BY VICTOR ADAR
Managing a successful business in this age of technology and innovation is a challenging task, especially with the cutthroat competition and harsh economic environment in nearly all industries. As you work towards breaking even, you need to raise your head high and look above your shoulder to see if in the long run things will go according to plan.
Times and attitudes change like opinion polls, and most probably, Hotpoint Appliances is one distributor and retailer that has always embraced this phenomenon of the changing world. The company started from the humble beginnings of a small shop. Its first store was opened in 1984 when Sarit Centre was built.
Today, the distributor and retailer sees a silver lining, and has grown to become a well known brand with six retail outlets in Nairobi and Mombasa offering free next day delivery and hassle-free installation. Most importantly, it is not only thriving on a full range of consumer electronics, home appliances and air conditioners but also imports over 12 global brands besides its own brand, VON.
According to Keval Kanani, the journey has been fraught with various challenges, which to some extent, has made the firm more resilient. To him, taming the economic undercurrents and being able to grow exponentially has meant that they focus on big things.
“It’s a continuous journey of learning and new innovations every day,” says Kanani. “Over the years there has been a large increase in the number of middle-income group who would like to purchase various products and brands which Hotpoint offer… We offer personalized solutions to suit customers’ lifestyles from the utility to the premium range, gift card options, product financing, just to name a few.”
To get things done, the company has inked deals with companies that offer credit facilities such as Lipa Later and Aspira; whereby customers are given a chance to acquire products of their choice and pay monthly. Under what Kanani terms “lipa pole pole” arrangement, customers can pay for items in instalments. But is it fulfilling to do business that way?
“Customers who would like to purchase products in one go have a chance to shop from us and pay at a convenient period of time of between three to twelve months. We also see a lot of upgrading through this purchase option,” he points out.
Hotpoint is also trying to leverage on e-commerce. With what the director terms a “fully-integrated online shopping platform that is secure and easy to use” providing customers with the option “click & collect” in-store, the company likely understands what convenience means to customers. It will also surprise you that the company recently launched a mobile app with various features to improve the customer-shopping journey.
“It’s been a great journey,” he says. “The retail market has totally evolved, we see global brands in the country and this has helped the retail sector strive to measure up to the standards…This is the customers’ world now and we just live in it. Retail was stable and with technological changes customers have access to more information. They now control the relationship.”
Although Kenya has witnessed a rise in the number of distributor and retail companies, hundreds of them press panic button in few years of operation thanks to tough economic times. Mr Kanani agrees that he plays in a sector, which may be the most challenging and exciting at the same time. He is proud of what they have been able to achieve as a company over the years
He also points out that individuals who are currently shaking the consumer and house hold industry must have hands on experience acquired over a long period of time. This is lacking. Probably you might have the best product but if you are to grow amid stiff competition, you must have some practical experience to thrive.
To inspire customers, well-thought-out and practical campaigns are handy. It is at the back of this that the company ran a 10-week shop and win campaign which ended in mid-January where shoppers who purchased items valued at Sh10, 000 and above from any of the firm’s six outlets in Nairobi and Mombasa stood a chance of winning.
During the final stretch of the campaign dubbed Maisha Motomoto that saw Neer Shah win a trip for two to Dubai, David Njoka (home makeover), and Antony Kivuti drive home brand new VW Polo, which was the grand prize, conversation was mainly on fair deals. The option to reward customers for being loyal and trusting throughout the year is, indeed, an important milestone, he says.
“It was all about the customers, those who have chosen to shop with us despite a tough year and for that, nothing would have compensated them well enough but a promotion that would see them receive something back from us,” Kanani says, adding that the firm’s prosperity in business largely depends on customers who purchase their products and services.
“It is always important to aim high in our industry to bring in better standards and products and an excellent customer experience which the Hotpoint family are continually striving for. In the next two or three years from now, Hotpoint should be first in the customers minds when they think of upgrading appliances in their homes. Our products should be easily accessible and offer the best value for money,” he says.