Muita: From salesman to owner of publishing firm

March 19, 2015
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At the moment, he is not only the CEO of Moran Publishers, but the sole proprietor of one of the largest publishing firms in Kenya and the region/MUTHONI NJUKI
At the moment, he is not only the CEO of Moran Publishers, but the sole proprietor of one of the largest publishing firms in Kenya and the region/MUTHONI NJUKI
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – David Muita, 64, joined Moran Publishers Limited – formerly Macmillan Publishers – in April 1984 as a sales person after quitting his five-year teaching job.

At the moment, he is not only the CEO of Moran Publishers, but the sole proprietor of one of the largest publishing firms in Kenya and the region.

When he joined the organisation, a take-over of the firm from the British owners was the last thing in his mind. But due to his passion for education, he knew too well that he would one day own his company, and a publishing firm was not an exception.

“I mean even if I would not have bought Macmillan, I would have started my own company,” he tells me during an interview at his office along Forest Road, in Nairobi.

Climbing a tree is not for those ‘dressed in their Sunday best’, he says. It has called for determination, hard work and real patience for more than 30 years.

“Stop making attempts to climb the tree from the top, start from the bottom. I drive what people would call a big car. But that is not what I had, say 27 years ago. I started far, far down. I have literary hassled. But here I am now and I can say, I am comfortable. I usually tell my children that don’t just sit down and expect things to happen. Things are made to happen,” says Muita who is a father of four.

He first became the General Manager of Macmillan in 1987 before later being promoted to Managing Director of the company in 1990.

Through this time, he saw the organisation grow and strengthen its presence in Kenya and the East African region especially in Uganda and Rwanda.

“All through this years in the company, I never worked like I am an employee, from the word go. I always took the responsibilities and gave my best like the company was my own. And to me, this was the beginning of my success,” Muita says.

“I remember when I was often invited to various forums and conferences to do presentations, people would call me ‘Mr Macmillan’ instead of my name because I made the company to be part of the inner me. I carried the identity and it really felt so good.”

It was in 2009 when Muita kicked off plans buy Macmillan Publishers Kenya, which was one of the last survivors in an industry that was being taken over by indigenous investors as they edged out foreign-based firms.

For example in 1992, Dr Henry Chakava, long-time editor with Heinemann and other few Kenyans, took over Heinemann Educational Books and changed its name to East African Educational Publishers.

Others are investors like Francis Nyamu, who in the 1990s took over Longman publishers to the now listed Longhorn Publishers, after a group of locals broke off.

In 2010, Muita managed to raise his stake from five percent in Macmillan to 97 percent which led to the change of its name to Moran Publishers.

“Through my savings and a loan from bank I managed to raise the money for the buyout,” he says.

READ: Macmillan Kenya is now Moran Publishers

“What ownership brought to me is freedom; freedom to make pertinent decisions at that time was what I needed. I needed to develop books in greater numbers than I was before; employ people that I felt would help me get there. For example I operated with a maximum stuff of 26 people. But as I speak to you now I have 70 employees in Kenya alone, I have 15 employees in Uganda, I have four employees in Rwanda and we have now branched out in Malawi and Zambia. I have and agency in Tanzania and South Africa. I mean I would not have done those things when I was working under Macmillan UK,” he says.

It is not easy to serve, lead and finally own the organisation. But how has Muita managed to be in one company for 31 years?

Apart from suppliers, financiers and other stakeholders, Muita says his secret for his triumph are his employees whom he believes without, there would be no Moran Publishers.

“In fact, for almost 10 years now my people don’t buy lunch. They are brought food in the office and if someone is going out in the field, I give them money to eat out there. But what does that mean; the employees are motivated, more productive and above all what you get is their loyalty. I mean, I don’t even watch what time they get in, but you will always find someone in the office working even odd hours without being asked to.”

He says in the near future, his plan is to reward them by making them own part of the now multi-million publishing firm, as his dream to have the firm cover the whole continent, comes to reality.

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