Coal investor opens Nairobi Moi Avenue supermarket


George Kariithi (right) chairman of the Great Lakes Corporation with Zhou vice chairman of Baosteel, a steel manufacturer, in Shanghai, China. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY

Businessman George Kariithi is set to open a Sh250 million supermarket outlet along Nairobi's Moi Avenue that is targeted at the growing class of middle income consumers.

Mr Kariithi said in an interview the outlet named “Karrymatt Downtown” in KTDA building will be his “first of more to come.”

“The supermarket will employ a workforce of 60 and it is funded through internal family cash,’’ said Mr Kariithi.

Mr Kariithi shot into the public limelight after it emerged that his company, Great Lakes Corporation, had won a joint bid with a Chinese firm to extract coal from Kitui’s Mui basin. The basin is said to have coal deposits worth Sh3.4 trillion based on government estimates.

READ: Man behind Chinese firm in Sh3.4tr Mui coal mines

The deal however raised controversy after some Members of Parliament claimed that the consortium of companies did not have financial and technical capacity to undertake the project, but the issues were later settled and the group is said to be in the preliminary stages of opening up the mines.

Mr Kariithi also has business interests in South Sudan, DR Congo, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

“We are in for a serious investment and the next focus will be identifying new areas where we can secure stores and increase our presence. There is a very huge opportunity in the retail market,” said the businessman.

He expects Karrymart Downtown to open in less than two weeks. Mr Kariithi is a trained pharmacist.

The entry of Karrymart supermarket in Nairobi comes at a time when small retailers which started off in the rural areas are scouting for space in Nairobi to pursue their expansion plans and enhance their brand outlook.

Two weeks ago, Thika-based Mathai Supermarket opened its first branch in Nairobi. All its other outlets are outside Nairobi — in Thika, Ruiru, Muranga, Nyeri and Karatina. The Nairobi store is located on Ronald Ngala Street.

The new entrants to the CBD are seeking to employ the model that appears to have worked  well for established  retailers such as Naivas, Nakumatt and Tuskys, which started off as small shops upcountry and with growth migrated to urban  areas later attracting buyouts from multinationals.

Eastmatt, which is a family-owned retailer, recently diversified its market strategy after it changed its business model and acquired a store previously occupied by Tuskys on Tom Mboya Street.