Kenyan companies find ways to beat virus


Corporates are switching to new business models to minimise revenue losses and overcome the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted the old order. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Corporates are switching to new business models to minimise revenue losses and overcome the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted the old order.

Banks, telcos, brewers, supermarkets, insurers, IT firms and taxi-hailing companies have announced changes in their businesses amid fears that the virus could spread further, leading to suppressed economic activities over a prolonged period.

Many firms such as Tuskys, Naivas, Jubilee Insurance, Kenya Power and Safaricom have strengthened their digital solutions to minimise physical contact between their staff and customers while others have struck new partnerships to reduce disruptions.

This has also been complemented by direct donations by businesses to the State so as to minimise the effects of the virus.

East African Breweries Limited #ticker:EABL (EABL) has supplied 100,000 litres of ethanol to local sanitiser manufacturers as its contribution to reduce the risk of new Covid-19 infections.

The brewer’s non-profit arm, EABL Foundation, has committed Sh50 million to fund the production of 135,000 litres of sanitisers by two Nairobi-based industries.

Eric Kiniti, the foundation's trustee, said the brewer will work with other partners to distribute the sanitisers to needy parts of the country, especially slums and water-stressed regions.

The move comes at a time when the State has ordered the closure of bars, making it rethink its distribution models. The brewer will now put more focus on supplying to establishments like supermarkets, whose own business model has been disrupted by recent State directives on reducing large gatherings and maintaining social distance.

Supermarkets have been ordered to ensure social distancing in their premises and if possible, operate on 24-hour basis to allow customers to shop.

The move has seen supermarkets like Tuskys and Naivas deepen their links with logistics firms. Tuskys has partnered with Sendy while Tuskys has joined hands with Glovo to enhance home deliveries. The deal allows customers to order goods via WhatsApp and have the shopping delivered at their doorsteps by the two firms.

Banks and insurers have also adopted new measures to stay in touch with their customers and ease the way they do business.

Jubilee Insurance, which has been relying on biometrics to stem fraud in medical claims, has dropped this method in favour of one time PIN that will be set up via mobile phone. The insurer has further partnered with One Stop Pharmacy and Livia Dawa to deliver drug prescriptions to customers. Customers will then use WhatsApp to send the prescription and claim form to minimise movement to and from hospitals and pharmacies.

Other insurers such as Britam have asked customers to minimise physical interactions by providing them with a code through which they can check their balances and make withdraws. They can also scan cheques instead of presenting them in person. One such innovation is the Imarika Wallets, through which customers can make payments, check balances or make withdraws by sending a message to an SSD code.

Facebook too has activated educational pop-ups on search results about the virus. It has also allowed the government to place free education campaigns about the virus as part of its public education campaign.

“Covid-19 has presented immense challenges that require concerted efforts from governments, technology companies and civil society,” said the Facebook head of public policy for East Africa, Mercy Ndegwa.

Banks have also had to make changes in the way they communicate with shareholders.

Standard Chartered Bank and Absa Bank Kenya for instance held virtual press briefings when they were announcing their annual results. Central Bank of Kenya also did the same in an earlier briefing this month.

Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) chief executive Habil Olaka said the virus has meant that lenders can no longer stick to the old way of conducting business.

“We will come out of this wiser and having exploited things we only thought of as theoretical,” he said.

Just like banks, Safaricom has made all transfers of Sh1,000 and below free while Airtel Kenya has waived transaction fees across all bands on its mobile money service. Banks have also frozen charges for transfers between mobile money wallets and bank accounts to prop up cashless payments.

The move by telcos and banks has seen Kenya Power temporarily shut is banking halls and direct customers to make electricity bill and tokens payments via Airtel Money and M-Pesa.

Meanwhile, Mike Lysko, the CEO of Flock Eventing Platform, said the firm had come up with a solution that allows companies and individuals to hold virtual meetings.

Mr Lysko said the Covid-19 outbreak could be the tipping point that will bring online events mainstream.