At Chloride Exide, bosses work with staff on the factory floor


Associated Battery Manufacturers (ABM) East Africa managing Director, Guy Jack. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A few months into his tenure as managing director, an old factory worker asked to see the boss. Guy Jack ushered the man into his office.

He must have been acting in a way that displeased the old man who went on to fearlessly relay what Mr Jack terms as the most profound lesson he’s learned to date.

“Everybody knows who the boss is. You don’t have to behave like it,” the old man said. From then hence, Mr Jack’s approach to management changed.

Mr Jack, a third-generation Kenyan, pursued a motor vehicle engineering course in the United Kingdom before coming back home for good.

Aged only 25, he was placed at the helm of Thomas White Batteries, a new acquisition by the Associated Battery Manufacturers (ABM) franchise.

“I was thrown in at the deep end,” he admits of his inexperience. He’d never seen a balance sheet or a profit and loss statement before taking the corner office.

In 1994 when he joined, the company was producing 300 batteries a month. He saw the growth potential and within a year and a half, this number had risen to over 2,000 units.

Today, the capacity is 1.5 million battery units a year, a figure he says they come pretty close to meeting.

The company he runs is largely known for its operations as Chloride Exide, a distributor of automotive batteries whose other core business is the installation of solar energy.

At the parent company’s (ABM) premises on Kampala Road, Mr Jack, now the Group CEO steers a ship of 480 people.

“I know four hundred of them on a first-name basis,” he says of his relationship with the team. He asks about their families. “People leave places because of bosses, very rarely about remuneration,” he adds.

One of the things they’ve always been good at, he says, is involving everyone in the company’s strategy – top to bottom.

Everyone has a say in what the business is trying to do, how it will be done and their role in the overall plan.

On his move to the Head Office, Mr Jack came in with a different culture. For instance, he did away with the head tables at corporate functions. “You have one table and everyone sits there,” he says.

Once every quarter, every non-operations worker has to work in the factory for four hours – physical work. Mr Jack says the effects of this practice have been incredible.

“It teaches people the business,” he says and that’s on top of getting to interact and know his staff and them him.

On the line, while giggling in fits, the staff plots and makes a battery with the cells the wrong way around to see if the newcomers including the boss will notice. He catches the mistake every time. Or so he says.

In his estimation, ABM spends Sh87,000 per person per year on staff training and that's with a total of 970 personnel in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.


Associated Battery Manufacturers’ (ABM) Group CEO, Mr Guy Jack (left) hands over to City Eye Hospital’s representative, Dr George Ngugi, a vehicle and a fundus camera (retina scanning camera) donated by the ABM Group. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Threats to the business

In 2022, the company was within three weeks of shutting down operations when the Kenyan government placed a moratorium on the trade in scrap metal advised by the runaway criminality in scrap metal dealings.

With 90 percent of batteries made from recycled lead, this had a big dent in operations. ABM resorted to importing pure lead from Tanzania and The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thousands of jobs were in dire straits before the moratorium was lifted.

Mr Jack also doesn’t see the advent of the electric car as an imminent threat to his business. “The reality is, when the world switches off the last combustible engine, Africa has eight years.”

He further doesn’t see lithium as a viable replacement for his lead batteries. Lead is 99.9 percent recyclable as opposed to its much more expensive alternative, not to mention lithium’s detriment to the environment. He’s currently sitting pretty.


Fifty percent of ABM’s business is in exports. Their products are shipped and trucked all over East and Central Africa, further down to Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius, Mozambique and Madagascar.

They have further made forays into the West African market, seeing their products in Ghana under the Free Trade Agreement. At home, Chloride Exide enjoys 60 percent of the market, a lion’s share.

Twenty-nine years ago, Chloride Exide moved into the solar power trade and has since grown the division into a multi-million-dollar business.

Mr Jack further reveals that up to Sh2 million of his monthly power bill is catered for by their rooftop programme.

R & D

In a stroke of genius, ABM sold a 25 percent stake of the company to Metair Investments, a South African partner who owns battery plants in South Africa, Turkey and Romania.

“We share a synergy of technology and have access to some of the best research and development,” Mr Jack says of the symbiotic relationship.

He goes on to extol the in-house talent at ABM as some of the best in the world and boasts of the most advanced battery plant in Africa in terms of “technology and equipment.”

Guy the Man

Almost thirty years on, Mr Jack says he is still hungry and counts himself very lucky to hold the position he does. Each day presents a new challenge.

“Today, I’ll meet guys in the factory…on Friday, I’ll be at an awards ceremony or a golf event in Kisumu!” he says.

Outside the office, Mr Jack enjoys flying having acquired his pilot’s license in 2017. He has a four-seater plane he uses for both work and play.

He used to be a martial artist but when age caught up, he moved to shooting and has done this at the highest level, representing Kenya in international events.


Workers at the Associated Battery Manufacturers East Africa Limited (ABM) during the launch of the very first locally manufactured maintenance-free car batteries in Kenya and the East African Region. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Parting Shot

“There’s a perception that you have to be extremely highly educated. That couldn’t be further from the truth!” Mr Jack says of the prevailing societal attitudes towards the achievement of success.

He says, “We recruit for attitude and develop the skill.”

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