Businesses ready for good returns in 2011

By Alfred Ng\’ang\’a

Buoyed by the country\’s economic prospects and performance in the past year, a cross section of local captains of industry are now bracing for a very good 2011 ahead.

All indications in various leading local companies across diverse sectors seem to suggest that 2011 will be marked by steady business growth with some of the business leaders training their sights on regional expansion programmes.

However, the businesses remain concerned that political developments may serve to blight an otherwise bright year.

Concerted consultations between the private sector players and the government backed by the sincere maintenance of a level playing field is also being cited as a key wish in the New Year by the private sector players.

From the retail, ICT to financial services sectors confidence levels are at an all time high as the New Year kick offs.

At Housing Finance, Kenya\’s leading property development financial solutions provider, Managing Director Frank Ireri is upbeat that 2011 will be yet another success-filled year for HF. Ireri reckons that the two principals – President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga – may further help to spur economic growth close to a double-digit level by strictly sticking to their constitution implementation and entrenchment promises.

On the retail market front, Nakumatt Holdings Managing Director Atul Shah is also forecasting a very good year for the regional retail chain powerhouse.  Having closed the year 2010 with a total of 32 branches across Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, two branches ahead of his projection for the end of the decade, Shah is projecting steady growth for the local retail sector.

Shah confirms that Nakumatt Holdings will in the year 2011 concentrate more on ensuring more innovative and creative world class service delivery for its growing customer base. This, he reckons will be an important strategy to ensuring the supermarket chain retains its leadership edge.

In 2011, Nakumatt Holdings will also be proceeding full steam with its regional expansion plans. The supermarket chain, will this year be on course to establish its presence in both Tanzania and Burundi as part of its regional coverage plans.

And with the expected growth at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, Custody and Registrars Limited General Manager Kerry-Ann Makatiani is also forecasting a busy year 2011 as listed companies resort to value added registrar services.

For Simba Colt Motors, the year 2011 promises to be a very good year going by their performance in 2010 backed by the demand for new vehicles. According to Group General Manager Dinesh Kotecha, the Mitsubishi vehicles dealer will also be hoping to enjoy expected fortunes from the proposed government leasing programme alongside its normal business accruing from a range of recently launched Mitsubishi and BMW vehicle models.

Over at East African Cables, Chief Executive Officer George Mwangi is forecasting a brighter year for the firm. Having spent the past two years strategically setting the base for the firm\’s growth by integrating new production facilities and developing new product lines, Mwangi is optimistic that East African Cables will be closing the year 2011 on a positive note.

Within the first quarter of the year, Mwangi confirms that the firm currently riding high on the back of a very successful consumer awareness programme dubbed Wire si Wire will be commissioning an ultra modern production line at its Nairobi plant geared at further driving up its production capacity.

Though concerned over the volatility of the world metal prices and the challenge posed by China\’s current more than 20 percent consumption of world cooper for its domestic economy, Mwangi asserts that East African Cables has laid out elaborate commercial plans to serve the regional market.

Integrated information technology solutions provider Seven Seas Technologies Managing Director Michael Macharia is also upbeat at the prospects of a very bright 2011 given the growing demand for cutting edge information technology. All indications are that besides the private sector, the government and its related agencies will now begin adopting IT solutions to raise their service delivery capacities.

Due to heightened competition within the banking and telecommunication industries, Macharia acknowledges that service excellence and a keen focus on customer experience are now the key competitive frontier. From an industry perspective, Macharia confirms that the local IT sector will see significant investments in customer-facing IT projects, especially those that drive customer insight and support execution on the customer front-line, e.g. analytical and operational CRM projects, business process reengineering consultancies, business intelligence and targeted campaign management projects, as well as straight-through-processing to support real time services to customers and agency banking.

On the utilities front, Seven Seas Technologies is forecasting a major focus on increasing energy generation, efficiency and distribution to power up more Kenyan homes and businesses. There has also been an initiative to improve power management and billing through rollout of prepaid meters and energy-saving equipment.

Besides the consumer facet, Macharia also reckons that the energy utilities especially the distribution bodies are starting to have a greater customer focus as a result of the specialization brought about by segmenting of different tiers of the energy value chain by government (KENGEN, KETRACO, KPLC, REA, ERC), which will see investments coming in on contact centres and customer insight solutions.

For British American, the leading local financial services supermarket, providing a range of insurance and wealth management products, the year 2011 will be a special year. According to Group Managing Director Benson Wairegi, the firm is upbeat at the prospect of bettering its business with strong projections across its insurance and asset management business lines.

British-American, given its wide product portfolio covering Pensions, Life, health and general Insurance, Unit Trusts, Investment Planning, Wealth Management, Off-shore Investments, Retirement Planning and Discretionary Portfolio Management, is gearing up to boost its business performance in this new year.

Alfred Ng\’ang\’a is the General Manager, BluePrint Public Relations

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