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The oldest bakery in Kenya now under family's 4th generation

WORK LIFE
By Philip Mwakio | June 7th 2021
Dividers at Fayaz Bakers Limited, Bakari Salim [left] and Liverson Mghanga work at the Fayaz bakers baking plant in Mombasa. The bakery employ 500 Kenyans who are trained locally. 1st June 2021. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Kenya’s founding president Jomo Kenyatta was just 14 years old when Fayaz Bakers Limited started its operations in Mombasa in 1911.

The bakery, which started as a tiny shop in Mombasa, has baked through two World Wars, Kenya’s independence and into a new century.

The bakery that was known as Mohamedan Bakery was started by three brothers, Musa Khamisa, Mohamed Khamisa and Ismail Khamisi, who arrived at the Coast in 1800s.

The oldest bakery in the country is now under the management of the family’s fourth generation.

It continues to attract customers by using the same recipes in some products that the founders used a century ago, according to its current head of operations Fayaz Khamisa.

Khamisa, who spoke from their offices at Fayaz building along Abdel Nasser Road, said the bakery’s products were used by soldiers during the first and the second World Wars.

“In a family business, the values of the family become intertwined with the business. We inherited this from our great-great-grandfathers who came from India to first settle in Zanzibar and Tanga, Tanzania before shifting base to Mombasa,” Fayaz said.

He said his three great-great-grandfathers Musa Khamisa, Mohamed Khamisa and Ismail Khamisi arrived at the coast of East Africa in the early 1800s.

“They were horse traders. They imported them from India to the coast of East Africa and were transported by dhows sailing in the Indian Ocean. Mostly the horses would be sold to the British and German military and other prominent people,” he said.

And after the three brothers moved to Mombasa, they started the bakery business.

Head of Operations at Fayaz Bakers Limited, Fayaz Khamisa during an interview at the bakery in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

According to Fayaz, the first production house was located at the present-day Mackinnon market and the retail shop at the present day Absa building on Digo Road. They rented the premises.

In 1935, the business had begun to amass some profits and the owners bought land and built houses.

One of the acquired property is at Mwembe Tayari - the Mohamedan Building which hosts one of the firm’s production and retail shops to date.

“By then, they baked by traditional means where they used firewood,” Fayaz said.

Along the way, the three brothers would later split as their interests differed. “Mohamed never had children of his own. Musa and Ismail had children. Musa retained the Mwembe Tayari shop while Ismail opened another bakery shop around present-day Lebanon area in Majengo,” he said.

When Musa died, he left the business operations in the hands of his sons who included Fayaz’s grandfather and his four brothers.

“Two of the five grandfathers left Mombasa for the United Kingdom where they settled. The three who remained shared the family property,” he said.

“My grandfather Ayub Khamisa inherited the bakery business with his seven sons namely Mohamed, Idriss, Khizer, Elias, Yahya, Shuaib and Muhaimin,” Fayaz said.

Slicer at Fayaz Bakers Limited, Ali Mohamed [left] puts final touches on bread at the Fayaz bakers baking plant in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

New branches

According to Fayaz, the family had the zeal to progress and this led them to open up new outlets including Mtwapa bakery that would serve the larger North Coast area then later Likoni for South Coast and Changamwe for the mainland.

Fayaz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business and a masters in economics from the universities of Hertfordshire and Aberdeen, Scotland, took over the reins of the family business in 2008.

His father, Mohamed Khamisa, who was then in charge had retired from active duty but plays an advisory role.

“We have matched up with modernity and today our range of products also includes cakes, cookies and pastries. We have new shops and bakeries in Nairobi, Bamburi, Kilifi and Voi and now firming up plans to set up base in Lamu County,” he said.

In Nairobi, Fayaz said they are keen to grow their footprint. Here, Fayaz’s younger brother, Assadullah Khamisa, oversees the firm’s five outlets and the production facility located in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.

The outlets are in Umoja, Lang’ata, along Lusaka Road, South B and Parklands.

He says all the operations are funded by their internally generated funds.

“This has made our growth slow. We strongly adhere to the Islamic faith and would not resort to borrowing from financial institutions that attract interests. We have invested wisely. In fact, majority of all the premises we operate in belong to us,” he said.

According to Fayaz, like any other business, theirs has also faced many challenges but they have come to accept to work with what they have.

Today, Fayaz says their daily production rate stands at 35,000 loaves of bread with over 10,000 different types of cakes, muffins, Swiss rolls, birthday and wedding cakes, fruit cakes and pastries.

And reacting to the recent directive by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) on underweight bread, Fayaz said they comply with all the manufacturing regulations.

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