Less than two decades ago, Safaricom was just a small department within Telkom Kenya. Today, Safaricom is not only the biggest telecommunications provider but also the largest brand in East and Central Africa, having raked in net profit of Sh38 billion in the last financial year- more than what the insurance industry made.
Are there other brands that will follow in the footsteps of Safaricom’s and if possible, grow bigger than Kenya’s biggest telco? Dr Joseph Owino, a marketing lecturer at the University of Nairobi, does not see a brand that will surpass Safaricom in stature in the near future.
Nonetheless, branding experts, including Dr Owino, have narrowed down to five brands that have the potential to challenge Safaricom for the top slot.
“The truth is strength of brand is depends on four factors,” said Dr Owino. These include brand awareness, brand association and meaning, brand loyalty and quality which can be real or perceived.
Besides Safaricom, other brands that Owino thinks have a chance to do better include sportpesa.
Sportpesa: Betting is the new craze, and SportPesa has been its embodiment.
SportPesa is a betting company that has made it big in Kenya. It has even gone ahead to increase its brand awareness by sponsoring Kenya Premier League as well as two of the most popular soccer clubs in the country, Gor Mahia FC and AFC Leopards. SportsPesa are also the official sponsors of Kenya’s Sevens rugby team. However, the recent development in which the Government has moved to increase taxes on gaming and gambling might affect the profitability of Sport.
M-Pesa: Safaricom’s mobile money transfer service has been seen as Africa’s success story that is being replicated in other parts of the world including Europe.
It is a top brand which to many, has in recent times been responsible for the huge profit the telecom service provider has recorded. M-Pesa has moved from being a mere money transfer tool to a vital tool for transactions as the country moves into a cashless economy.
Equity Bank: The financial institution is not the biggest bank by asset size, but it has the most customers. In recent times, the bank recorded a slow-down in profits — not to be confused with making losses. However, the lender, which is a pioneer in banking among the common mwananchi, has continued to significantly diversify as the financial environment changes.
It was at the forefront in moving into agency banking, and as banking moves into the mobile, Equity came up with its own mobile services service, Equitel which it expects to rival M-Pesa. The company has continued to innovate.
KCB: KCB is Kenya’s biggest bank by asset size. It does not have as many customers as Equity Bank, but has for a while been the most profitable lender. Just as Equity, it has operations across the region with branches in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Moreover, just as Equity, KCB has continued to innovate, forging a partnership with Safaricom which has enabled it to offer loans to ordinary Kenyans through the mobile phone dubbed KCB M-Pesa.
Java: Dr Owino says that you cannot rule out Java coffeehouse among the brands to watch in the next five years. With the growth of the country’s middle class, coffee consumption has been growing really fast.