At the beginning of 2020, the proposed most profitable businesses to open in Kenya ranged from photography, mobile money shops, travel agencies, cake & snack suppliers, bodaboda riders, printer/computer sales, and garbage collection. However, once it became clear that we would be in the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future; winners & losers of the pandemic started to emerge.
The immediate winners were those that experienced performance improvement due to the pandemic. Examples of these have been fin-techs like Mpesa whose revenue moved to top gear once the decree was made to reduce or avoid handling of cash altogether.
Telecoms providing internet & data saw increased demand for products as we all started to work & school from home. Organizations such as Liquid Telecom have worked to connect 152 schools to sc.ke website domains in partnership with KeNIC.
Ecommerce & delivery optimized organizations benefited by offering lockdown necessities online. Suppliers of Personal Protective Gear (PPE), such as masks, soap, sanitizers, gloves, face shields, also saw a new and almost sudden stream of revenue as people rushed to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. Globally companies in the pharmaceutical groups were boosted by their hunt for a Covid-19 vaccine.
Another category initially experienced a sharp but brief period of decline followed by a strong recovery also known as ‘V’ shaped recovery. Nairobi Garage would also fall in this category as with the work from home policy, we were quiet in the first few months. However, because we had a number of members who were not able to work from home or close up shop we remained open for them. Slowly but surely, as the ‘next normal’ started to emerge we were able to continue serving organizations & individuals who started to rethink their office space options.
Unfortunately, there are those that saw a severe decline and might not return to ‘normal’ levels for a while. In this category sit air travel, business travel, office space operators & landlords. The latter has been left in a lurch, unsure how to meet their financial obligations for much of the year. Leaving them to fervently rethink the future of office space.
We have compiled a list of 12 organizations, both local & global, that have continued to do thrive in the pandemic. These companies have been able to either launch new products, move into new markets, bag accolades, and have been able to record increased growth & customer retention between March 2020 and now.
A few days after the first COVID 19 Case was announced in Kenya Akili Network launched the country’s first and only free-to-air children’s learning TV channel – Akili Kids! which has recorded a viewership of over 5.4 million children and 4.3 million adults watching every week.
Akili Kids! has disrupted the Kenyan TV landscape by focusing on 24/7 children’s educational programming and has become the number one way to reach mums and children in Kenya. It became the 2nd most-watched daytime TV channel in the country just 6 months after launching.
This saw the company move a step forward in November to forge a partnership with ZUKU.
Alphabet is the parent company of Google and several former Google subsidiaries since a restructuring in 2015.
As online advertising went into sharp decline as the pandemic crisis unfolded, early signs suggested Alphabet would show resilience. At the end of March, YouTube’s revenue was still growing by nearly 10 percent.
Search advertising appeared to stabilize early in the crisis, after touching bottom in late March. Google which supplies virtually all Alphabet’s revenue held up better than expected.
The Google cloud computing platform, Meet video app, and Play app store have benefited from the shift of work and entertainment online.
As world leaders ordered their citizens indoors, Amazon became the emergency port of call for those desperate to stock up on vital household goods, a rush that led the company to temporarily shut its warehouses to “non-essential” products.
This led to new record revenues, and soaring costs. According to Financial Times, over the period, Amazon added USD 401.1 billion market cap making the CEO, Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. The company now anticipates spending over $4 billion to keep its logistics running.
“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” – Richard Branson.
Launched in 2015, Fuzu aims to change the landscape of job search and recruitment in Africa, providing AI-powered personalized guidance to individual users, and talent acquisition and data services to organizations.
Over the last five years, it has become the most popular career development platform in Kenya and has expanded to Uganda in 2018 it has more than 7.5 million lifetime users. Before then, the company had last gotten funded in 2016.
The Kenyan career development startup, Fuzu raised a EUR3.4 million (US$3.86 million) Series A funding round in March 2020. In September 2020, Fuzu was also listed on Holon IQ’s first annual EdTech 50.
As an e-commerce platform, Glovo delivered groceries, and medicines long before the coronavirus pandemic prompted rivals to expand beyond restaurant meals. In an article by Reuters, it has been stated that Glovo expects revenue to double this year from last as lockdowns boost its quick delivery service.
In November, Glovo launched its operations in Kampala, Uganda, in a move that is part of a continued market expansion strategy. The expansion into Uganda will make it the 2nd market in East Africa for the company, and the 4th African country where the firm has established operations.
The company entered the African market in 2018, via Morocco, and once in the Kenya market, Glovo, initially based its operations at Nairobi Garage // Westlands.
Due to government-enforced restrictions on movement and social distancing measures, SACCOs were unable to operate at full capacity. As a result, members faced challenges of applying for loans, transacting, and accessing their funds.
A digital banking platform, Kwara announced the launch of its Kwara Pronto digital banking platform which was offered free for 3 months. It helped SACCOs at risk of disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic to quickly go digital, remain in operation, and continue serving members.
Kwara was also shortlisted among 30 African companies for the second cohort of the Wimbart Office Hours program. In November, Kwara launched a Customer Success Traineeship program seeking to help young graduates fast-track their careers in fintech. In partnership with Catalyst Fund and Cambridge University, Kwara is currently recruiting for the first cohort to kick off in January 2021.
Mdundo, a platform providing Africa with easy and affordable access to music recorded a 27% growth in monthly active users to reach 6.4m users in September 2020nup from 5 million in June 2020 which is also a 144% growth compared to September 2019.
Breaking the news in its first quarterly report the startup suggests positive developments inactive users’ growth which is in line with its plan to reach a 9m monthly active user target in June 2021 and 18m in 2022.
The growth was significant in both East, West, and Southern Africa, which supports Mdundo’s mission to be the primary pan-African music platform. During the same period, Mdundo was able to reach 500m internet subscribers in Africa.
In September, the company listed its shares on the Nasdaq First North Growth Market Denmark following an oversubscribed pre-sale period that raised DKK40 million (US$6.4 million), in a bid to solidify its leading position in the pan-African music market.
In March 2020, Mdundo, also initiated a partnership with anti-piracy specialist AudioLock to remove illegally hosted African songs from websites across the world.
In an interview, the CEO mentioned, that unlike most companies, Mdundo, didn’t feel the negative effect of COVID 19 Pandemic as it offers its service as an online platform. We could just say the pandemic offered a ‘perfect storm’ for the company.
According to Financial Times, 75m people used the Teams communication app in a single day in April, up from 20m in late 2019. This is because The Teams communication app became a way for workers to stay in touch. The Azure cloud computing platform also became a more critical part of the digital backbone for many companies. In the same period, Microsoft’s Xbox also reached a record 90m players in April.
As more and more countries went to lockdown, Netflix added twice as many subscribers as it had forecast in the first three months of the year.
The biggest boost came from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, where it signed up nearly 7m subscribers in the first quarter. 183m global subscribers by the end of Q1, a 23 percent jump from a year earlier. It would just be right to say that the company is enjoying a ‘perfect storm’.
On this list is Sisu Global, based at Nairobi Garage Kilimani. They managed to be among six companies that were honored at a virtual award ceremony by The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of the Patents for Humanity program, a USPTO initiative promoting game-changing innovations that address long-standing development challenges.
The organization was honored for creating the Hemafuse, Sisu’s flagship autotransfusion device that gained official recognition by The First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta at the launch of the Nairobi Beyond Zero Medical Safari held at Uhuru Park Nairobi in January.
The Beyond Zero Kenya initiative donated Hemafuse to Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital to aid in the reduction of maternal deaths. Since then Hemafuse has been rolled out in over five frontier hospitals in Kenya.
In 2020, Twiga Foods was ranked the 35th most innovative company globally by Fast Company alongside another 50 Global Companies. Twiga Foods was listed among other great companies like Microsoft, Tesla, Canva, and Spotify.
Twiga Foods is an online Kenyan marketplace, which helps urban shopkeepers source produce from small-scale Kenyan farmers.
At the onset of COVID-19, Twiga also partnered with Jumia to enable shoppers on the platform to buy fresh produce as well as processed foods distributed by the farm produce aggregator.
Twiga Foods will early next year expand to the East and West African regions as it seeks to grow its market share on the continent. In October, Twiga Foods secured Sh3.2 billion ($30 million) from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to cover financial gaps faced by small and medium enterprises.
The fund was delivered through the unfunded risk-sharing facilities (RSFs), which will be scaled in phases. Kenya Commercial Bank will undertake the first phase. The funding will seek to support more than 300 irrigated medium-scale contract farmers to complement Twiga’s seasonal smallholder farmer supply base.
In April alone, Zoom Video calls reached 300M participants. The video conferencing company has come to symbolize the work-from-home boom of 2020, making its fake digital backdrops a cultural touchstone of the coronavirus crisis.
Opening its business-focused app to a wide group of non-paying consumers and educational institutions brought challenges, but also helped turn Zoom into a household name. By the end of April, the number of medium and larger companies using Zoom was up more than three-fold from a year before, while revenue soared 169 percent.
A major turning point in the pandemic is happening, with the first round of vaccines being disseminated in some countries. A fresh optimism for a ‘next normal’ in the new year is taking hold however anxieties over when the economy shall recover persist.
Organizational leadership must continue to develop their post-pandemic business strategies considering capitalization of digitization, adaptable processes, prioritizing their teams, and building resilience for growth in whatever business life cycle they may be in.