Top 25 Most Influential Chair of Board Impacting Business

Simba Corp. under Mr Adil Popat, has established itself as a FOE with a difference: An independent Board of Directors that include independent non-executive directors, with a diversified skill sets and experience, as per the tenets of good corporate governance practice


Adil Popat


Established in 1968 by Mr A.K.C. Popat, Simba Corporation (Simba Corp.) – then known as Simba Motors, has grown into an integrated business group headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya with a rich heritage and interests in diversified businesses such as local assembly of motor vehicles, sales and service of several global motor brands, hospitality, investments, financial services and realty.

This family-owned enterprise (FOE) acquired the Mitsubishi franchise in 1968. The firm briefly joined the CMC Motors Group, but exited in 1981, rebranding as Simba Colt Motors (SCM).

Currently, Simba Corp. distributes for established global brands such as Mitsubishi, Mahindra, Fuso Trucks and Buses, SAME Tractors and the newly launched, fully assembled in Kenya, Proton from Malaysia.

Simba Corp. under Mr Adil Popat, has established itself as a FOE with a difference: An independent Board of Directors that include independent non-executive directors, with a diversified skill sets and experience, as per the tenets of good corporate governance practice. In 2016, Simba Corp. become one of first firms to sign the code of ethics for business in Kenya under the United Nations Global Compact Network – Kenya.

Adil Popat, son of founder – the late Abdul Karim Chaturbhai Popat popularly known amongst close friends as AKC, has amassed quite a wealth of business and hospitality knowledge with over 30 years’ experience.  Before joining Simba Colt in in 1994 as Finance Director, Adil had worked for Deloitte, Haskins & Sells Management Consultants, Hilton International Hotels in the USA and Hotel Lisboa in Portugal after completing his MBA.

Adil attended the University of Washington, Seattle, USA – where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with a major in Finance and Marketing. He proceeded to obtain an MBA with a specialisation in Finance at The Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, USA, incidentally arming himself with the necessary qualifications that has enabled him transform Simba Colt Motors as CEO since 2007 to Simba Corporation, that he now oversees from his seat as Executive Chairman since 2017.

Adil has served as a board member for the Wharton EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) Board for 9 years and continues to advise the school on African affairs. He served as Chairman for Young Presidents Organisation (YPO)–Gold for two years, Chairman of Kenya Motor Industry Association (KMI) from 2012-2015 and a member of the Aga Khan Economic Planning Board from Dec 2012 – Dec 2015. Adil is presently the Chairman of Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers Association (KVMA), from where he has made significant contribution to the future of the motor industry through his contribution to the cabinet approval of the first National Automotive Policy for Kenya, along with other industry leaders.  KVMA works closely with the government to drive more local production in line with National Policy. Simba Corporation operates through four divisions:

Simba Motors

It is under this division that Adil oversees the service and product offerings that cater for the motoring needs of clients, including commercial vehicles and cars, agricultural tractors, vehicle leasing through the AVIS franchise, distribution of Colt Power Solutions and AKSA power generators.

One of Adil’s major successes was to “acquire full control” of Associated Vehicle Assemblers (AVA) in Mombasa. AVA is one of two firms that offer motor vehicle assembly services on a contract basis. Since his 100% acquisition of AVA, local vehicle assembly has become increasingly vibrant as more international firms seek to take advantage of government incentives – including tax exemptions, to encourage local assembly, under the new Automotive Policy. AVA presently builds vehicles for 14 separate manufacturers including Toyota, Hino, Volvo, Scania, Fuso, Mitsubishi, Mahindra, Proton and others.

In 2020, AVA commenced local assembly of Mahindra pick-ups and Adil together with H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the launch at State House. Later in the same year, Simba launched local assembly and distribution of Proton, this time at the AVA plant in Mombasa, again launched by H.E. The President.  The Proton Saga saloon car went on sale from March 2021 and comes with a 5 year, 150,000Km warranty. It’s the first Completely Knocked Down (CKD) passenger vehicle assembled in Kenya in 25 years and offers Kenyans a locally built affordable vehicle.

Established in 1975 and started production in 1977, AVA has grown into the largest vehicle assembly in East Africa, with a capacity of building 30,000 vehicles annually and has produced over 150,000 vehicles to date. AVA has received endorsement from over 20 different source manufacturers around the world for its quality, which matches international standards. AVA is IATF 16949:2016 certified, and therefore is accredited in one of the automotive industry’s most widely used international standards for quality management.

Simba Hospitality

In 2012, Adil, armed with his hospitality experience, steered Simba Corp. into venturing into the hospitality industry with its first location – the Olare Mara Kempinski, a 12 tented luxury camp in the Mara. Thereafter in 2013, the first purpose-built 5-Star Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel was opened in Nairobi. The Acacia Premier Hotel in Kisumu was also opened in 2015.  In 2017 and aiming to increase its hospitality portfolio, Simba Corp. acquired a 35% stake in the Hemingways Group of Hotels. Simply known as the Hemingways Collection, it operates Hemingways Watamu, Ol Seki Hemingways Mara and Hemingways Nairobi.

Another brilliant idea under the Simba Corp. umbrella and managed by Adil’s daughters—Alyana and Alyssa, plus a first in Kenya, is the Nairobi Street Kitchen (NSK). This is Nairobi’s most unique dining experience inspired by innovative dining concepts from around the world. NSK is an eclectic collection of 11 restaurants, bars, and entertainment spaces that promise an exciting street food experience located in the heart of Westlands. It offers patrons a fun and funky backdrop to eat, unwind and shop, with some describing it as the most ‘instagrammable’ project in the entire East Africa region.

Fika Bistro is yet another cog in the engine that Adil controls from his steering wheel. This is a gourmet coffee house and restaurant located at the Aspire Centre in Westlands.

Uva Wines, is another addition, and is a vibrant young brand that sells a wide array of Portuguese and Italian wines in Kenya, run by his daughter Alyana.

Simba Hospitality prides itself as a market leader and innovator in the hospitality sector of Kenya.

Simba Financial Services

With its roots in the motor industry, it has pioneered vehicle leasing in Kenya offering tailor made and innovative leasing and financial solutions for both passenger and commercial vehicles. Their customers include the Government of Kenya and multinationals such as Diageo, Vivo, Eaton, L’Oréal and Coca-Cola to name but a few.  Simba was the first company to introduce formal leasing solutions in the Kenyan market with their deal with East African Breweries.

Simba Realty

Along the years, Simba Corp. hasan impressive portfolio of both developed and undeveloped properties around the country. Through this portfolio, Adil intends to continue growing their footprint and drive their impact as a successful Kenyan owned company.

Simba Foundation

This is the CSR arm of the Simba Corporation. Its focus areas include addressing urgent community needs under three pillars; Education and Entrepreneurship, Health and Disaster Management in regions where Simba Corp. is present with a vision to drive sustainable opportunities for the empowerment of targeted local communities. Its UNDA program is partnered with UAP Foundation and GTZ.

Simba Foundation aims to create sustainable value in Kenya’s developmental goals by aligning their CSR strategies with Simba’s broad organisational objectives and capabilities. Its mission is to provide a platform for underprivileged youth by equipping them with technical and business skills, building on Simba Corp’s established heritage and in providing healthcare interventions through partnerships.  Simba Foundation will build a first of its kind medical clinic in Kibera in partnership with SHOFCO, a community NGO active in the area.

Adil is an avid golfer, in fact, last we checked, he’s a 21-handicap golfer who values relationships, enjoys reading, loves travelling, single malts and the occasional cigar plus watching his favourite English side team, Manchester United play.

From the aforementioned humble beginnings, Simba Corporation employs over 1,300 people. Adil reinforces that the ethos and spirit of Simba Corp. is underpinned by its core values:  I Aspire. These values resonate with all those that lead, work for, partner with, and do business with the group. He encourages the team to articulate their personal aspirations and to provide input into the group’s aspirations as well. He believes that alignment of the company values with people values is fundamental for greater success and make Simba Corp. a role model for Kenyan companies contributing to the country.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

Related Posts

Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards 2024

Simultaneously, as Chair and Director of I&M Capital, a fund manager regulated by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Daniel oversees the implementation of various wealth management and advisory services (WMAS). This subsidiary, like I&M Bank, is under the umbrella of I&M Group PLC.

Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards 2024

In 2021, Dr. Mwangi took on the leadership position as Chair of The Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (KAPI), following a decade of dedicated service in various capacities, including Board Member, Honorary Treasurer, and Executive Secretary.