Kenyans love for ugali is legendary. The demand for the staple food is high that at times it’s not met making it a profitable venture for maize millers. In this article, WoK brings you the story of Sunil and Kamal Shah – the brothers who own United Millers Limited in Kisumu which produces the popular Jambo Maize Meal.
Sunil and Kamal Shah
Sunil Shah and Kamal Narshi Punja Shah are Kisumu based businessmen and proprietors of United Millers Limited. They were born and raised in Kisumu where they have spent the better part of their lives including attending Kisumu Boys High School for their secondary education. Sunil Shah established United Millers Limited in 1977 with the aim of meeting the demand of quality and affordable maize flour in the Lakeside region. During a past interview with one of the local dailies, Sunil revealed that he was the first person to set up a modern milling facility in the Nyanza region.
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“Kisumu is the third-largest city in Kenya, and there was no modern milling facility in the lake region back then. Also, the demand for flour and other products was increasing due to a rising population, and this inspired me to start United Millers. We have been operating for over 42 years now – it has been a tough journey and has required constant focus and attention, but it has been extremely rewarding,” he told africaoutlookmag.com.
United Millers Limited
United Millers Limited is involved in the manufacture and marketing of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). Apart from maize flour, it produces wheat flour, bakery products, soap and vegetable cooking oils & fats. Some of the company’s popular brands include the Jambo maize meal, United Bread, Tropicana home baking flour, Crisco cooking oil, Toyo bar soap, Rahisi cooking oil, United Soft Buns and U-Mix mandazi flour.
The company has its headquarters in Kisumu and has created job opportunities for over 800 individuals. United Millers is the largest purchaser of locally produced wheat in Kenya. Although they import some of the raw materials, a large proportion of the 100,000 tons of wheat it processes annually originates from local suppliers.
“Since the beginning we have operated with a local mindset. We have always helped local farmers, and we share the same values with all of the stakeholders in our company, which includes supporting the community and economy at large. We share in our success and tackle issues together in a way that everyone benefits,” he said.
United Millers is also involved in social activities including sponsoring the KYFA League football and United Western Kenya Golf Clubs Championship. It is also involved in renovating classrooms at various schools, helping orphanages and providing food to charity homes
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They have heavily invested in automating their milling plants. It is equipped with modern Swiss Milling machinery which offers state-of-the-art technologies for the production of consistently high-quality flour. All the raw materials and finished products are taken through a laboratory test done by highly qualified technicians to ensure that the quality is top notch and reaches the set standards.
“There are so many benefits of these modern machines. Starting with the fact that we are able to produce better quality flour with a greater energy efficiency. We can also increase throughput with minimal breakdowns, meaning downtime is reduced which can be a serious cost to a company like ours. The staff are also happy because their job is simpler, and they are able to learn how to use leading-edge technology,” he said during the interview.
The two brothers ventured into real estate industry by establishing United Mall. Located on a 5 acre piece of land along the Kisumu-Kakamega highway, the mall sits on 12,000 square meters. Carrefour is the anchor supermarket, it has two 150 seat cinemas, food courts, a gymnasium, two function rooms, 40 shops, 250 car parking spaces and a children’s playground. The mall hosts various local and international brands including Carrefour Supermarket, Cooperative bank, Ecobank, KFC, Pizza Inn, LC Waikiki, Galitos, Creamy Inn, Java house, Optica and Goodlife Healthcare among others.