Most times when Kenyan athletes receive their medals and the whole stadium in some far away foreign land is asked to rise for the Kenyan national anthem, I usually can’t help crying.
It happened recently when I was in the company of somebody who didn’t know me too well and they got quite upset and distressed thinking that somebody had died. It took some explaining for me to convince them that I am just a very emotional and patriotic man. I love my country, warts and all.
I just love Kenya to bits and I guess that is one of the reasons why I took up this seemingly hopeless crusade that is Kumekucha which “clever” intellectuals will tell you is a waste of time. Indeed there are many times I feel like I have wasted time (especially when those Kikuyu/Luo hate comments start flying thick and fast here).
Fortunately I do not always feel like that. Once in a while stuff happens that makes me feel appreciated and makes me momentarily believe that it has been well worth my time, effort and risking my life. I recently met a famous blogger who screamed loudly and called me a legend when she realized who I was. Another famous blogger at the same venue also called me a legend. I blushed of course. Huh!! Some legend. I must have been a disappointment to them because I don’t express myself too well when I am not writing.
But whatever the case, you my dear readers can relax because such things will never go into my head. I am one of those people who strongly feel that the next president of Kenya should ride in a small 1200cc Toyota and with no motorcycles (what are they for anyway?).
But let me get to the point.
I want to talk about Equity Bank in this post.
As you read this I am reliably informed that there are at least half a dozen American Ivy league universities on the ground in Kenya doing research that is related in some way to Equity Bank and studying why it has been such a phenomenal success. I am sorry if this upsets some of you, but every time I see the Equity Bank logo, tears of pride collect in my eyes. Especially if I have been away from home for a long time.
You see the problem we have in Kenya is that we never appreciate our own. In fact we are deeply suspicious of sensational success that happens too fast. And we have absolutely got no time to encourage anything that is homegrown. So that’s why some American universities have to come all the way to Africa for any Kenyan to even sit up and take notice of our own.
I am deeply aware of the so called “Kikuyu factor attached to Equity Bank but millions of its’ members have no iota of Kikuyu blood flowing through their veins and they love their bank.
Let’s forget the politics for a moment and try to understand the Equity phenomena shall we? A friend of mine who has gone through some hard times recently (like so many other Kenyans) needed some money to put food on the table the other day. He remembered that he had opened an Equity account about 5 years ago which had fallen dormant over the years. He decided to walk down to his branch and close the account and get at least 200 bob which he needed badly. On reaching the bank, he had just started giving instructions for the account to be closed when he realized that he could reactivate it and draw out 400 bob and leave a balance of about Kshs 40 in the account. It seems that this bank has no minimum balance for savings accounts unlike most other banks in Kenya. Well, my friend did just that and a few minutes later walked out of the bank with the badly needed Kshs 400 bob in his pocket. He is NOT a Kikuyu.
Now my friend has made an emotional decision. He tells me he is expecting some cash soon and has vowed to close all his other accounts and keep all his money with Equity. You see many businesses quickly forget that they are dealing with people and people are driven by emotions. Is it any wonder that Equity is so much loved by the masses?
You see my good friends, Equity is a success simply because it understands the masses and the down and out. It is really that simple. Walk into the bank and listen carefully to some of the enquiries. Many of them would cause a fit at Barclays or some other big multinational bank. You will find somebody asking why it is not possible to draw Kshs 100 from the ATM (Equity’s minimum withdrawal allowed at the ATM is Kshs 200). I kid you not. Those long queues have folks in them whose questions can easily make most people pass out in amazement.
Over the last few months I have had many interesting discussions about Equity Bank with many different people (including the famous blogger I met the other day who mostly agrees with me despite her snobbish background). I have talked to banking experts, laymen, the poor and the rich. And from these discussions I have realized the terrible truth;
• The stinking rich will never accept Equity Bank because “they know everything” about money and keeping it and they “know” that Equity is NOT safe. PERIOD. The facts are NOT important relevant here.
• The big banks hate Equity because “who do they think they are” growing so fast and challenging the well established banks? Worse still, who do they think they are changing the ground rules of banking in Kenya the way they have? In fact they got so upset the other day that one of them (name with-held) launched a propaganda campaign in the press that Equity was collapsing. It was the kind of campaign that would have caused a run which can bring down any bank in the world. But Equity survived it mostly because most of its’ account holders don’t read newspapers (some can’t afford them others cannot understand them because the people who write and edit them have no idea how most Kenyans live).
• To make things worse they have no Kenyatta. Moi or Kibaki blood on the board of directors. Or any other well known monied name in Kenya. How dare….
• The rich will never understand ordinary folks in Kenya and therefore what they don’t understand they will quickly dismiss. The only problem with Equity is that they have been dismissing this “funny bank” for years and yet it continues to grow from strength to strength. Now this “funny” bank is the largest in Kenya in terms of account holders and is rapidly hurtling towards the very top in terms of asset base as well.
I have some little advice for those who are ready to learn something here (it is not necessary for you to get all teary every time the “mini ni member” Equity ad appears on TV for you to learn here). And my advice comes with a story.
Decades ago in India some small entrepreneur realized that most poor Indians loved to use a detergent rather than a bar soaps to wash their clothes. The only problem was that they couldn’t afford them and so they stuck to their bar soaps. On the other hand other manufacturers were sure that the poor just loved bar soaps and would never use a detergent even if you paid them to. Those familiar with India may have heard of the name Nirma. His cheap detergent for the masses took off like a rocket and the rest is history.
Whatever you are struggling to make a success of today, why not try and sell it to the masses? Yep sell it to the guys who supposedly have no money. The riff raff of society. Why not try to be the next Nirma or the next Equity Bank?
Remember to share some of your enormous profits with me will you…
P.S. Incidentally for anybody interested in getting to State House, it is the riff ruff who will get you there. Oh yes, the guys who are “stupid enough” to have accounts in Equity. Incidentally there are almost 6 million such “stupid” people in Kenya now and still growing.