By Prudence Minayo
Bata is a household name in Kenya known for its premium shoe collection. In fact, for most school going kids Bata is the go to footwear. Since its establishment, the company has sold over 14 billion shoes worldwide and millions in Kenya. Today, the company has a manufacturing factory in Limuru and over 110 stores spread across major towns and cities including Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and Kitale. They are also known for their premium office wear, slippers, sandals, boots, rubbers and sportswear.
Owner and Founders
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Owned by the Bata family, Bata was founded in Zlin, Czech Republic in the 19th century.
Tomas Bata (Born on 3rd April 1876) was born the 7th generation of a family deeply involved in shoe making. At the age of 15, he began manufacturing shoes in Vienna although it was not much of a successful venture.
Together with his siblings, Antonin and Anna, they founded the Bata Company in Zlinand by 1900 he was the head of Bata. He became the sole director of Bata after his brother joined the army and his sister got married. The company became a major success and even supplied the Austro-Hungarian army during world war I. In 1923, Tomas Bata was elected mayor of Zlin and became the sole owner of the company after his brother’s death.
When Tomas passed away in a plane crash, the company was taken over by his brother Jan and his son Thomas John Bata. Thomas went on to spearhead the growth of the company throughout the 20th century. They moved the company’s Headquarters from Zlin to England and later to Ontario, Canada.
In 2004, the company’s Headquarters were moved to Switzerland. Thomas G Bata, grandson of Tomas, took over the leadership. Thomas John Bata died in September 2008.
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Thomas Archer, the great grandson of Tomas Bata, serves as the Chief Marketing Officer of Bata today.
Establishing in Kenya
In 1932, the same year Tomas Bata passed away, Bata opened their first store in Kenya in Mombasa and Nairobi. The company expanded and 7 years later established a sister company called Bata Shoe Comp Ltd. By this time, they had 16 stores countrywide. In June 1939, Bata began construction of a footwear factory in Mombasa. The construction provided employment for over 100 people but it was soon stopped as production was taken to Limuru.
In 1942, a factory was established in Limuru. It came complete with residences for employees. By 1946, they were employing about 1400 people. Limuru became the Headquarters of Bata Shoe Company for British East Africa.
In 1965, Bata lost a number of stores , taken by government intervention. This did not deter the company and by 1992, Bata Kenya, Limuru, Shipping Department, Mombasa and Branch Factory , Voi had presence in the country.
Today, Bata has over 100 stores with at least 25 being in the capital city. They sell over 30 million pairs of shoes yearly and employ over 2000 people.