Thika Cloth Mills on buy Kenya, build Kenya initiative

Thika Cloth Mills was established in 1958 and is one of Kenya’s leading textile manufacturers. The company is committed to producing quality materials and always putting our customers first. Thika Cloth Mills has a modern plant located some 40 kilometers from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. 

The mill has the capacity to produce more than 500,000 meters of fabric per month in different blends, colours and prints. This includes a composite textile unit with its own spinning, weaving and processing facilities, making sure we provide only the best products.

Market

Thika Cloth Mills Ltd is renowned for the quality and consistency of its fabric and textiles. The company has a state of machinery, skilled workforce and prompt reliable deliveries as per the customers’ requirements.

Based on mutual business interest, the network is the result of nurturing bonds and relationships and it is the strength of this network, which has proved instrumental in establishing Thika Cloth Mills as a brand.

Thika Cloth Mills makes high end bedsheets and uniform materials for hospitals, schools, security companies corporations, churches, hotels and government institutions in Kenya and Africa.

Thika Cloth Mills offers fabrics in 100% cotton, polyester viscose, yarn dyed check, cotton drill, cotton twill, curtains, khangas and industrial fabrics. The company is also powering in the development of SME’s in the garment industries, by helping them to engage to buy high quality fabrics and can be converted into sellable items.

Thika Cloth Mills also makes promotional khangas, caps and bags for Kenyan brands, as well as Kikoys and Kitenges for general market.

Thika Cloth Mills has managed to expand its market to sell its fabrics outside Kenya’s borders. Its products sell in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda.

Achievements

Thika Cloth mills has received a Golden Award from the Government of Kenya for its relentless efforts and impeccable performance in the textile industry. 

Thika Cotton Mills main source of purchase for Raw materials is from Kenya and Uganda. 
From within Kenya, the company buys cotton from Kitui, Salawa and Makuei ginneries; creating jobs or cotton farmers in areas like Mpeketoni, as well as Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Siaya, Homabay and Kisumu Counties. The farmers are small scale growers and depend on Thika Cloth Mills to buy the cotton they grow.

Over the last five years, much energy has been channeled towards changing people’s mind sets towards the “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” doctrine, and it is this that formed the theme of the discussion with the company’s Managing Director, Ms Tejal Dodhia.
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What do you think about this whole “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” initiative?

Recently, there have been so many people talking about the “Buy Kenya build Kenya” doctrine including influential politicians. So suddenly there’s a change and it is not me alone talking about it, quite different from the way it was initially.

What does this mean to the manufacturing industry?

It is a freedom for the manufactures who have had so many challenges. We can supply the EPZ and suddenly the market looks way much bigger. It is the same with other all the industries. Some are already at a very good level, for instance, the food industry. For instance, the biscuits, chocolates, sweets, jams, honey produces locally are also consumed here. 

As Thika Cloth Mills Limited, what steps are you taking to push for Kenyan products access the international market?

We already are doing so much. For instance, there will be a Kenyan week from February 12 in the upcoming Dubai 2022, where we want our local manufactures to come out in numbers, and showcase their products and push for them to be in the international shelves. We are starting on the international online platforms so people from other parts of the world can have a look at our products and have a try. From the textile industries side, we have to work on the vitenges and we have the shoes already. And that’s why we say other industries should also come out and do the same.

What do you think should be done to bring back Kenya’s glory as far as moving in the direction of manufacturing is concerned?

Whenever I go to these delegations, the question is always what are they going to sell to Kenya? Where does that leave us as a developing nation? Where does that leave the employment here? We don’t want to bring things into our country. We want to export our products.

For example, when you start with raw material like cotton, there’s value addition by making it into fabric, then you make it into a garment. Can you imagine the amount of jobs you have created along this chain? Apart from that, all the money is staying within and creating the wealth for our own country. 

What should the government and citizens do in ensuring that the Buy Kenya Build Kenya doctrine fully works?

Already the government is doing a lot to ensure this. Even President Uhuru Kenyatta has been pushing this agenda and insisting that Kenyans should buy Kenyan made products. The president has been rallying people to change their mindset, he himself is wearing the kitenge fabric. We have also seen some of the counties also pushing for this agenda, and this is very encouraging. 

On the part of citizens I would say unlike initially, today, Kenyans understand the importance of Buy Kenya Build Kenya. 

What do you think manufacturers should do in order to achieve this?

Any kind of change takes time. Remember even as President Kenyatta has been pushing for the Buy Kenya Build Kenya campaign, he has also talked about quality. There are certain changes that manufacturers have to make. For instance, the Thika Cloth Mills Ltd invested almost Sh100 M to do value art printing. We did that investment with the intention to place ourselves in an advantaged position whenever order opportunities arise. 

Then we go to the cotton farmers. Before, the cotton farmers were left to international markets which didn’t ensure consistency in cotton prices. But with the “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” initiative, we are able to support these farmers much better. With the orders, we can get to the farmers and have them grow the cotton, thus we are able to decide the price since we signed the contracts. We can give them the price, and maintain the stability. 

Also, as manufacturers we should start differentiating which products are being made in Kenya and which ones aren’t. For instance we have many factories that are processing rice in Kenya, but still there are some brands being imported from Pakistan, and they have a lot of advertising. We need to come out together and label brands that are being made in Kenya. 

For example, for us we have a brand in Thika Cloth Mills logo indicating that indeed this is a Kenyan product. All the manufacturers should adopt this so that anyone going to the market can see this is a Kenyan product, and they are able to pick up the Kenyan one, because they know when they are doing so, they are also creating jobs.

In the chain of importation, jobs are also created, for instance, the mitumba sector. How do these people get absorbed into jobs such that the importation chain is broken?

We have the EPZ factories which are employing more than 70,000 people, but most of that product goes abroad especially to the US market, and then comes back to Kenya as second hand clothes. Why should we be a dumping ground for the rest of the world? 

Talking about the mitumba sector, the traders have a livelihood from that. Also for the four factories we cannot fill in the gap that the mitumba sector is currently supplying. I think a little more of research needs to go into thus. I don’t think we should ban mitumbas completely, what we should do is we should phase it out slowly. Fighting for one job to kill another one isn’t right.
 

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