Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Keroche Industry founder Tabitha Karanja
1. Tabitha was born near Kijabe, on 29 August 1964 in central Kenya. After attending Kenyan schools, she took up employment in the Ministry of Tourism as an Accounting Clerk. She later met and married her husband, Joseph Muigai Karanja who owned a successful hardware store in Naivasha town. Tabitha is the 3rd wife (gachungwa) in the deeply troubled polygamous family.
2. The couple is blessed with four children – James, Annalisa, Edward and Tecra. Annalisa runs her own bottled water company and is often assisted by her sister Tecra, who is still in college but helps during school holidays and in her free time. Her two sons, Edward and James have joined her in running Keroche
3. Tabitha is the founder and current 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 2018.
4. In 2013, she found herself in court as her two co-wives fought to snatch part of the brewery from her hands. The women and their children had filed a constitutional case at the High Court demanding benefits from the company and accusing Joseph Muigai Karanja – Tabitha’s husband and chairman of Keroche – of neglect. According to court records, the story of Keroche appears to have started in 1996 when Mr Karanja decided to distribute his wealth and assets to his three wives.
5. Besides land, he also gave them money to start businesses. Mr Karanja was a struggling businessman – and so was Tabitha. They were then operating a hardware shop in Naivasha. Tabitha’s husband is very sick, recently underwent a lifesaving operation and his doctors have objected him being held in a police cell terming it as death sentence.
6. Tabitha managed to save the brewery from the extended family, with Justice Mumbi Ngugi asserting that Keroche’s assets belong to the company “and this court cannot now be used to determine who owns what and how the company should be run.”
7. 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. It is disturbing to learn that, at the time she was so determined to make it in alcohol business that she did not care about the consumers, she produces substandard products and this is the genesis of her woes with the state. She allowed herself to be used by some evil big names politicians who were bothered by the big electorate in Mt Kenya region, she slept with the devil knowingly or unknowingly.
8. In 2003 KEBs refused to issue stickers to authenticate its alcoholic brands. Parliament was informed by then Trade minister Mukhisa Kituyi, KEBs had tested eight of Keroche products and six failed the quality test. “Keroche Industries Limited opted to mislead the public by purporting that Kebs had cleared its drinks for public consumption,” said Kituyi. “You will find that people who take these drinks become sickly and their eyes turn yellow… what is the government doing about big industries like Keroche which produce these killer drinks?”
9. Keroche Breweries together with the highly placed cartel in alcohol production in the country have been importing illegally large amounts of Ethanol and other raw materials with the aid of rogue KRA officials. DCI with the help of NIS operatives has trailed the operations which have led to the arrest of both Keroche and Africa Spirits directors. The ethanol imported illegally is not taxed hence denying KRA taxes amounting to billions. Sometimes the shortcut leads to the longest and painful path.
10. In October 2008, Tabitha tried to play President Kibaki but he was too wise for her. Keroche got a Ksh 5 billion financing from Barclays Bank. The company built a new bottling plant and wanted President Kibaki to open it to assure her financiers and political mercenaries that she had the government backing in her operations. Kibaki refused to open the plan and true to the word she went for Kibaki’s biggest political rival who gladly agreed and she made the brother, the chairman of Keroche’s board.