Car Club Kenya founder Sanjiv Shah at his business premises in Baba Dogo, Nairobi on October 25, 2022 PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG
In the world of luxury cars, Sanjiv Shah is a well-known figure. That familiarity stems from the decades he has spent selling high-end brands including Mercedes, Jaguar, and Land Rover in Kenya and the United Kingdom.
In the local market, he has held senior positions at dealers like DT Dobie and Inchcape Kenya –where he was the CEO and which marked his last employment when he left the company in March 2019.
After a hiatus of just over three years, Sanjiv is back but this time as an entrepreneur. In a commercial building off Nairobi’s Baba Dodo Road, he has set up Car Club Kenya, a company that deals in importing, servicing, and restoration of luxury cars.
The start-up, in which Sanjiv has invested about $1 million (Sh121 million) so far, is focusing on serving clients interested in or already owning Audi, Porsche, Land Rover, Jaguar, BMW, Bentley, Lexus, Maserati, and Mercedes models.
Of these brands, only BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Land Rover currently have formal dealerships appointed by vehicle manufacturers. Sanjiv has assembled a multicultural team, featuring technicians who have worked at various automakers in the UK and Asia.
Car Club has also invested in technology that can diagnose technical problems in luxury modern cars, linking the company with overseas service providers.
“I believe that the service we are offering is truly unmatched in the local market,” Sanjiv said at his office overlooking the newly built service bay where cars that are worked on with their engines running have their exhaust fumes evacuated through a special plumbing infrastructure.
He started harbouring ambitions of setting up his own shop in 2013 when he was involved in the establishment of RMA Kenya –a dealer that took over the Jaguar Land Rover franchise from CMC Holdings.
He was appointed the chief executive of RMA and retained the position in 2018 when the dealer was acquired by Inchcape Kenya. He left Inchcape the following year.
“I had wanted to go into business with RMA but the company, being a multinational, was not open to private participation,” Sanjiv said.
With Car Club, which he fully owns, he sees his passion for cars and business coming together. He recently bought a Maserati Levante, adding to his collection of luxury cars.
He notes that Car Club, focusing on a multi-brand business model and serving owners of both new and used cars, is free from the restrictions that befall franchise holders.
Sanjiv says that whatever Car Club does, it will almost always quote a cheaper rate. The cheaper prices, he says, are not a reflection of the quality of services.
“We are very transparent in our quotes and there are instances where we will be cheaper by even 50 percent because we don’t have to maximise our margins,” he said.
Of the three-pronged offering, service is set to bring in most of Car Club’s revenue just because of the recurring nature of fixing cars, undertaking repairs, and replacing consumables such as oil.
Car service intervals vary but changing of oil, oil filter, and air filters are recommended every 5,000 to 10,000 kilometres. Those buying new luxury cars –a group well known to Sanjiv— are unlikely to become his customers until their warranty at the local formal dealerships run out.
Thereafter, Car Club’s promise of quality service and more competitive charges could lure them. For those seeking to buy new or used luxury cars, the company says it is offering a flexible arrangement to deliver the car they want to their driveway.
“We have access to new and slightly used cars –three to six months old— through our trade channels,” Sanjiv said.
“You come to us and tell us what model you want and your budget. We will then find out what is available and give you options.”
He added that Car Club will add a margin which will be disclosed to the client. The company also stocks original parts and accessories.
The third leg in the company’s strategy is restoration, an offering that will appeal to individuals seeking to bring to life their favourite classic cars.
The Car Club premises is a shell of what looks like a big SUV which a client has tasked the company to make roadworthy again. Resembling nothing in the modern era, it looks like a car that made it to these shores in colonial times.
The company will also offer value-added service for its “club” members in the form of warranty cover. This will, for the first time, provide a warranty to used cars.
Partnering with a local insurer and an international reinsurer, Car Club will perform inspections and offer to fix the cars within the warranty period. The product is being fine-tuned and is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
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