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HomecareerRupen Shah: UK-Educated Accountant Steering Victoria Courts to Regional Success

Rupen Shah: UK-Educated Accountant Steering Victoria Courts to Regional Success

Rupen Shah is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Victoria Courts – one of Kenya’s oldest high-end furniture dealers. He has been at the helm of the company since 2015, growing it to six local branches and one in Uganda.

Victoria Courts began as a single-location furniture store right around when Kenya gained independence. It was situated along Victoria Street – now Tom Mboya Street and was known as Victoria Furniture.

The UK-trained accountant has overseen the growth of the company over the years, leveraging his financial knowledge and risk-taking nature.

Victoria Courts CEO Rupen Shah. |Courtesy| Business Daily|
Victoria Courts CEO Rupen Shah. |Courtesy| Business Daily|

Background & Education

Shah attended Nairobi Academy before proceeding to the University of Nottingham in the UK. Between 1999 and 2002 he attended ICAEW graduating as a Chartered Accountant.

In 2019, he attended Stanford University Graduate Business School, obtaining a Stanford Seed Transformation Certificate.

Career

Before joining the family business, Shah served as a manager at KPMG between 1999 and 2008. He then proceeded to join senior management at Furniture International Limited.

Victoria Courts

In 2008, the company underwent a tough transitional period when the parents attempted to hand it over to the children. Succession had threatened to cause a rift in the family as witnessed in many families across the country.

The family would later squash their differences and call upon Shah to run the company. At the time, he was in the UK.

Having worked in well-structured professional environments in the UK, Shah was shocked by the state of operations at Victoria Courts. He purposed to instil change at the company from day one.

Victoria Courts CEO Rupen Shah. |Courtesy| Business Daily|
Victoria Courts CEO Rupen Shah. |Courtesy| Business Daily|

Another challenge lay within the family – while the younger were risk-taking, the older were risk-averse, posing a significant challenge in decision-making.

“You need to appreciate the different generational expectations within the family and that way, the transition becomes easy,” Shah told Business Daily in an Interview on April 2, 2024.

The Victoria Court CEO noted that the first year of running the business was challenging – having to balance between family, business, and shareholding.

“First, being a family member doesn’t automatically qualify one to join the business. Two, we had to maintain that family bond and thirdly, set up a family council just like a board of directors,” he explained.

The company initially specialised majorly on office furniture, but in 2012, Shah created a new division – Victoria Courts – focusing on household furniture. The move signified an aggressive expansion approach by the new generation.

The company is set to rebrand to Victoria Homestore.

“I wanted to give customers the right retail experience, and convenience, introduce a buy-now-pay-later scheme, bring modern furniture all under one roof and become the number one home furniture retailer in Kenya,” he said.

Couches by Victoria Courts. |Photo| Courtesy|
Couches by Victoria Courts. |Photo| Courtesy|

To further grow the company, Shah had to make tough decisions – but first, he had to become vulnerable and ask customers, and even his employees for advice on product sales.

He would later decide to cut the company’s interests in electronics, home decór, and kitchenware,  and focus on selling furniture.

Shah also decided to narrow down on the client pool, noting that they could not serve everyone. So the company settled on middle-income to high-end clients.

With six branches in Kenya and one in Uganda, Shah is targeting to open another 20 to 30 stores countrywide with locations in Eldoret, Mombasa, Nakuru among other towns. He is also looking to expand to Rwanda, DRC and Tanzania.