After failing to capture the Lang’ata parliamentary seat during the 1992 General Election, politician-cum-investor Kimani Rugendo, set out to build his company, Kevian Kenya, whose first product was bottled drinking water — Mt Kenyan.
But it wasn’t until 1995 that the Ford-Asili party Nairobi chairman, armed with a Sh25 million war chest from savings and friends, began serious production.
From bottled water, the company diversified to Pick ‘N’ Peel and Afia ready-to-drink juices. Both brands are sold in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and Zambia.
With increased demand, Rugendo built a second factory in Thika in 2005, increasing the hourly production capacity of Peek ‘N’ Peel to 20,000 litres from the original 5,000 litres.
Afia is now produced at the rate of 40,000 bottles per hour, up from 10,000. Rugendo has now started producing eight carbonated variants of non-alcoholic malt drinks, including Plain Malt, Energy Malt, Lemon Malt and Orange Malt.
In June last year, Kevian Kenya expanded its product portfolio with a new Sh2 billion investment that has seen it offer its own brands of coffee, tomato sauce and packed vegetable soups targeting middle-class shoppers and high-end hotels. The fresh investment has been funded from Kevian’s internal cash flow. The Thika-based plant produces 250 tonnes of the products per day.
The coffee is available in four flavours, including lemon malt, plain malt and energy malt. The coffee drink and tomato juice are available in 300 millilitre bottles. The venture has employed 300 new staff.
Rugendo registered a new subsidiary, Sterling Kenya Ltd last year to produce tanks after investing an estimated Sh500 million. Sterling, with it’s over 60 strong staff, will be making 100 tanks in six hours.
The man who once operated the popular Jean’s Bar in Nairobi West in the 1990s as a ‘hobby,’ had by the early 1980s founded Sterling Craft Ltd, which manufactured industrial equipment and military regalia. Sterling Craft still supplies berets, medallions and ceremonial swords to the Kenya Police and the Kenya Defence Forces, besides supplying milking machines, pipes, fittings and generators.