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Eng. Peter Njagi: How Riva Petroleum Founder Turned Sh45,000 Loan Into A Multi-Billion Business

Riva Petroleum dealers is one of the largest and most successful oil marketing companies in Kenya. The man behind this success story is Peter Njeru Njagi. He quit his job and went on to establish a billion plus business empire. Interestingly, he had little knowledge of the business but that did not stop him from founding Riva Petroleum. 

In this article, WoK takes a look at its founder, history and branches.

Engineer Peter Njeru Njagi

Peter Njeru Njagi attended the University of Nairobi, graduating in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering. He proceeded to Egerton University where he acquired a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) specializing in Finance.

He began his career at the Ministry of Roads and Public works as a Roads and Highway engineer, a position he held for 20 years.

He was stationed in Nyeri as a Government roads engineer before being posted in eight other departments to oversee different projects around the country. He quit to establish Riva Petroleum Dealers in 1996 with the aim of being a leading oil marketing company in the East African region.

Entrepreneurial Journey

The engineer borrowed a loan of Ksh45,000 from Ufundi Cooperative Sacco. He started by selling hardware tools to construction sites and within a period of three years he accumulated Ksh8 million.

It’s at this point that he decided to venture into the petroleum business although the start-up capital wasn’t enough. The engineer approached his bank for a loan but he was declined.

Also Read: The Little Known Tycoons And Companies Controlling The Lucrative Oil Industry In Kenya

“I needed a bank guarantee of Ksh6 million and I needed to buy stock and some vehicle. I didn’t have much security and had no previous experience in the industry,” he told KCB venture magazine.

A KCB bank manager thought he had a good idea and went on to facilitate a loan.

“I met this KCB Bank manager who was based in Nakuru, and he thought I had a good idea which the bank was willing to finance,” he said.

That is how Riva was born, and that’s how my relationship with KCB Bank began,” he told the KCB in-house publication.

“I was required to have tankers and didn’t know how they are partitioned. I also started selling lubricants despite not knowing much about them. As the business grew, I needed to recruit customers. I didn’t know that I would even develop into a fully-fledged company,” he told Ventures.

The business grew fast and in their first year, the turnover was ksh60 million and in the second year had jumped to ksh800 million. Now the company is dealing in billions.

Riva grew from a reseller to a fully fledged oil marketing company.

Riva Petroleum Dealers

Riva Petroleum Dealers is an established oil marketing company with operations in Kenya and Uganda. The company was registered on 21st June 1996 as a liability company and has grown from a small reseller to a widely-recognized brand in the region.

With its headquarters located at Mayfair Suites in Westlands Nairobi, the company operates a chain of over 25 retail petrol stations across the country under the brand name ‘RIVA.’

The company engages in import, distribution and transportation of crude oil, bitumen, LPG, Fuel oil, industrial diesel oil, automotive diesel, unleaded premium, unleaded regular, jet fuel and kerosene.

The company is currently the largest distributor of Shell lubricants in East Africa dominating the markets of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. It participates in the Kenyan Open Tender System (OTS) coordinated by the Ministry of Energy and has depots situated in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret.

Ownership of Riva Petroleum Dealers

According to an article published by Nation, Riva Petroleum Dealers is fully owned by the family of its founder, Peter Njeru Njagi. Mr. Njeru and his wife Dorcas Waguthi own 80,000 shares each while their children Wangui and Wawira own a collective 40,000 shares.

Leadership structure

His wife, who is a paediatrician by profession, gave up the medical world to study accounting and now heads the Finance department at Riva. His daughter, a lawyer by profession, also works at the family business in the legal department.

Engineer Peter Njeru’s other activities.

Apart from serving as the founder and Managing Director (MD) of Riva Petroleum Dealers, Njeru is involved in other various activities.

He is largely in the real estate industry serving as director of Fusion Capital limited, FREDS Limited, Hand in Hand East Africa Limited, Key 3 properties Limited, Briken (EA) and South Lake Developments limited.

He serves in the boards of various organizations including as the current Chairman of Petroleum Industry Association of Kenya (PIAK), International Vice President of IFES, a member of the Supplycor Committee, Chairman of NACPA and trustee of Nakuru Christian Professionals Association.

He was formerly the Chairman Finance committee of the University of Eldoret, Coordinating council member of FOCUS, trustee and fundraising committee of Biblica International, member of KRA Local committee Centre Rift Region, BOG member of Menengai and Nakuru high schools and Chairman of Nakuru Business Association.

Awards and Recognitions

In November 2011, he was a finalist at the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year awards for East Africa.

Following his immense contribution to the country’s economic structure, he received the Elder of the Burning Spear (EBS) award conferred to him by the late President Mwai Kibaki on 12th December 2011.

He also received a mark of ethics award (ELNET) in November 2016 for being an ethical leader with a successful career spanning over 20 years.