Business people mourn death of A to Z owner

Monday January 11 2021

Jayant Shah. photo | file

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. The business community was thrown into mourning yesterday following the death of the Arusha-based A to Z Group of Companies owner.
Jayant Shah (78) passed away early yesterday at the MP Shah Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was hospitalised for treatment.
“We can confirm he passed away at 3am today (Sunday) at the Nairobi hospital,” a communications consultant with the group, Mr Seif Mangwangi, said.
He declined further details on the death of yet another business giant in the country, saying the management of the group and family members were still in shock.
“A full statement will be issued later,” he told The Citizen - noting that cremation of the deceased would likely take place in Nairobi.
Mr Shah is the surviving owner of the A to Z Group of Companies based in Arusha, and whose flagship is the A to Z Textile Mill.
There are a total of 11 companies within the group which offer a wide range of products and services in both local and international markets - most popularly known for the production of polyester and ‘Long-Lasting Insecticidal Bed Nets’ (LLINS) in an effort to curb malaria. The 20-year old bed net plant, along Dodoma Road in Arusha is one of the 14 internationally-approved textile mills for the manufacture of mosquito nets.
Manufacture of the new generation bed nets by A to Z was a joint venture with Japan’s Sumitomo Group which produces the famed ‘Olyset’ branded nets.
The nets - which meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) specifications - are then  supplied for the eradication of malaria under the Global Fund for Malaria.
The other plant approved to make the insecticide-treated nets (but only for the local market) is the Arusha-based  Sunflag (Tanzania) Limited.
Save for the WHO-supported bed net manufacturing which made it globally visible, A to Z Textile Mills has been a family-owned and operated business.
It started in Arusha in the 1960s with a single sewing machine, expanding considerably to presently include eleven companies.
One of the companies, Mr Mangwangi said, is a subsidiary dealing with agro products. However, the ‘Olyset’ nets appear to  have overtaken other products.
With over 45 years of operational experience, it has become one of the largest vertically-integrated manufacturing plants in East Africa.
The ‘Olyset’ nets plant hosted the former US President George W. Bush when the American leader visited Arusha in February 2008.
Walter Maeda, the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) chairman for Arusha, said he had known the late Shah for many years.
“He was an astute business leader,” he said, noting that he was also a famous motor rally driver who put Tanzania and Arusha on the motor rallying map.
This is the second death of an A to Z top executive in four years after the demise of the-then company CEO Anuj Shah in September 2016.
It was Anuj who was at the helm when the company  negotiated the multi-million dollar bed nets manufacturing project using Japanese technology.  
Negotiations for the investment took four years, and were approved in 2002. It was agreed that an entirely new plant be set up for the purpose, replacing an old one.
The late Anuj was replaced by Kalpesh Shah, the son of Jayant Shah as the new CEO of one of the leading fully-operational industrial giants in Arusha.
Four years ago, A to Z was mulled to be a key textile mill for the phasing out of second-hand clothes within the East African Community (EAC) bloc. This was at the height of a campaign by the EAC partner states to phase out imported used apparel and aid local industries to manufacture the needed textiles.