Tabitha Karanja Biography

Tabitha Karanja whose full name is Tabitha Mukami Muigai Karanja was born on 29th August 1964 near Kijabe. She is a Kenyan businesswoman, entrepreneur and industrialist. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Keroche Breweries, the first large brewery in Kenya owned by a non multinational company. Keroche accounts for 20% of Kenya’s beer consumption, as of October 2012.

After attending Kenyan schools, she took up employment in the Ministry of Tourism as an Accounting Clerk. Tabitha Karanja met and married her husband, who owned a successful hardware store in Naivasha town. In 1997, the couple closed the hardware store and went into the wine-making business

Tabitha Karanja Career

Beginning in 1997, Tabitha Karanja and her husband, started making fortified wine, targerting the lower end of the market. In 2007, when the government enacted heavy taxes on locally made wines, her product was priced out of the market. She switched to manufacturing ready-to-drink gin and vodka, which her state-of-the-art factory still makes today. In 2008, she added beer to her repertoire of alcoholic drinks, beginning with a brand called “Summit”. In 2013, the factory began expansion plans to increase beer production from 60,000 bottles per day to 600,000 bottles per day. The refurbished plant, which cost KSh5 billion (US$55.5 million), was commissioned by Adan Mohammed, the Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation, on 31 March 2015.

Tabitha Karanja, Keroche Breweries CEO

Tabitha Karanja, the founder and managing director of Keroche Breweries Ltd, has single handedly run the company since its inception nearly 15 years ago as a small brewery. It is now a kshs 1.5 billion ($17.6 million) turnover company with a growing local market share.

She has survived tough competition from East African Breweries and launched more brands after investing kshs 100 million ($1.2 million) in boosting production capacity. She is now seeking expansion in East and Central Africa and her dream is to cover the whole of Africa.

Tabitha Karanja Family; Husband and Children

Tabitha is married to Joseph Karanja and together, they are the parents of four children; James Karanja ( serves as the Chairman of Keroche Breweries Limited), Anerlisa Muigai, Edward Muigai and Tecra Muigai.

Tabitha Karanja Award

ln 2010. she was honoured by President Mwai Kibaki with a Moran of Burning the Spear (MBS) award for her great contribution in liberalising Kenya’s alcohol market.Mrs Karanja was born at Kenton, Kijabe.

Tabitha Karanja Profile

Tabitha Karanja ventured where few before her had dared, taking on a decades-long business monopoly and overcoming gender stereotypes to become a major player in her country’s lucrative drinks industry.

As chief executive of Keroche Breweries, Tabitha Karanja has paved the way for many other female entrepreneurs in Kenya, a country where women are traditionally scarce in the boardrooms, and even rarer in million-dollar startups.

Against all odds, the 48-year-old entrepreneur has painstakingly turned the first Kenyan-owned brewery into a lucrative business. In the process, she had to succeed where others had tried and failed in the face of an entrenched monopoly: East African Breweries.

“People thought it was not possible to break the monopoly of the existing company that was there, because it has been there for 80 years,” says Karanja, who launched her company’s first beer product, called Summit, in 2008.

“People thought it was normal for us to have only one company in this country,” she adds. “I was too determined and said ‘no’ — I have traveled many other parts of the world and I saw there is no country that had only one brewery; people had many choices so I said that I have to go forward and let the people decide.”

Karanja’s journey in Kenya’s drinks industry started in 1997, when she started a fortified wine business aimed at the lower end of the market. For the next 10 years she came up against big names in Kenya’s wine industry, but in 2007, taxes imposed on alcohol manufacturing made it difficult to keep prices low.

Tabitha Karanja says the hikes made her product too expensive for her target customers, forcing her to stop producing fortified wine.

But instead of bowing out of the industry, Karanja came up with a new product.

“So there I thought again and said, ‘what do we do for this same market?’ And that is how we came up with ready-to-drink vodka. We make it ready-mixed to precision for moderate drinking,” she says. “Since then the market has always been opening up and has been growing into this new drink.”

Today, the company’s brand new, state-of-the-art factory produces 10,000 bottles of gin and ready-to-drink vodka, as well as 15,000 bottles of beer, per hour. Although the company only holds about 5% of the country’s market share, Karanja says the demand for Keroche’s products outweighs the supply.

“Before the end of this year we laid a foundation stone of expanding the brewery to ten-fold of whatever we have now,” she says.

“The support of the Kenyans has kept me going all this time because I think that without their support it would have been very hard for anybody to continue doing the business,” adds Karanja. “If we support one another, we Kenyans, we Africans, we’ll be able to do even bigger than what the multinationals can do.”

Tabitha Karanja, a mother of four, says that startups are common in Kenya, but few survive the harsh business environment. She adds that it takes too long to start a business in Kenya, giving international competitors an advantage in the marketplace.

“There is a problem because they have not created an enabling environment to do business in this country,” she says.

As a successful entrepreneur in a typically male-dominated world, Karanja says the lack of female executives in her country and beyond is rooted in the way girls are often brought up.

“Even for a young girl all she thinks is to get married, get children take care of the husband,” she says. “But if our culture can change that — ‘yes, you’ll get married, get your children, but also there is something else that you need to do: you need to develop your country in one way or the other.

“Women have always believed that it is men who are supposed to do that … so for me what we can do is challenge the women to think further and to believe that we can do even better than men.”

A model for aspiring young entrepreneurs across Kenya, Karanja’s business skills and efforts to liberalize the country’s industry were recognized in 2010 with an award from the president of Kenya.

“I felt good, not because of me, but because of our people here,” she explains. “I thought it would motivate the people, the Kenyans, and show them that even if you work very hard, struggle, meet all those challenges, at the end of it there’ll be somebody who will recognize you.”

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