FLYING HIGH: INYANGE’S CRUCIAL EXPANSION

One of Rwanda’s best known juice makers and mineral water bottlers, Inyange, is currently in the process of unveiling a new state of the art plant that will have the capacity to produce five times the current capacity for its juice and mineral water brands while giving Inyange the ability to add new products into its product line.

The new plant is nearing completion with the installation of machinery planned for completion in October. While the new plant is supposed to be commissioned in the final quarter of 2008, full production is expected in the first quarter of 2009. The new plant will have several production lines and will be able to mass produce new products that will be unveiled to coincide with its opening.

The mineral water and juice lines will have the ability to bottle the products at an impressive capacity of 13,000 bottles an hour. This will be the largest industrial capacity in Rwanda and will ultimately reduce the cost to the customer. The newly designed bottles will be recyclable along with being more stylish.

The Tetra Pak line (UHT- Ultra High Temperature) will produce juice in cartons that will compete with more established foreign brands such as Ceres, Splash and Kenylon. The wide product range in the juice category will include syrup, a ready to drink carton and a low-calorie product for the more health conscious. The capacity of this line is 5,000 packs an hour and about 80% of this output is geared towards the export market.

Since most of these new Tetra Pak products are intended for the export market the branding and product quality are high standard and comparable to any imported brand. There are also plans to export 200 liter drums of concentrated juice to other African and Western countries.

Mineral water from the mountains of Byumba will continue to be bottled at the plant but there are also plans to produce table-water.

The other part of the plant will be dedicated to dairy products and there is a new product range as well. A UHT line to produce long-life milk in Tetra Pak cartons will be installed.

In a country like Rwanda UHT milk is particularly popular because its ability to stay fresh without refrigeration. This UHT milk line will be able produce up to 5,000 packs an hour and will cater for the needs of the local and export market. Three types of milk will be produced to cater for varied tastes; a skimmed (no fat), semi-skimmed (low-fat) and whole milk.

Inyange will continue to produce pasteurized milk but in a new package which will be opaque to protect the milk from damaging ultraviolet rays. Yogurt will also be produced in 250ML and 120ML containers. Yogurt is also going to be available in various flavors such as strawberry, apricot, vanilla and pineapple. Ice-cream, in several flavors, will be produced in the plant as well and will no doubt be a popular addition to the products on sale. Cream and butter will also round off Inyange’s product range.

Inyange is looking forward to the challenge of running this high-tech plant and is doing all that is necessary to achieve this.

Inyange is negotiating with local suppliers to ensure the raw materials of milk and fruit can be provided and it is working with local cooperatives to ensure supply. Inyange are now seeking to expand the skills base of its employee’s because the new plant will require a high level of expertise; it fully intends to employ locals and train its staff highly.

The new plant will employ 120 people but will also employ hundreds more indirectly as suppliers, logistical support and providers of other services. The current Inyange site will remain in use as a depot and is undergoing renovation.

BRANDING IN RWANDA: AN OVERVIEW

No Logo’, a book written by Naomi Klein explored the way corporations discovered and perfected the art of branding their products. Whether you agree with Klein that the shift towards the brand was a dangerous one or not, it is quite clear that the modern brand is here to stay and today we have the ‘brand’ in a variety of guises all following a similar template of product transcendence.

Curiously, despite a rapidly expanding business sector, branding has not quite taken root in Rwanda. In fact, only a handful of companies could be said to have embraced the power of the brand and the three most successful are familiar- MTN, BCR and Bralirwa

For sheer creativity, MTN reigns supreme. Being a continental corporation, it has had years to hone its craft before arriving in Rwanda, there is no denying that it has taken branding in this country to the next level. In fact, one can say that it gave birth to branding as it exists in the country today. Blanketing the media with ads, sponsoring countless events, setting up attractive billboards with their distinctive yellow- the MTN blitzkrieg has paid off.

MTN are clearly trying to anchor their brand in the mould of a vibrant and feel-good company; young at heart, but a veteran on the scene. Bold without being too brash, MTN tries to impart a sense of joie de vivre and through a plethora of sponsorships and programs, also aim to portray themselves as a caring company. With their new series of ‘GO’ adverts, MTN has shown its philosophical side, the ads are replete with inspirational messages, encouraging people to fulfill their potential and reach for the impossible.

This strategy is not without its dangers, the very ubiquity of the MTN brand does annoy some people and in some quarters, makes the company look like an aggressive invader of public space and the network problems that have plagued them over the last five months have not helped their image either . However, on balance, MTN have clearly been a successful and effective brand and have stamped their image on the public consciousness in a way no other company has managed to do.

BCR have also successfully branded their company and like MTN have tried to showcase their vibrancy. They have also placed an emphasis on innovation, repeatedly launching new promotions and incentives and have, like MTN, successfully straddled the line between coming across as being youthful and yet experienced.

In sponsoring Crossfire on Contact FM, they are also positioning themselves as the bank for the intellectually astute. Added to this package is the extra dimensional, in the form of surreal humor exemplified by the ‘How Do You Eat a Watermelon?’ billboards that have baffled and amused in equal measure.

With those billboards, BCR have signaled a boldness and willingness not to talk down to their market. They appear to have grasped one of the essential tenets of branding- it is not a literal manifestation of your company. If every company limited their advertising to exactly what they were, branding would be a redundant exercise. In this sense, BCR’s watermelon ad was a tremendous trailblazer. It may be too soon to tell how successful the ads have been, but it is fair to say that BCR is taking the art of branding to new and interesting levels in the country. And the mere fact that everyone has been talking about the watermelon ad marks out the campaign as something of a success, obviously the clearest indication of a branding misfire would be facing total apathy from the public.

Bralirwa has also achieved major success as a brand. Using the ‘Billboard Explosion Strategy’, Bralirwa has erected colorful billboards with young good looking people, whose lives seem to revolve around that oh-so-tasty drink. One particular billboard, featuring a woman taking a long gulp of a Coca-Cola, is a brilliant ad: utter satisfaction condensed in a single image.

However it is not all about billboards and soft drinks. Last year Bralirwa launched their sleek, new Petit Primus. Petit Primus was intended to target middle and upper-class drinkers who considered the older unwieldy bottle too cumbersome and suggestive of lower-income tastes. It is an interesting experiment and appears to have achieved a large degree of success so far. Indeed shifting the attitudes of the targeted market so dramatically is one of the most successful examples of branding in the country and is incredibly hard to do considering the task they faced in attempting to challenge people’s deeply held prejudices to one of their products. It also shows that sometimes the genius of branding is that utter simplicity can bring about a huge change, in this case making the product, smaller and more compact.

Yet aside from the big three few others in Rwanda appear to be interested in branding themselves effectively. Some have made partial progress. Rwandair Express has been making some big gains in this regard with their ambitious approach of trying to make the airline the very embodiment of the country’s hopes and dreams. A few others are showing some promise; Rwandatel for example is worth keeping an eye on as it reinvents itself.

However one wonders about the lack of presence of the other brands. Most attempts at branding from local companies come across as either half-hearted or unsuccessful. A good example is COGEAR. They have a catchy jingle accompanying their television ad but the ad itself is bland and, sadly, instantly forgettable.

Radio stations also provide a good illustration of this problem. Most of them don’t bother to create their own niche in the market or target any demographic- they merely play homogenous contemporary tunes and yet even the choice of music could prove to be a smart piece of branding. Likewise many companies are just a mass of indistinct, generic brands making little effort to stand out of the pack. Granted advertising, sponsorship and other methods of branding don’t come cheap, but neither does making your company distinctive name on the market.

Perhaps the underlying cause of the lack of branding is an aversion to thinking outside the box. The same mindset that sees a dozen pharmacies all open side-by-side on a typical street corner in Kigali. It is also likely that many companies simply underestimate the intelligence of the market little realizing that you don’t need a particularly sophisticated market to become a major brand. Advertising, the bedrock of branding, is often experienced at a gut level and few of us would be able to articulate exactly why an ad works for us because it hits us at more than just a conscious level.

It is also likely that many companies just don’t realize the value of branding and think they can do just fine without it. However with competition in all sectors growing increasingly fierce and with an increasingly sophisticated market out there, it is inevitable that branding is going to dominate the future.

By Minega Isibo

SORAS: Rest Assured

By Louise Umutoni  Imagine, crashing and totally wrecking your new BMW 6 Series that you saved literary your whole life for.  Try to picture that dream house that you recently constructed being totally vandalized by thugs, or, worse still, burning to cinders in a towering inferno.  Tragedy has struck, and you think you have nowhere to turn. That’s not entirely true. SORAS Insurance Company is there for you. SORAS, a French acronym for Societe Rwandaise d’Assurance, started in the early eighties and has since leap-frogged to become the one of the nations largest insurers.  

SORAS was the first fully private insurance company to be introduced in Rwanda, in collaboration with a major European insurance company – Union des Assurances de Paris (UAP International). Gaining valuable experience and expertise from their European mentor, SORAS became fully digitalized four years after its establishment and quickly established itself as a leading insurance firm in Rwanda. 

The Client as King      

At a time when Rwanda’s private sector was characterized by inefficiency, SORAS chose to treat its clients as kings, a standard it has maintained to date.   It remains one of the few insurance companies that reimburses clients without subjecting them to the usual red tape. The company has also commissioned numerous research studies and surveys into customer satisfaction and is constantly searching for new and innovative products that will serve the present and future needs of its clients.  

In the two decades of its existence, SORAS has managed to establish an extensive, nationwide network of agencies and sub-headquarters, with the main headquarters located in the capital, Kigali.   

The company boasts of a wide range of products developed specifically with the client in mind. These include, among other services, automobile insurance, which covers theft of the vehicle and injury to the client and third-party occupants of the vehicle and insurance for damage to goods, be it natural or due to another cause.  

SORAS is also a believer in the investment potential of Rwanda, and has acted on this faith in constructing a high-rise luxurious apartment building, the PRIMA 2000 Residence located in Kacyiru.  It has also constructed elaborate quarters for all its major branches nationwide.    

While the company’s services have already won it nationwide acclaim, it has remained steadfast in its commitment to innovation. In 1999 SORAS introduced the first life insurance policy to Rwanda, a product that has led competitors to follow suit. Six years later it went on to introduce MEDIPLAN, a private medical insurance policy that has attracted a huge clientele due to its reliability.  

BCR heralds the growth of Rwandan Small & Medium Enterprises

By Patrick Mutimura Rising from ashes to glory, turning straw to Gold, are all expressions that would describe BCR’s evolution after privatization and small and medium enterprises’ transformation into the driving force of the Rwandan economy and post ’94 Rwanda in general. When BCR was privatized, ACTIS, the Government and Rwanda and its minority shareholders had one vision: BCR was going to be the most respected bank in the country.   The bank was also going to be at the forefront of the country’s developmental agenda. With this in mind, it was understood that it was going to be “Business Unusual”. 

A Great Bank facilitates other Businesses to become Great Businesses 

In order to succeed as a business, BCR had to carefully segment the markets it was going to serve, increase customer focus, innovate and return to profitability. The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) market was a natural selection. It is growing, active and has enormous room for expansion and is a market with a clear need for what the bank offers – business growth financing.  

BCR Launches SME products

In order to facilitate SMEs to increase their volume of business, BCR, in the past two years, has developed products that have revolutionized SME business financing, and other banks have followed suit. Lease and Go, BCRs leasing product is a prime example. With Lease and Go, SMEs that could not obtain assets under ordinary financing now acquire them as leased assets, pay for usage and receive tax benefits, as the rentals are tax deductible.  

PhoneBanking is another service worth mentioning which SMEs have taken up quite well. It is convenient and customer-driven.  Simply put, it is the bank’s enquiry desk accessible to you, wherever you are. SMEs can inquire whether a payment has been made or received without leaving their business’ premises. They can stop payments (prevent the holder of an issued check from making withdrawal) as well as speak to the agents regarding any issues they would want to raise with the bank.  

BCR also intends to play its part in developing entrepreneurship in Rwanda, and in the process, increase the number of SMEs operating in the country. This is the essence behind Credit Éclair – a fast, no frills, no hassle loan facility that allows salaried employees to obtain quick financing to start a small business and find alternative earnings. 

Easing SMEs ability to grow through tendering is also one of the means by which BCR is facilitating SMEs in Rwanda. With Tradeline, a short term loan facility, a trader who is awarded a tender approaches the bank and is provided up to 70% of the financing required to deliver on the tender.   Tender approval acts as security. This is business made simple and the new approach to banking. 

Insurance Premium Finance (IPF) is another SME loan facility. IPF allows businesses to pay insurance premiums on machinery and equipment, imported and exported products as well as all insurable items. This is done in installments rather than up front cash, which provides flexibility in cash flow management. 

Going Forward

BCR prides itself in offering the SME sector business-needs oriented products, coupled with world class service. Being crowned the London Based Financial Times Banker of The Year 2006 and 2007 (Rwanda) confirms that BCR is well on its way to attaining its vision. Successful businesses usually have the support system of great partners. This is true for BCR and the SMEs they support.   There is a mutual respect of interests and a mutual desire for each others’ progress. The bank will continue to innovate and find ways of helping SMEs achieve their potential as businesses and development agents in the country. 

The Small and Medium business’ role is simple: they have to improve the management of their businesses which, will reduce their risk profile, and improve their processes and productivity level. This is geared towards ensuring that their growth is inevitable, given the virgin nature of the majority of business sectors in Rwanda.  

Ebusiness in East Africa: Meet the Innovators

African Kiosk The African Kiosk is an IT firm, originally established to provide electronic based transactions and services that meet the increasing demand of East Africans living within and outside of the Diaspora, in purchasing and delivery of on-line procured products and gifts globally. The company’s services presently cater to clientele in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, with a view to expanding outside of the region.  

Since its inception in March 2004, African Kiosk has exhibited growth, and, in response to consumer demand, set up a sister website, Exchange Africa (www.exchangeafrica.com), to offer services such as online auctions, online shopping and trade of products that enable the shoppers who visit the site to have a variety to chose from and avoid the inconvenience of having to drive to shopping destinations. The site also encourages entrepreneurial growth through having “hobby traders” and “Net heads” placing their products online in a bid to look for markets among the network of shoppers who visit these sites. A similar site, SenteServices (www.senteservices.com ), has also been developed for potential buyers and sellers of commodities who wish to transact using offshore bankcards. This service will be available to consumers who purchase the card from SenteServices for online shopping, who also have access to cash withdrawals from any VISA operated ATM machine worldwide. 

With this growth, the African Kiosk is re-inventing itself and is embarking on promotion of home grown products which are in a position to compete on even terms with those presently regarded as some of the best on the market; e.g. Rwanda Coffee would be able to favorably compete with Brazilian coffee as a result of its added value from wash stations and coffee processing firms. Processed Rwandan coffee can also be consumed in either small or bulky quantities by online shoppers within Rwanda, the region or the Diaspora. African Kiosk has been updating its system and products to cater to the needs of present and potential clients.  

In the next edition there will be a detailed explanation of how shopping online is done and the security measures undertaken before an order is processed.

ELECTROGAZ RWANDA: A nation is powered

The antiquated infrastructure of the sole electricity and water utility company worked to ensure a dark nation during the pre-1994 period. The luxury of running water and a lit home was reserved for the affluent. The situation could only get worse with the 1994 civil war that further tore apart the country’s infrastructure. To make a bad situation even worse, there was a sharp increase in demand at a time when the water levels were fast receding, causing a slump in the power supply.  

This called for proper crisis management and careful power rationing if Rwanda was to rise against the odds. Indeed, ELECTROGAZ rose to the occasion by carefully allocating electricity and water to important social service centres such as hospitals and schools. Homes had to forego the luxuries of watching television and warm showers as they were allocated minimal electricity at particular hours in the day.  

ELECTROGAZ later acquired high-powered generators from Germany, giving a major boost to the already-existing power supplies. This, and deals struck to import power from neighbouring countries, managed to level out the ratio of supply to demand, and light at last returned to the country.  

Today the utilities company is in the process of revolutionizing its services to meet the standards that are expected of the country as it enters a new era of the East African Community and works towards Vision 2020.  

ELECTROGAZ tackled the issue of accumulated electricity bills by supplying cash-power units throughout the country, a move that ensured that customers pay first before using electricity. Cash-power units can now be found throughout the country, as opposed to the previous situation where only Kigali city residents had cash-power units, with the rural areas largely ignored. This move also aided in economizing on power usage since every unit is now paid for, unlike the ancient system that was largely inaccurate.  

Furthermore, the company has started outsourcing the selling of cash-power coupons to retail outlets nationwide. This scheme drastically reduced the congestion and queuing that characterised the Electrogaz offices around the country.  

ELECTROGAZ has also introduced the use of energy saving lamps that consume half the power required by a normal bulb and went a step further by distributing 7 energy saving lamps free of charge to city residents.  

As Rwanda continues to set an exemplary pace in economic development, revolutionizing the water and electricity sector, ELECTROGAZ remains at the forefront of this endeavour. This transformation will include customer-focused services, commitment and loyalty, cooperation and teamwork, integrity and transparency and efficiency among other things. All this is in line with ELECTROGAZ’s vision to be the most efficient and customer-centric company in the region.             

KK Security Rwanda: Building the capacity to secure the region

As regional integration takes root, several companies in various sectors are positioning themselves on how best to serve the expanding regional market. Others are already well positioned. East African Breweries in the beverage sector, Safaricom and MTN in telecommunications are some examples. In the security services sector, KK Security seems to have a tight grip on the regional market. A situation that is not likely to change given the company’s increasing commitment to better service delivery. Last year KK scooped up the “2006 Best Client” in East and Central Africa by the African Management Services Company (AMSCO, a UNDP Project).  About fifty security firms drawn from Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Southern Sudan were ranked based on the firm’s capacity-building, employment creation, growth and product development. Here it was noted that KK Security Rwanda created 300 new jobs in Rwanda and also trained and empowered six Rwandan managers that year.  

Least expected of your average African askari, KK has professionalized its security guards. We are not talking about ‘How to use a gun and a baton for dummies’ but rather Security Training, Public Relations, Hospitality, Diplomatic and Industrial Security, First Aid, Fire-Fighting, Physical Fitness, Searching, Bomb Detection, and Self Defense.

The precision with which KK Security provides its services is attributed to its status as one of the oldest security companies in the region having been founded in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1966. The company’s regional portfolio includes branches in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sudan, and Rwanda. It also has a human resource base that amounts 12,000 in the region. In Rwanda alone, KK employs 1300 people. As though to emphasize security as a top priority, the company clients and the staff are covered by Public Liability and Workman’s compensation insurance policies.  

Remaining up to date with global security technological trends is also central to the company’s growth. Alarm systems, automatic gates, sirens and CCTV cameras are some of the companies many high end products. Their team of security Dogs and their handlers enhance the patrolling by detecting intrusions, chasing fleeing intruders and bomb sniffing thereby defusing potentially harmful situations.   

Scaling up through partnership is yet another measure being taken to tighten the company’s grip on regional domination. Rwanda’s National Police provides an armed Police Officer for ever KK patrol car as part of the ongoing collaboration. Local security companies and Rwanda Security Industry Association (RSIA) are all equally critical partners.