Turkish Cypriot entrepreneur behind iconic brand Bixi Cola, Ramiz Manyera has died

Ramiz Manyera, one of the leading business figures in North Cyprus, has died. The sad news was announced by his family on Tuesday.

The pioneering Turkish Cypriot entrepreneur made his fortune selling soft drinks. He established Bel-Cola in 1958 – the first carbonated drink produced by a Turkish Cypriot, but it was Bixi Cola nearly two decades later that drove his commercial success.

In an interview with media, Manyera said that when he had first tried to export Bel-Cola to Turkiye in the mid-1960s, local producers were unhappy and obstructed sales of his bottled fizzy drink.

The unexpected situation forced Manyera to shrink his business operations before taking the undesired, but essential step of selling the Bel-Cola brand and bottling business to Turkish manufacturers to stay afloat.

Undeterred, Manyera tried again. After the 1974 Cyprus War, he created a new cola brand, Bixi, and invested in new technology, this time allowing him to produce Bixi in cans.

Bixi Cola was an instant hit with domestic consumers in North Cyprus, giving Mayera the confidence to return to Turkiye. This time he not only succeeded in exporting his drink, but smashed sales records in the country, as Turks flocked to buy the country’s first Turkish cola in a can.

Karpaz roots

Originally from Karpaz, Manyera was the son of the Republic of Cyprus’ first Health Minister, Niyazi Manyera, who was one of three Turkish Cypriots to serve in the Republic of Cyprus government between 1960 and 1963.

From early on, it was clear the young Manyera was a force to be reckoned with. After finishing high school in Cyprus, he went to Lebanon to study business administration at the Beirut American University.

Manyera returned to Cyprus after graduating and earned a reputation for fast living and fast cars, the latter passion nearly killing him on more than one occasion. He was left physically scarred by several serious car accidents, but they didn’t dent his love of speeding.

During the Cyprus conflict that raged from 1963-74, Manyera, like other Turkish Cypriots, joined the self-defence militia TMT, where he rose up the ranks to become a commander.

When the armed conflict ended, Manyera became a new type of leader, in the field of business. His vision, commercial savviness and professional discipline saw him thrive, creating a business empire that inspired many other Turkish Cypriots, while also making a serious contribution to the fledging North Cyprus economy.

Flirtation with politics

For a time, Manyera flirted with politics. He was a member of the conservative National Unity Party (UBP) and unsuccessfully stood as a Parliamentary candidate in the 1981 elections in what was then the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus.

Manyera was also the managing editor of UBP’s newspaper Birlik (Unity), which was one of the bestselling papers in North Cyprus at the time.

Four years after his first attempt, the conservative businessman decided to enter the political arena again, throwing his hat into the electoral ring for the Mayorship of in Lefkoşa in 1986. When Manyera failed to get elected again (he was beaten into second place by Mustafa Akıncı), he turned away from politics and instead focussed fully on business.

One can only imagine how different the Turkish Cypriot capital could have become if it had been managed by someone as capable and visionary as Manyera at such a pivotal time in the city’s history.

Today, the Bixi Cola drinks factory in the capital’s Ortaköy district remains a monument to the highly regarded businessman’s many achievements. It was from this site that Manyera’s drinks empire grew, where he created new flavours and drinks brands, such as Buble Up – the rival to Pepsi’s 7Up – and many other soft drinks, which he continued to run into the new millennium. And it was also from here that he pioneered his production of soft drinks in an aluminium can, which was not only a first for North Cyprus, but also Turkiye.

Ramiz Manyera also made time for civic affairs. Between 1978 and 1979, he headed up the internationally recognised Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce (KTTO). A real people’s person, he was known for doing good deeds in the community.

Unfortunately, he suffered a serious stroke in 2008, which left him wheelchair bound.

The octogenarian was laid to rest in Lefkoşa Cemetery earlier today, with the TRNC President Ersin Tatar (pictured below) among those who attended the funeral.

Ramiz Manyera is survived by his six children.