he Sarit Centre is one of the largest shopping malls in East Africa and the first ever enclosed shopping mall, boasting 500,000 sq ft on six levels. The centre, which opened in 1983, offers a modern and diverse shopping experience, including 250,000 square feet of retail and office space to some 70 retail/service outlets and 50 other tenants.
For most Europeans and Indians the end of the Colonial era and Kenya's approaching Independence in the early Sixties was traumatic and they subsequently sold up and left, not so for two young Indian men, both working in their family businesses in the up-country townships of Murang’a and Karatina. Sobhagayachand Vidhu Shah (known as Bachu or Bachubhai to all his acquaintances) and his friend Maneklal Rughani saw it as an opportunity.
Drawing on their families’ resources they moved to Nairobi and started the Text Book Centre, providing text books, stationery and sports goods to the growing number of schools across the country.
|| In 1973, his Holiness Sat Guru Pujya Hariram Bapa on a visit to Bachubhai Shah, then living in a house on land where The Sarit Centre now stands. advised “never sell, buy the adjacent plots, this land is blessed”. Advice the businessmen took, when a few years later on a trip to London Maneklal Rughani visited the new Brent Cross Mall, and returned determined to build a similar shopping complex in Nairobi.
The neighbouring plots were purchased, an architect briefed and construction started. However the project had to be abruptly halted following a coup attempt in 1982 but a much scaled-down complex opened in April, 1983 - The Sarit Centre was a reality.
The Sarit Centre remains an owner-managed business up to today, tribute to the enduring 50-year old partnership between the two friends and directed now by third generation Kenyans who trace their roots and business success back to their forefathers who came to Kenya in the early 1900’s
It took more than 18 months to fill the Centre which opened with just two tenants, Text Book Centre and the Uchumi supermarket. The early days were difficult, with empty units being filled on an interim basis with temporary tenants to provide the Centre with the hustle and bustle and sense of achievement which was a great success in encouraging shoppers.
The Sarit Centre is a modern inter-active shopping mall that has four levels of retail and service outlets, two tower office blocks, a health facility run by the Africa Air Rescue and private doctor’s rooms. It is located in the suburb of Westlands, a dynamic commercial growth centre three kilometres from Nairobi’s CBD.
The mall is designed to meet the requirements of residents and businesses who want to avoid the crowded CBD. It brings together a huge range of products and services in a neat, enclosed environment where people feel secure and comfortable.
Virtually all retail and service requirements are met under one roof. This has been achieved with the ambiance of wide malls, security and a degree of entertainment that meets the needs and expectations of most Nairobi residents.
Loyal shoppers can obtain and build up points on purchases to later trade these against other purchases, parking fees or participation in promotions.
The Centres main focus is to provide excellent world class customer service. To achieve this, consultants from South Africa have trained tenants on aspects of customer service, shop front and lighting improvement as well as display techniques. Customer service remains the Centre’s most important challenge.
Promotion and marketing of The Sarit Centre is an important aspect of the business. Since 1983, events and exhibitions have comprised a major component of the Centre’s marketing strategy. As far back as 1984, the Centre set aside an exhibition area for in-mall events. These events generate their own income and support advertising on all above and below-the-line media. Community events, trade and consumer fairs are a major component of the Centre’s marketing strategy.
To boost its promotions, the brand has produced several promotional/ marketing materials including special slogans that have been very successful. The Centres slogan “a City within a City’ has lived through the years and is widely understood and associated with the centre. Promotional slogans like “Lick, Stick & Win” and Scratch & Win” are synonymous with The Sarit Centre many years after these innovative promotions were first held with gifts of up to Kshs 20 million given away at Christmas.
Things you need to know about The Sarit Centre
- The Sarit Centre was the first ever and remains one of the largest enclosed shopping malls in East Africa and the first ever.
- The complex boasts built-up space of 500,000 sq ft. on six levels, half of which is leased retail.
- Average daily vehicle count in the Centre’s own car parks and adjoining roads in excess of 5,500.
- Average daily pedestrian traffic is approximately 25,000
- The Centre boasts many “first” in shopping centre management in Kenya and was the first to start a loyalty scheme for its shoppers and annual prize Christmas shopping promotions.