From Grocery Shop To Retail Kings: Inside Chandarana Supermarket 63 Years Of Resilience

For Chandarana Foodplus Supermarket chain, it has been a journey that began in 1959 when the founder, the late Shantilal Mulji Thakkar opened a grocery shop in Highridge Shopping Center. The shop sold grains, powders and spices and mostly targeted the Asian clientele base in Parklands.

However, in 1980, the founder’s first born son Annil Thakkar sought to expand the family’s business and opened the first retail store in Yaya, Nairobi. His father was skeptical of the idea, warning of the high operating costs that they would incur. However, the son’s obstinate determination saw him proceed as Chandarana and gradually began to spread its tentacles. Annil worked alongside his father when he was only 18.

Before the family’s patriarch’s death in 2000, he had already honed the business skills of his three sons: Anil Thakkar, Sanjay Thakkar and Dipin Thakkar. All of the sons joined the family business at a tender age.

In an interview with the Enterprise-a segment on the Standard newspaper, the youngest son, Dipin Thakkar intimated that their father mentored them on critical roles such as customized service, timely payment to suppliers and basic management of a store.

The memory we hold and cherish is the personalized customer service dad showed us.. respecting the supplier and timely payment was another must in his books. The legacy continues, through learning from his leadership skill,” said Dipan.

At their father’s stores, the 3 siblings did cleaning, stocked shelves, received goods from suppliers and did packing and taking goods to customers cars.

Avoiding Sibling Rivalry 

Many family owned ventures have always faded to whimpers due to sibling rivalry and internal fighting. However, the three Chandarana siblings seemed to have mastered a proper way of maintaining cohesion and keeping their brand vibrant.

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To ensure accountability, they have demarcated roles among themselves. Anil Thakkar is in charge of product selection and purchasing, Sanjay Thakkar deals with operations and stock control while Dipan Thakkar is in charge of finance, IT and marketing.

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According to Dipan, since childhood, they have been guided by deep principles that they adhere to.

The key elements that hold a family together; respect, trust, integrity and teamwork have been quite essential in running the business successfully,” he told Enterprise.

Gradual Expansion 

Chandarana Foodplus has steadily expanded over the years. By 2013, they had 8 branches. By the time of this publication, the brand has 24 branches to its name with the latest being located at the Stop Mall on Rhapta Road, Westlands. There are plans to open up three more stores in Riverside, General Mathenge and Thigiri.

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In recent years, Chandarana pumped Ksh 10 million into a rebranding strategy that saw them drop the traditional blue and white colour to the current green and white. This was as a result of the supermarket’s diversification strategy to begin selling fresh, perishable groceries. In 2021, Chandarana partnered with online store Glovo in order to tap into the highly lucrative online shopping venture.

2018 Racism Scare 

In July, 2018 the retail store found itself in a nasty situation when an email meant to market its products by giving incentives to Caucasians was allegedly leaked. It is claimed the message which led to a public uproar was written by a newly employed staff to one of the managers informing him of their change of focus to white people.

We are delighted to inform you that our supermarket chain, [sic] would like to give you free vouchers to winner/raffles/best performer/runners up candidate in upcoming events. As we are now focusing on white people [sic] to attract our supermarkets,” read the message.

The retailers were forced to issue an apology, saying the perceived message was not what they intended. They however said that they were going to take disciplinary actions on the staff member involved.

The immense magnitude of this error undoubtedly comes to us as a severe embarrassment and all the apologies in the world cannot make such a wrong a right again.We will take all the stern and strict steps necessary to ensure it never happens,” read their apology.

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