Just how the family-owned Naivas Supermarkets came to be founded is a revelation that still remains within the confines of a relative few.
What is not in doubt, however, is that under the leadership of Simon Mukuha, the retail chain has grown from strength to strength since inception.
Mukuha, along with his brother David Kimani, were responsible for the supermarket chain’s marked growth. For nearly three decades, the retail store that began in Rongai, Nakuru County, has spread its wings to cover the country.
It is now the second-largest retailer in Kenya behind Tuskys Supermarket.
The Monday evening of August 26, therefore, marks a sad moment for the retail giant, for Mukuha, the Naivas Supermarkets Chairman breathed his last at the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi.
He had been receiving treatment at the hospital since last week.
Relatives who own Tuskys, Naivas
Media entity Nation quoted Naivas Chief Operations Officer Willy Kimani, “Mr Mukuha has passed on this (Monday) evening at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi where he was undergoing treatment after suffering a heart attack.”
His death comes nine years after the passing of his father, Peter Kago. The patriarch to the Naivas empire is the brother to Joram Kamau, founder of fellow family-owned giant retailer, Tuskys.
While the intrigues behind Naivas Supermarkets traverse as far as a family feud that ended at the courts, the contribution of the late Mukuha to the growth of Naivas into an over 50 store retailer cannot be understated.
According to the late Mukuha, in court documents, Naivas began when he and his brother, Kimani, bought two self-service stores at Ksh1 million from their uncle, Joram.
It was then that Mukuha and Kimani shared the stake 50-50 (amounting to 25,000 shares each). In November 2007, however, they incorporated their two sisters and their father.
Family feuds to control supermarket empire
This, however, was challenged by the family’s eldest brother, Newton Kagira, who claimed that Naivas began when their late father convened a meeting in 1989 with the proposition of starting a family business.
As per Kagira, the brothers Mukuha and Kimani did not contribute.
Whatever the true narrative, the late Mukuha’s hand in the expansion of Naivas, as Chairman still remains.
It is also epitomised by the fact that in the early 2010s, South African retail chain Massmart, a subsidiary of America’s Walmart, wanted to buy a majority stake in Naivas.
Massmart eventually retreated, with family feuds and the family’s decision to focus more on expansion, perhaps bringing negotiations to a halt.
Naivas has also been innovative, embracing technology and introducing an online buying service.
Recently, the retailer announced that it is investing Ksh176 million in enhancing their loyalty cards to reward their shoppers better.
As at the time of death, the late Naivas Chair held a 25% stake in the supermarket’s ownership.
His brother, Kimani, owns a similar 25% while two of their sisters, Linet Wairimu and Grace Wambui, own 15% each.
The remaining 20% is owned by the estate of Peter Kago, their late father.