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

Madatally Manji was the founder of the renowned House of Manji, a family business that specialized in making pastry products such as biscuits, cakes, cookies, and wafers. The company, later known as Manji Food Industries Limited, opened its doors in 1941 under the name Ngara Bakeries.

Manji had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age and was known for trading at the Karatina Market while in school. After completing his education, he began hawking in the Karatina market, but his parents urged him to use his acquired knowledge to do something better. He was given a job as a clerk transporting commodities to clients around Nyeri and other regions in the Central Province.

In 1941, Manji followed his passion for pastry and established a bakery in Nairobi, originally focused on baking bread. The bakery expanded and even supplied traditional Indian foods to Italian prisoners of World War II. As business grew, he moved the bakery to a larger space on River Road and diversified his products by purchasing a pasta plant. The venture, now known as House of Manji, went on to produce other goods such as Buitoni pasta, sweets, and Weetabix along with bread and biscuits. The business was so successful that it became the first Kenyan family business to offer its shares to the public. House of Manji also ran operations in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the business faced financial troubles due to high borrowing costs, dishonored loans, and intense competition, leading to it being put under receivership.

Manji was married to Fatima and had three children named Firoze, Julie, and Salim. Firoze Manji is an activist for human rights, international development, and health. Manji wrote an autobiography in 1995 titled Memoirs of a Biscuit Baron, in which he shared his entrepreneurial journey and personal life.