4 facts about Tabitha Karanja, the 1st Kenyan to unilaterally own a brewery now worth over $53million who has been arrested over tax evasion amounting to $140 million

Tabitha Karanja, CEO, Keroche Industries.
  • Tabitha alongside her husband Joseph Karanja are wanted over claims of evading tax to the tune of Ksh14 billion ($140 million).
  • On Thursday afternoon, the two were finally arrested after an 18-hour standoff in her offices at the Keroche Industries headquarters in Naivasha.
  • Here rise to the top wasn’t a walk in the park and it’s a true reflection of the strength of a woman.

On Wednesday, Kenya’s public prosecutor, Noordin Haji called for the arrest of the Tabitha Karanja, CEO of Keroche breweries, the first alcoholic beverage producer to be wholly owned and operated by an indigenous Kenyan – and, a woman.

Tabitha alongside her husband Joseph Karanja is wanted over claims of evading tax to the tune of Ksh14 billion ($140 million). Ms Karanja has, however, rubbished the allegations terming the claims as a new war by her competitors.

On Thursday afternoon, the two were finally arrested after an 18-hour standoff in her offices at the Keroche Industries headquarters in Naivasha.

So, who is Tabitha Karanja?

Tabitha Karanja is a Kenyan businesswoman, entrepreneur and industrialist. She was born on 29th August 1964 near Kijabe.

Here rise to the top wasn’t a walk in the park and it’s a true reflection of the strength of a woman.

From clerk to CEO

Soon after completing her education from the University of Nairobi where she undertook her Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) degree, Tabitha Karanja took up employment in the Ministry of Tourism as an Accounting Clerk for close to two years. 

She turned $5000 into a $53million venture

In 1997, liberalization of the alcohol industry (which also removed government controlled price ceilings) exposed a critical market imbalance. The already established liquor manufacturers were not catering to the middle level and low-income earners, something Keroche breweries was determined to change.

With the locally available raw materials the two with a start-up capital of KSh500,000 ($5000) decided to venture into Fortified Wines, which were favorable to the low-income market due to the low cost of production by building a small, fortified fruit wines brewery on the edge of the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway.

With an initial production of 200 litres in the first month and a new brand Viena, Keroche was too young and its production too small to get noticed in any of Kenya’s liquor books.

But Viena gained gained immediate acceptance and within six years the company had expanded their portfolio with four additional bottled and quality drinks to persons reeling from the high cost of drinks by multi-national brewers.

In 2007, when the government enacted heavy taxes on locally made wines, her product was priced out of the market. 

Not a quitter, Tabitha founded Keroche Industries (the pre cursor to Keroche Breweries) and begun making ready-to-drink gin and vodka, which her state-of-the-art factory still makes today.

In 2008, she added beer to her collection of alcoholic drinks, and made 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.

In 2015, the company opened a KSh5.5bn ($53million) plant, increasing production levels from 10m litres to 110m litres of beer a year. The firm is due to list on the Kenyan Stock Exchange by 2020.

Today, her company controls at least 20% of Kenya’s beer market.

She is the holder of Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear 

In 2010, Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki honoured her for her enormous contribution in liberalizing the liqour market in Kenya, and accorded her the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (M.B.S.) Award.

She is a wife and Mother of four

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

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