Madatally Manji Biography: From Hawking In Karatina To Owning House Of Manji

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Madatally Manji Biography: From Hawking In Karatina To Owning House Of Manji
Image/Courtesy

By Kuria Kimani

Madatally Manji was the founder of House of Manji alongside his seven brothers. The family business came to be famed for making pastry products such as biscuits, cakes, cookies, and wafers. The company that was acquired by Manji Food Industries Limited (as you will see elsewhere in this article) first opened its doors in 1941, then known as Ngara Bakeries. 

Age and Place of Birth

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Madatally was born in 1918 in Nyeri. His parents were originally from India. He grew up in a home of boys and became the most successful of his parents’ eight sons.

Education

He schooled in Nyeri, Karatina. Manji had an entrepreneurial spirit from his school days and would sometimes leave school and go trading in the Karatina Market.

Hawking

Immediately after completing his post-high school education, he went into business spending his days hawking in Karatina market. Manji’s parents felt displeased and urged him to apply his acquired knowledge from school and do something better. He was given a job as a clerk tasked with transporting commodities to clients around Nyeri and other Central Province regions.

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In 1941, he followed his interest in the pastry business and established a bakery in Nairobi. It was then named Ngara Bakeries, with attention on baking bread. The bakery expanded and was contracted to supply traditional Indian foods to Italian prisoners of World War II. As business expanded, he moved the bakery to River Road on a bigger space and purchased a pasta plant and diversified his products.

Later on, the venture now named House of Manji would produce other goods such as Buitoni pasta, sweets, and Weetabix along with bread and biscuits. With the growing business success, it became the first Kenyan family business to offer its shares to the public. Apart from Kenya, House of Manji also ran the business in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the business got riddled with financial trouble in the form of high borrowing costs, dishonored loans, and cutthroat competition. This led to it being put under receivership.

Family and Personal Life

Madatally Manji was married to Fatima Manji with whom he sired three children named Firoze, Julie, and Salim Manji. Firoze Manji is an activist championing human rights, international development, and health. During his lifetime, Madatally penned an autobiography in 1995 titled  Memoirs of a Biscuit Baron in which he described his entrepreneurial journey and gave insights into his personal life.

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