dead!
What kind of manager are you?
I’m 80 % democratic. I give directions but not constantly micromanage. If there is a decision to be made I don’t dictate as the boss instead we put it to vote as a team. The only time I interfere is when I feel I’m absolutely right and on decisions with financial implications.
Do you think University Education is really worth it?
(Chuckles) honestly, I’m mixed about this. What I learnt in campus had nothing to do with what we were taught in class. Universities don’t teach life skills though they offer an opportunity to travel, network, experience new things and make one appreciate diverse cultures and traditions. I would advice all college students to either seek employment or start a business while still on campus whoever small it might be. This will equip them with the necessary discipline to thrive once they complete.
How do you unwind?
At the moment my social life is zero. I hardly get time to spend with my wife. Whenever I get time, I play and watch football. Occasionally I practice Dejaying on my equipment at home. I can work Monday to Saturday however Sunday is purely family time so we mostly go out and watch movies.
What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs?
First of all, discover what you are most talented and passionate about then venture into a unique niche. Don’t do what everyone else is trying to do. Focus all your attention, energy and persevere. Being impatient can be a virtue since successful entrepreneurs don’t wait too long before pursuing their business ideas. Nonetheless don’t be in a rush to go shopping on getting your first check. Money should never be the main motivation; it is simply a reward which should be ploughed back into the business. Remember you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Written By Mark Maish