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HomeWealthBillionaire Joseph Karanja: From Burning Charcoal To Founding Keroche Breweries 

Billionaire Joseph Karanja: From Burning Charcoal To Founding Keroche Breweries 

By Prudence Minayo

At the mention of Keroche Breweries, the Nakuru senator elect Tabitha Karanja is the name that comes to mind. People hardly think of Joseph Karanja, her husband. Perhaps, it is because he doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. Keroche Breweries commands about 20% of the local beer market according to data collected in 2012. The company was founded by Tabitha and her husband Joseph Karanja who serves as the company chairman. 

Today, he is considered among the richest people in Kenya with a net worth in the billions. Behind the success he enjoys today, is a man who worked extremely hard. He tried his hands in a number of unsuccessful businesses until Keroche Breweries became the company that broke the wall of limitation and failure. Aged 50, he helped found a company that is today an inspiring Kenyan success story. He proved that age is just a number and that one can never be too old to become successful.

Here is his story as told by WoK

Humble Beginnings 

According to a post shared by his daughter a while ago, Joseph eked out a living through burning charcoal and that’s how he sustained his family.

“My dad had tried so many businesses and almost lost hope before (he) started Keroche Breweries. KB started when he was 50 years old. At the age of 50, is when he got to see some hope. Now he is the chairman of a whole company. From a charcoal burner to a chairman. I haven’t met anyone who is as hardworking as him,” shared Anerlisa Muigai

The Foundation of Keroche Breweries

In 1997, Tabitha and Joseph started KB by making fortified wine. They started the company at their farm in Naivasha with capital pooled from a hardware they owned. With only five employees, they were ready to take on the market. The pricing targeted those who couldn’t afford very expensive wine. They would then begin making spirits which were packed in inexpensive sachets. 

However in 2007, the government placed very heavy taxes on locally made wines forcing them out of the market. This did not deter the couple as they began to make ready to drink gin and vodka. In 2008, they ventured into the beer market. 

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The success has not been a smooth sail. 

In 2003, Kenya Bureau of Standards refused to give them a standardization mark saying their alcoholic drinks were substandard. In 2016, they would again go after their permit after a crackdown on illicit and substandard alcoholic drinks was issued by the president. 

In 2019, the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji ordered the arrest of Tabitha and Joseph over tax evasion allegations. It was reported that an audit carried out by KRA said the company had failed to pay tax on Viena Ice, Crescent Vodka and Summit beers. 

According to an inquiry file submitted to the DPP by the Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General Githii Mburu, KB had evaded paying Sh12.34 billion Value Added Tax (VAT), Sh329.4 million for stamps and Sh135.4 million for Crescent Vodka among other products totalling to 14,451,836,375.

Responding to a phone interview with KTN, Tabitha expressed her shock about the fraud Allegations. 

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Following the allegations, the KB chairman was arrested alongside his wife. He was released on a Sh2 million cash bail (five times less than Tabitha’s bail) and asked to secure a Sh5 million bond. His favorable terms of bail were due to his medical condition. 

They had an earlier run-in with KRA in 2015 over a backdated duty of Sh1 billion. This forced them to shut down for two weeks. 


Joseph and his wife Tabitha Karanja had four children: James Karanja, Anerlisa Muigai, Edward Muigai and the late Tecra Muigai.

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