From its humble beginnings in 1967, Eveready has come a long way.
With over 400 employees at its peak, it was truly a household brand - lighting up our nights and powering our radios.
Personally, I still remember the powerful feeling holding a torch with brand new batteries, when taking milk to the collection point at around 4:30 am.
Currently Eveready is a pale shadow of its former self and investors can hardly recall it as the stock that took NSE by storm with 733 percent oversubscription. And if not careful, it might as the street saying in Kiswahili, 'go as it goes'.
Luckily the current leadership is not only cognisant of this fact, but is also up to the task. Two main factors contributed to the status now. The unforeseen, uncontrollable factors like cheap imports and rise of electric powered devises. We recall when a pair of Eveready batteries was Sh50 and the other rival brands sold for Sh35. This may have seemed a little saving but they were not half as durable as Eveready.
The second is electrification, even in informal settlements and rural areas. But here we can’t feign surprise. From the days of former president Mwai Kibaki’s government to the Jubilee manifesto, powering Kenya has been a priority. And now the goal is universal access by 2020.
So one should realign their business or get swept along by the tide. The present and the future hold great opportunities. A word of caution, though. The future belongs to the world class thinkers. We must have great visions. Global ambitions, even if one is serving the local market, are crucial to unlocking resources and rallying stakeholders to your side.
They can be executed small, but they must be huge. And so should Eveready. It should follow the client and right now, people have gone electrical. Kenya Power ate into Eveready’s cake so to speak. But clients are not totally thrilled.
There had been uproar about billings till the courts had to be involved. Reports are rife that many of the connected clients are no longer active. In the long term, the gov’t is still yet to make up its mind on whether we need more power.
Currently, there is need for alternative energy provider. From solar or the other abundantly available and renewable sources. As the ‘battery guy’, Eveready would be right in the middle of it. Take responsibility for the entire power kit, while supplying world class batteries would be a game changer.
We know and trust Eveready. If they can supply portable but secure power units, so that one can move with them as he shifts houses in the city, many would dare. The future is also electrical.
Currently we are talking about electric vehicles. In Kenya, and maybe Africa, we are not ready. At this rate outside players will be running the show once electrical vehicles enter the mass market at our expense.
Taking the initiative to educate the market and convene stakeholders’ forums will be a boon. Engage with universities and science colleges. Though one may not be able to develop the latest lithium batteries, partnerships are allowed. The entire industry will be disrupted including petrol stations. Leading preparations will minimise disruption and even help seize the opportunities e.g necessary infrastructure buildup.
It will also set you apart as the expert and the go to person for global players looking for local partners. And of course the experience will come in handy, whichever way the future goes. It’s all about self-positioning (or lack of it). DR Congo supplies 60 percent of the world’s Cobalt- a critical component of batteries-but that’s just about it.
The Eveready that investors were scrambling to get a piece of years ago is still there. It has the foundation, brand power, and a chequered past. It’s time to train its guns on the future.
Kariuki Gathuitu, Nairobi.