March 22nd was the last of the five-day Ideal Interiors Expo that was held at the Oshwal Centre Auditorium in Westlands, Nairobi. I attended the event on this particular day and though I had planned to spend only an hour at the venue, I realized that this was an unrealistic plan. Read on and you will see why.
What is the Ideal Interiors Expo all about?
The Ideal Interiors Expo is an annual event that started in the year 2010. It has progressively brought together service and product providers and their target market – homeowners. I have attended most of the events since I was in campus. This was the 6th edition.
Sai Raj Limited – uPVC Roofing and Ceiling
The first booth I visited was run by Sai Raj Limited. The company was showcasing its new range of uPVC products including its DecoRoof brand of uPVC roofing sheets and uPVC ceiling. They also had polycarbonate sheets.
Both the DecoRoof and polycarbonate sheets came in different colours. As Martin Munene, the sales representative explained to me, the sheets are also available in different gauges. A fellow visitor and I engaged Martin in a discussion regarding the polycarbonate sheets and their ability to withstand the effects of harsh weather and also their ability to prevent the growth of algae, which usually leads to decolourization.
Shah Timber Limited – Furniture, Doors, Decking and more
Next I visited the Shah Timber Limited booth. Here, I met Nita and Chetan Shah. I learnt that the family business has been in operation since 1960 and that they are behind some of the exclusive woodwork furniture in some of the top hotels in Kenya.
“We are the ones who did the decking at English Point Marina,” Nita said while she was pointing at the deck on which I was standing. “It has two textures on either side. Buyers can count on it since we even offer a 10-year guarantee”
I enquired on why they are hardly known in the expos circles.
“We never advertise ourselves,” Nita went on. “In fact it is our son who prodded us to make this year an exception and we are glad it is turning out well for us. However, those who know us always know where to find us”
They had a Kshs 230,000 bed for Enashipai Lodge that drew my attention. I learnt that the cost of furniture per room in the hotel was an average of Kshs 1 million. They also had a wide array of hardwood panel doors.
“We prefer dealing with projects since we are not really a retail-oriented business,” Nita mentioned. “But we have done projects for homes too.”
Shah Timbers are situated in Nairobi’s Industrial Estate along Homa Bay Road.
Hypermart Limited – Kitchens
Later on, I toured a booth run by Hypermart Limited. They are a business focused on household appliances. At this event, they were displaying the Elba range of kitchen appliances. Ronak, Amit and Celia were keen on explaining the suitability of each appliance for different needs in the kitchen, whether large or small.
“We are keen on the changing tastes of our consumers,” said Ronak in a chat we had. “Most of our clients are keen on the style and design of their kitchens and Italian designs are the best and Elba as a brand embodies this very well.”
Hypermart have been in business since 1993 and they are banking on their experience and better understanding of the Kenyan market as a crucial factor in providing after-sales maintenance services for their consumers. They are the company behind the Ramtons brand of appliances.
Ronak explained to me the origins of the name “Ramtons” which comes from the initials of three of his family members:
R – Ronak
A – Anand
M – Manish
TONS – extra characters to give it some oomph
Plumbware – Sanitaryware and Tiles
I proceeded to a booth run by Plumbware. They are the suppliers of sanitary ware brands Grohe and Roca. They also supply the Azulev range of Spanish ceramic and porcelain tiles. Here I met with Manpreet and Amrita who took their time to explain more about their business.
“Plumbware has been around for 22 years now,” said Manpreet. “We are not only suppliers of sanitary ware and tiles but we also have a team that is focussed on bathroom designs”
Victoria Furnitures Limited – Kitchens
It was also worth noting that companies widely associated with the supply of office and home furniture are diversifying their businesses. Victoria Furnitures Ltd is one of them. For two and a half years now, they have been operating a division focused on kitchens. At their booth, they had on display an intelligent kitchen. Jasper Okoth, who is a CAD designer took time to demonstrate the features of the kitchen, including the automated, hidden storage areas that can be operated at the touch of the button. I had a chat with Amar Shah, an executive at Victoria.
“We have done a number of kitchens over the last 2 years,” Amar Shah said. “Most of these have been for individual homes, but we are planning to scale up and get into projects.”
“Why aren’t you involved with projects at the moment?” I asked.
“There’s a challenge with projects such as apartments or gated communities,” Amar said, “One must come with a kitchen design that will impress every potential buyer. As we grow in a competitive market we are hopeful that we shall offer the best kitchens in Kenya”
Antarc Furniture Limited – Engineered and Laminate Floors
The other company associated with furniture supply is Antarc Furniture. During this event, however, they had their new range of flooring solutions on display. Ravi Ganesan mentioned that the company chose to diversify into offering engineered flooring and laminated flooring products.
Floor Decor Kenya – Pergo Laminate Floors
The other flooring solution provider present was Floor Décor Kenya who are the suppliers and installers of Pergo floor laminates. Pergo is a Belgian brand that is popular due to its remarkable resistance to scratching. The company has been in business in Kenya for five years now. Amos Kibaru, the sales executive, went on to explain that they had introduced a new laminate product for the kitchens. It has waterproofing properties that add to its resilience and resistance to scratches.
Regarding the projects they are currently operating, Floor Décor Kenya, has been able to do installations for individuals and apartment developments. I was intrigued by one of the projects at one of the international schools in Nairobi, where they are scheduled to install Pergo laminates in the dormitories and other facilities such as the kitchen.
In addition to Victoria furniture kitchens, I also got to visit Kolma Kitchens booth. They were the sponsors of the event’s raffle prize of a fully fitted kitchen. Here I met Faith Kosgei who guided visitors through the kitchen products and appliances. Kolma Kitchens have a workshop in Industrial Area.
ArchiDatum – Interactive Website
The first unique booth I came across was run by ArchiDatum. Here I met Michael Mathenge, whom I knew back in campus. It was within a week of the re-launch of their information website and additional features and resources for their large audience.
“We began ArchiDATUM back in campus,” says Michael while pulling out posters that I used to see in the hallways of ADD Building in the University of Nairobi. “We had to sit down and re-work on our strategy and actually address the information gap that exists in architecture and construction across Africa.”
He explained the new features: the store and community. ArchiDatum is hoping to impact on various communities in Kenya using these and other features through implementing projects using solutions provided by the online community.
You can sign up at ArchiDatum and participate in the discussions as you rise through the ranks of membership.
Bonzo Art Gallery – Artist
The last booth I visited was hosted by an artist, Adrian Nduma. His booth spanned from one corner to the next. The wall and space had framed paintings, from small ones to large ones.
“What is the range of prices for your pieces?” I asked Adrian.
We had a lengthy discussion in between which visitors would come inquiring about prices and getting contacts so that their kids could be trained by Adrian, who has been a full-time artist for ten years now. He was a banker for five years and he had even enrolled for an MBA course before he left the banking job for painting.
“There was a couple who bought a piece and they said they were going to build their home around that piece of art – it was going to influence the design of their house”
He has done artwork for hotels, offices and he mentioned that one of his pieces is hung at Nairobi’s State House.
His studio, Bonzo Art Gallery, is situated along Ngong Road.
Through interacting with the above exhibitors and many more, I learnt that homeowners and businesses alike have a lot to reap from expos and trade fairs such as the Ideal Interiors Expo. I enjoyed talking more to exhibitors who gave visitors all their attention and who were willing to provide more information even after the event. Booths that had knowledgeable and confident sales representatives attracted visitors. Some exhibitors were excited at inviting guests to visit their showrooms in order to experience more than what was at the venue.
There are more real estate and construction expos lined up this year. Watch this space as we fill you in on the details. Attend some too!