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From Refugees To Tycoons

After nearly a century of hard work, a family that arrived in Nigeria as refugees looks to a 21st century laden with business opportunities in Africa.

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It all began in the 1920s, when Kishin Chand Chellaram stepped off a boat and onto the shores of Lagos. He had heard from a family friend that there was money to be made in Nigeria and had journeyed for months across the sea to find out if this was true.

Chellaram was a small textile business owner in his hometown of Hyderabad. In 1923, he joined other Sindhis who were venturing into Nigeria’s growing economy. After two weeks of exploring his options, he sent for the first consignment of goods.

In the late 1940s the Chellarams, who are Hindu, were forced to leave their home after East and West Pakistan were formed as a Muslim state. The Chellarams sold all their assets, exchanging them for coupons in Bombay, and set up shop permanently in Lagos.

The name Chellaram became known in Nigeria for retail, operating 17 department stores across the country selling groceries, cosmetics, textiles, luxury items and electronics from the early 1950s up until 1992, when economic and political conditions in the country slowed down its operations. The family business survived as Chellarams Plc. and is one of the largest conglomerates in Nigeria, with a business portfolio consisting of fast-moving consumer goods, chemicals distribution, a bicycle manufacturing division, a food packaging unit contracted to Nestlé Nigeria, an industrial goods sales and service subsidiary, a textiles manufacturing unit, a plastic film manufacturing unit,  quick service restaurants, a travel agency and a retail operations business.

This mixed bag of companies is now run by Kishin Chand’s great-grandson, Suresh, his wife Kavita and his two children, Aditya and Amisha. Although the company listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1978, 75% of the business is still held by the family; 20% belongs to shareholders and the remaining 5% is in the name of a Nigerian charity.

“My great-grandfather was the first Indian member in Nigeria’s prestigious Ikoyi Club and the first Indian to live in Ikoyi,” says Aditya proudly.

Amisha was behind the first foray of South African retail giant Woolworths into Nigeria. She started as a franchisee in 2002, but operations halted in 2005 due to an importation ban on garments and footwear. In November 2011, the deal was reopened as a joint venture business that will see three stores running in major shopping centers in the country this year. The company also made headlines in Nigeria when it entered into a joint venture with RJCorp of India and Yum! Restaurants International as the sole operator of the KFC brand in Nigeria. Today, 15 stores operate in Nigeria, with plans to open another 15 stores this year.

Chellarams has also partnered with big international names like American Express travel services, Oldenburger and Real (dairy products), as well as chemical companies like Shell and Bayer, and other international consumer durables and electronics companies. The company’s biggest trading line is chemicals for the foam mattress industry and 70% of their chemicals sold go into this.

“Nigerians are very savvy and well traveled, so they are exposed to international brands. They are looking for brands and these brands are looking for Nigeria now. With the recession in Europe and America, everyone is looking to Nigeria now and Chellarams is positioning itself to be a partner for these guys—not just an investment partner but a strategic partner that can provide services and that has the local knowledge. We will keep finding ways to leverage these partnerships to grow our other businesses,” says Aditya.

The Chellarams family is a picture of success in Nigeria, but it has not been easy. As any Nigerian business owner can tell you, manoeuvering the political and socio-economic environment in the country is an uphill battle. Nigeria has had a turbulent past, which has resulted in a tough business climate.

“A difficult period was the early to mid-’90s with the major devaluation and the ’94 election saga,” Aditya reminisces.

“International credit lines were given to Nigerian banks and they were crawling on repaying these loans. They began to aggressively try and cease advantage and take over our house. Real estate really saved us then and we have had to sell some iconic real estate that we owned, including warehouses, retail stores and an office tower.”

Remarkably, the family was not derailed by the oil boom of the ’60s when many companies were rushing to get a piece of Nigeria’s black gold.

“We are not running after a rainbow. It is a high investment business and we were small boys. It’s a game that is not for Indians or foreigners but a game for the indigenes. Our aim is to supply products that benefit these businesses which, Chellarams believes, is a better business model anyway.”

Africa hosts more than 150 Indian businesses today, many of whom are trying to penetrate Nigeria’s market. The company claims that it is not threatened by the increasing number of similar businesses entering the space it has occupied for the last 88 years. Rather, Chellarams is more worried about competition from Nigerian companies that are able to operate with lower overheads and have more focused product lines, geography and customer base within Nigeria. These businesses import their products and sell them at much lower prices.

The family is trying to invest in Nigeria’s power sector and capitalize on the government’s plan to reform and deregulate the sector. Chellarams had already formed a company called Solar Power Generation Ltd, which has already commissioned two gas-powered generators and has attained permission to sell power to their neighbors in the industrial areas of Lagos. This project has the capacity to hold up to 50 megawatts. Currently, Nigeria is the only country in which the family operates, but its next step is West African expansion in both the Anglophone and Francophone parts of the continent. Chellarams Plc. is already looking into sponsoring activities in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, where the plan is to create the pull effect for their goods into these three nations. Chellarams also has its eye on a full-time operation in Ghana.

To finance its growth objectives, the company issued a N1.5 billion ($9 million) BBB-bond in December 2010 and a second tranche of N3.5 billion ($22 million) in December 2011.

“For now, we are just holding back and looking, but we expect partnerships to be a big part of the brand. This is the business model that is prime for a region that everyone is trying to come into at once.”

The family says it will continue Kishin Chand’s Nigerian dream in the 21st century. When people ask where they come from, the family says: “We are Sindhi refugees but Nigeria has been a warm welcome.”

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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