October 21, 2019

Softa bows out after two decades of boldness

Softa Bottling Company founder Peter Kuguru speaks about the company's journey, during an interview at his Kuguru Food Complex office in Nairobi. The company is closing shop. PHOTO | ERIC | NMG

Thousands of businesses collapse every year, but few have had the same impact like the Softa Bottling Company, the only Kenyan firm that took global giant Coca-Cola head-on and almost succeeded.

Friday marked the end of the road for the firm, after the registrar of companies struck it off the register in Kenya.

“It is notified that at the expiry of three months from the date of this gazette, the names of the undermentioned companies shall, unless cause is shown to the contrary, be struck off the register of companies and the company shall be dissolved,” the notice in the Kenya Gazette on Friday read in part.

The notice was issued by Ms Alice Mwendwa on behalf of the registrar of companies. It was dated July 30, which means the company will seize to exist from October 30.

TURNOVER

Mr Peter Kuguru, the man behind the firm, told the Daily Nation that every business has its challenges and there are always lessons to be learned.

“We have been in many businesses, some succeed and others fail. But we never give up,” he said in an interview on Friday.

The firm had shown so much promise in its formative stages that he wanted to raise money through a bond to be listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

It also had eyes on the export market and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and neighboring Somalia.

Before it stumbled and fell, its annual turnover had grown to over Sh700 million. It had two manufacturing plants: a Sh40 million plant put up in 1997 had a capacity of producing and a Sh115 million plant bought in 2003.

“When a business is not making the returns as required, you can always invest elsewhere. My spirit is not dampened,” he says.

DIVERSIFY

Mr Kuguru says that not all the assets have been disposed and what is left of the plant is now owned by Kuguru Foods.

Mr Kuguru hopes the plant will one day come back into operation when the government bans the plastic bottles that have been linked to cancer and replace them with glass.

Currently, Mr Kurugu has put his money in the milling and real estate sectors. He is currently the chairman of the millers association.

He has interests in Cateress Milling firm, which produces maize flour and Just Real Estate, a housing company. But as he holds onto hope, in three months, his Softa brand will be gone, for good.

Mr Kuguru was forced to close shop due to financial difficulties after he failed to secure a joint venture partner.

Before he threw in the towel, his products among them the Softa soda, had started gaining acceptance, especially among low-income consumers in its two-decade operation.

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