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Kenyan retail chain eyes Juba

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – Retail chain Nakumatt Holdings expects to expand its footprint into Southern Sudan in the next one and a half years.

Managing Director Atul Shah told Capital Business that they are very keen on commencing their operations in Juba soon as part of their expansion plans into the East African region.

“Juba is on the map. Plans are there to go and see what Juba looks like early next year. We have been invited several times by many parties that have already been there and one of these days I think we will have a Nakumatt Juba maybe 18 months down the line,” he said.

Desire to increase branch network has seen Nakumatt grow its outlets to 21 across Kenya and in Uganda and Rwanda where it is represented while plans to enter the Tanzanian market are still on course.

But even as the chain goes about positioning itself strategically, Mr Shah reinforced their strategy of charting their own course in virgin markets saying the evaluation of such areas to determine their viability is not a key priority for them.

“Feasibility studies in Africa, I don’t think make sense. There is no data for anybody to do studies. Just go and put your foot there and jump into the deep end,” he quipped.

Once its operations commence, Nakumatt will join the league of other Kenyan companies that are looking for investment opportunities in Southern Sudan which is currently enjoying relative political stability.

The MD spoke after the chain announced the official launch of a pre-paid travel card in Kenya, which has been developed in partnership with the I&M bank

The Visa card, which can be bought off the shelf at selected Nakummat outlets or I&M bank branches is expected to revolutionalise the shopping experience of Kenya both locally and internationally.

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Denominated in dollars, the card can be used to shop online and to withdraw cash at any visa ATM around the world.

“You can apply for the card at Nakumatt, get it and start using it immediately. You don’t need to have a bank account or any kind of a credit reference to get this card. You only need your ID (national identity card) and the money you are loading,” he explained.

This, he added was one of the innovative financial products they have introduced to enhance lifestyle and deliver value to their customers.

Although it’s a financial service, Mr Shah was optimistic that the development would not put them in a collision course with the banks.

“We are providing a solution that the banks don’t provide. The card does not require the clients to have a credit history so in one way we are helping the society get something that they have always wanted. We have always been innovative so this is one more product to our portfolio of changing lifestyles,” he enthused.

On his part, I&M bank CEO Arum Mathur said the new card would help customers manage their shopping expenses better and avoid incurring unnecessary debts.

“It also gives you security from carrying and using cash. Besides allowing customers to load, store and use money conveniently to shop, the card can be used to transfer money or as a gift card,” Mr Mathur added.

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