Keroche Breweries Limited started back in 1997 as a small family business. It was a result of a market survey conducted by the Founders Mr. & Mrs. Tabitha Karanja on opportunities available in manufacturing market then.
The market research revealed a gap in the liquor market that was to later to turn out to be “jealously guarded” market by a multinational for over 80 years. The research further revealed a unique trend that for all this years was ignored: the lower end of the market.
According to United Nations statistics then, 56%of Kenyans lived below the one dollar a day poverty mark which simply means a huge population was not targeted by the existing multinational. This fact would then reveal why the illicit brew industry thrived much as people went for the cheap although dangerous brews not only because of lack of funds but also lack of choice.
This would form the entry base for Keroche Breweries Limited in the Kenyan liquor market.
Tabitha Karanja is the founder of Keroche Breweries, the first ever beer factory to be owned by a Kenyan. Though she faced many challenges including competition from multinationals, high taxation and meddling from high powered government officials, Karanja’s resilience has seen the business which she started with little capital grow into a multi-billion shilling firm. Karanja plans to expand the company’s production line with the expected launch of a new $29 million plant next year.
1. What was your first job?
I worked as a librarian with a government parastatal. I later started a hardware business.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My family. I have always felt the responsibility to succeed and never fail them. They have also held me up and encouraged me during tough times.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I owe the success of Keroche Breweries to Kenyans who decided to support me no matter what. How to satisfy our customers keeps me awake. We are currently thinking of expanding the beer section. I will be at ease when I know Kenyans can get constant and regular supply of their beer throughout [the country].
4. What are the top reasons for your success in business?
Having a vision, a dream and a cause. Hard work and resilience have also been key. Finding the right team to work with you is also paramount.
5. What are the best things about Kenya?
Kenya is probably the kingpin in Africa both on development and opportunity. Many countries are looking upon us and that tells you we have a lot of potential and opportunity.
6. And the worst?
In the last 15 years there have been many positive transitions from governance to even economic empowerment as a country. However a lot still needs to be done, especially on legislation.
7. Your future career plans?
My future lies here at Keroche Breweries. Right now our focus is to build more on the five year strategic plan for the company. We are hoping to fully increase our market share in Kenya to 30% and 20% in the spirit and beer markets respectively. Then we hope in the next three years to explore the East African market before finally going African. My dream is to see Keroche grow to the whole of Africa.
8. How do you relax?
I spend time with my family over a good meal. When I get time I jog and of course music makes my day. I love good music with a Christian message.
9. What is your message for Africa’s aspiring young business people and entrepreneurs?
In whatever you do, money shouldn’t be your only objective.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
We need to support our own and encourage more entrepreneurs in Africa. Let’s build Africa by buying African.