Kenya has a total of 58 insurers and reinsurers with the big players being CIC, Britam, ICEA and Lion General. The other dominant local insurance company is APA Insurance.
In this article, WoK brings you the story of Ashok Shah – the founder of APA Insurance.
Ashok Shah is the current Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Apollo Investments Limited which owns APA Insurance. Ashok Shah was born and raised in Nyeri County in the larger Central region. He attended Temple Road Primary /Indian Primary School Nyeri before proceeding to Chania High School (MP Shah Central High School) for his O level. He moved to the United Kingdom in 1966 and joined Sebright School, Wolverley for his A levels before joining Kingston University in England where he pursued Applied Chemistry.
Joining the Insurance Industry
During a past interview with Capital FM, Ashok revealed that after clearing his course he began tarmacking but he could not find a proper job. His friend introduced him to the business of selling life insurance which shaped his future success.
“I remember knocking on people’s doors in the evenings during winter hoping to get customers. Despite the numerous challenges, I found myself enjoying the job. The pay was also much better than what I was getting in chemistry. The challenges taught me a lot. I learnt how to approach people, it taught me discipline, it also taught me discipline, it also taught me how to do marketing,” he explained.
Establishing APA Insurance.
He was involved in the insurance business for a few years until in 1977 when he took a three-week trip to Kenya to bury his father. That was the trip that changed his life.
“We came together as a family and used my experience from working in the United Kingdom to establish Apollo Insurance Company limited. After the formation of the company, I took time to familiarize myself with all aspects of insurance in the Kenyan market. During this time, we appointed an insurance expert to lead the company for about two years before formally taking over as CEO in the 1980s,” he stated.
APA Insurance Kenya was formed after the merger of the general insurance business of Apollo Insurance Company and Pan Africa Insurance. With a combined experience of over 100 years (Pan Africa – 1946 and Apollo – 1977), APA Insurance has grown to become the largest insurance firm in Kenya. The company underwrites general insurance risks such as agriculture, motor, marine and micro insurance as well as individual and family health insurance. One of its major clients is the Kenya Airports Authority and at one point compensated them Ksh 1.97 billion in a record time of 6 months following a fire incident at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Success and Leadership of Apollo Investments Limited
Today the company has grown to be worth millions under the brand name Apollo Investments Limited. The conglomerate has 6 subsidiaries including APA Insurance, APA Life, APA Uganda, Apollo Asset Management, Gordon Court (Apollo Centre) and Reliance Insurance, Tanzania. The company has Daniel Ndonye as Chairman, Ashok Shah as Group CEO, Risper Ohanga as Director, Pratul Shah as Secretary, S M Shah, P J Shah, Piyush Shah and Jeremy Rowse as directors. Richard Ashley is the Chairman of APA Life.
Ashok Shah is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and serves as a director at Central Depository System Corporation, APA Insurance (Uganda), Reliance Insurance Company (Tanzania), Apollo Life Assurance Limited and Apollo Asset Management.
He has previously served as Chairman Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) from 1998 to 2000, Chairman Association of Round Tables in Eastern Africa from 1988 to 1989, President Rotary Club of Nairobi from 2008 to 2009, Director of Barclays Bank Kenya from 2011 to 2020 and Director of Island Life Assurance, Mauritius in 2021.
He is the first recipient of the Think Business LifeTime Achievement Award for his contribution to the Kenyan insurance industry. He is also involved in various social activities including supporting the needy people in the society.