Future growth strategy

Marc Engel, Unilever East Africa Chief Executive is a happy man. As Unilever continues to ride the market, he believes new regional office located at the Water Mark Business Park in Karen can strengthen their business big time. But it is not really about the office. It is about the commitment to a deep passion for customers, be it wholesalers, dukas or the leading supermarkets, and giving everyone in the chain a chance to get the best. It is about the commitment to Kenya and the region. As a key way to ensure they have a world-class scape, he identifies commitment to investing in business and employees, and team that compares to their other leading markets in Africa and beyond. He sees a sizable business in the country despite the fact that other manufacturers like Colgate Palmolive (which moved its manufacturing to Egypt), Cadbury’s (moved to South Africa) and Reckitt Benckiser relocated due to relatively high cost of power, labour and poor infrastructure. In 2015, Kenya improved 28 positions according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index thanks to reforms in business and property registration, electricity connections and access to credit. The signal that is being sent is clear: the government is determined to create an enabling environment to accelerate industrial development aiming at driving ease of doing business reforms. That’s a powerful green light, especially given the fact that the ministry of industry, investment and trade is at it trying to put reforms to solve the issues that led other top multinationals to relocate their manufacturing wings. Mr Engel is excited that with over 80 years in Kenya, Unilever has created employment for generations, locally sourcing raw ingredients from the domestic market, distributing finished goods to meet needs across the country and even exporting to her neighbours. He reiterates the vital role of Kenya and East Africa in the company’s regional growth strategy a time when spotlight is shined in areas of retail and supplies. “As we grow our business consistently and responsibly, we continue to create economic opportunities throughout our value chain for our suppliers and retailers throughout our extensive distribution network,” he explains, citing many brands that are now at the heart of Kenyan society such as the famous Blue Band margarine, Royco, Omo, Vaseline, geisha, Lifebuoy to name but a few, he sees a business boom. In the growth and development of farmers, he works with 500,000 tea smallholders in KTDA, as well as through hundreds of suppliers delivering raw and packaging materials, finished products, logistics services and point of sales materials. In addition, the firm has been serving 44 million Kenyan consumers, and almost 250 million East Africans. If you include Ethiopia, Engel says, “you have to remember that 1 in 4 Africans is East African. EAC and Comesa is also an advanced trading block and the combination of the two (economic block and 1 in 4 consumers) makes this region important to get right.” Unilever employs almost 20,000 direct employees and creates a multiple of this number in indirect employment across suppliers and customers operations making it strategic in Kenya. After the many years of cut-throat competition, the multi-national have walked the journey of economic growth and social development with Kenya and East Africa with the secret of it all being innovation and the continuing rise of its brands in more ways than one. These brands continue to click and resonate with many consumers – think Omo with power foam plus, or Blue band ya kadogo adverts which made our days many years back when the lizards were still very few). Further, the products are making the shelves a more exciting and enticing place too – even though these days what we see are new variants of the same products, it is the thing to do with “cool” packaging that is also making the giant firm capture the market. Talent and growth Engel says that by officially relocating corporate offices from their manufacturing site in industrial area, the Unilever’s upcoming growth and expansion plans for the coming years is seemingly cemented. The office has been designed to celebrate and foster a collaborative and agile working environment through its open plan layout that removes traditional hierarchical office layout structures as the Chief Executive Officer and leadership will seat with their teams. The new office also provides a world class environment for the employees, creating a great place to work, driving inclusivity and better collaboration. In addition to the creatively stimulating environment, the office is wheelchair friendly and has a dedicated area for nursing mothers and prayer room facilities. “We need an environment that is attractive for the best talent to come and build their careers. We believe that the Watermark offices will bring this as voted 3 years in a row Number 1 Top Employer in Kenya, it is the office that this organization needs and deserves as it will unlock top performance even further,” he says.

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