Tasteful pieces of furniture and elegant interiors, line Panesar’s Kenya Limited showroom giving an exquisite artistic appeal. Their ornate designs ooze class, sheer opulence and evident mastery.
The showroom located along Mombasa Road gives just a taste of what a Kenyan business spanning 69 years of existence has to offer – dexterously handcrafted furniture.
It’s a journey that dates back to 1942 when Kundan Singh Panesar came to the country from India. Kundan who was 25 years at the time had grown up in a family of bull cart makers where he picked and polished his skill in craftsmanship.
“My grandfather was excited about the opportunity to come to Kenya to make cabins for train because of his love for art,” says Vir Panesar, his grandson and the Chief Operating Officer of the company.
From making cabins, his finesse in the skill earned him an opportunity to work in the British colonialist’s homes before starting his own business in 1948.
Ever since, the enterprise has carved and maintained a niche for itself in offering fine furniture and interior pieces for homes and offices for high net worth individuals.
Panesar has had a long list of high-profile clients attracted to the furniture for their indigenous craftsmanship. The remarkable products furnish the Kenyan State House, State House Uganda, State House Tanzania, Presidential Palace of Juba, Aga Khan Hospital, Polana Serena in Mozambique, among others.
According to Vir, crafting exceptional furniture all boils down to the kind of raw materials used. Eight types of wood including cypress, mahogany and palm wood are sourced and dried in the kilns in preparation for furniture production process. “Having wood in itself is not a challenge, treating the wood to produce quality furniture is key,” he says.
Customised designs The wood is mainly sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, Canada and South Sudan since Kenya has a no logging policy. It goes through a drying kiln before skilled craftsmen carve customised designs suited to the tastes and preferences of the clients.
They are sanded, polished and upholstered with tailor-made fabric to come up with the finished product Adding an accent of precious stones to some of the furniture, further adds to their sophistication and beauty. When Kundan retired in 1982 he handed over the business to his son Moni Panesar.
Moni introduced his son, Vir to the business in 2011 and together they are steering the brand forward. Vir’s entry into the business has injected fresh blood.
“For a long time we have designed our furniture to bring out a Victorian classic style mainly inspired by the British since many of our clients preferred it that way. Over the past five years we have been incorporating modern contemporary designs to cater for the needs of the modern day office and homeowners,” he says.
Even though he was born into the business, Vir wanted to chart his own path in life. As a child, his father would always bring him to the business where he learnt the practicality of it.
“At home when something was broken my father would show me how to fix it,” he says. He went ahead to study a degree in sports science and biomechanics and a master’s in business in the UK.
“I always wanted to be a sports personality,” he says. It’s precisely the reason he ventured into professional cricket for six months while in the UK.
He did not do exceptionally well in cricket as he had expected and when he got a chance to join his father in the company he gladly took it. Just like his father and grandfather, learning the skill has been important in managing Panesar.
“All our products are hand made and labour-intensive so you need to know the process to be in the business,” he adds. It’s a fulfilling journey, he says.
As he is groomed by his father to take over the business 100 per cent, Vir is determined to maintain the legacy built by his predecessors and steer the over Sh300 million net worth business to an international brand.
Company Website: www.panesarinteriors.com