When Covid-19 came knocking in Kenya, no one anticipated that it would stay for that long and that its impact on businesses and people’s livelihoods would be that immense. It was an event in history that was never expected hence got virtually everyone unprepared.
Businesses started shutting down en masse and people lost their jobs. Stats indicate that at least 2,000,000 Kenyans lost their employment as a result of Covid-19. So many sectors such as the aviation, hotel, tourism, and retail sectors were affected.
Covid-19 changed people’s normal way of interacting and transacting. Buying and selling changed and people no longer frequented physical business premises to purchase goods and services as it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Businesses went online
To survive, most businesses had to go online. This was because as businesses waited for customers to visit them physically, customers, on the other hand, we busy looking for products and services via online platforms. The only way to reach them was to go online.
However, going online in order to sell products and services worked well for small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and not for larger players as Supermarkets. Some supermarkets and businesses decided to go online but that only served in delivery of a few goods and services.
With few customers buying, and with people losing jobs hence low power in purchasing goods and services, many businesses started shutting down. Most businesses in Kenya such as Supermarkets, middle and high-end salons among others operate from malls.
When a business shuts down, so many people get affected along the value chain. First, the owner of the business loses his source of income. Second, employees lose their job. Third, though we rarely talk about it, the landlord loses the rent.
So many malls across the country lost businesses. Tenants started defaulting in payment of rent and at one point, analysts from Cytonn Investments said the future of malls in Kenya is in doubt and that there was a need to rethink the future model.
The Coca-Cola Caravan
But Coca-Cola says all is not lost for Kenyan businesses and malls. The giant beverage company says it is in the process of partnering with various malls across the country and made this a reality by having a caravan launch at Thika Road Mall (TRM).
“It is true we were affected by the pandemic but we have taken some few steps that have attracted back our customers like… taking temperatures and following protocols as directed by the Ministry of Health,” said Mr. Anand Garikipati, the CEO of TRM during the caravan launch.
“We are recovering slowly but it is going to take a bit of time,” he added. According to Mr. Anand, compared to the year 2019, TRM is operating at a 25 percent loss but hopes for rejuvenation in the business following the partnership with Coca-Cola.
“The partnership that we have entered with Coca-Cola is very unique today. It is one of its kind. The partnership will bring all the shoppers the simple joys (sic*) because we are famous as TRM as well as Coca-Cola. This partnership is going to go a very long way and we are proud to be associated with them,” said Mr. Anand.
According to Mr. Josphat Mwangi, the Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, Sales, and Marketing Director, the company is committed to supporting both big and small businesses across the country. He said the company has already put aside a fund worth 125 million shillings in an “Open Like Never Before” initiative to support micro-retailers across the country.
“Two months ago we launched a fund and we put aside 125 million shillings… we are also making sure that we reopen the economy and the trade in Kenya. The small retailers and traders have been the most affected through this Covid-19,” he said.
To make sure that there is proper financing for the SMEs in Kenya, Mr. Mwangi said that Coca-Cola Beverages Africa has partnered with financial providers such as Absa Bank Kenya together with other financial institutions. He says Coca-Cola will facilitate them getting cheaper loans from the financial partners and help in facilitating their trade.
On the partnership with TRM, Mr. Mwangi said, “TRM is the busiest mall in East Africa, and we are glad to partner with them. The year has been tough marred with the impact of Covid-19, the dull moments, as well as the restrictions on mobility. We just felt like doing something that is going to appeal to our shoppers, our consumers.”
The partnership of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa and TRM, according to Mr. Mwangi is meant to bring a new awakening and to assure business owners as well as consumers that “business is back” and that they need to cheer up and hope for good things ahead.
“The big question could be, are we replicating this across the country? The short answer is YES. We know that TRM is just one part of the city and we have to make sure that we cover every consumer and every shopper across the whole country,” he said. “The goal is for the caravan to go across all the counties in Kenya and spread the Christmas spirit.”