There is no doubt on anyone’s mind that Covid-19 is quite the storm. It is not only a healthcare crisis but also social, political, and economic. The pandemic came and scuttled everything the world knew, and it will take a long time for us to collectively recover if ever.
Everyone was hit hard. But for purposes of this article, we are going to talk about women and how their lives were turned upside down in just about every sector of their lives. We’re talking about women because they got into the Covid-19 mayhem from an already disadvantaged background.
The effects of COVID-19 can barely be exhausted in one article. If anything, even many years and many articles to come, one can only scratch the surface. But we shall look at some of the glaring effects that the pandemic is leaving in its wake even if it has not yet left us completely. And we shall use the example of Yasmin Karim who is a soda distributor based down at the coast.
In 2013, Yasmin who was working in a hardware store noticed a gap in the soda business and decided to try her hand at bridging it. She took a loan and bought 150 crates of soda to kick things off, starting with being her own driver, and sales lady. In just seven years she had scaled up from a small-scale trader to a major distributor with outlets in different areas of the coast. She was also able to raise the number of employees from 6 to 50, empowering a lot of families in the process.
And then Covid-19 struck.
For 5 months straight, Yasmin watched her sales take a nose-dive as the pandemic protocols took effect. 5 months of low business will take a toll on any entrepreneur no matter how bolstered they are. With the near collapse of the food and hospitality industries, the soft drinks industry took a great hit. It was also hit hard by the restrictions in transport since matatu and bus stops are thriving outlets for soda and water. The banning of gatherings as social distancing directives took effect dealt a blow to major markets like weddings and parties. As mentioned earlier, Yasmin’s business is down at the coast. An area that relies heavily on hotels, bars, and entertainment to stay afloat economically.
In short business was bad. And it was going to get worse were it not for Coca-Cola who stepped in with tailor made programs to cushion trader partners like Yasmin and many more.
Some of these programs are a relaxation on the requirements that traders needed to meet to work with them. For example, they allowed distributors to reduce the number of vehicles they were operating with to just around half. This not only reduced distributor overheads but also acted as a morale boost for people like Yasmin. To ensure that traders had stock to operate on, the company also released inventory to them and allowed them to pay in comfortable instalments.
Other than having their business hopes raised just when they needed it, they were also in the right family with Coastal Bottlers. In fact from her interview, you get the feeling that Yasmin is right at home with Coastal Bottlers as hand holders in her entrepreneurial journey. Not forgetting that they’re the ones who helped her secure a bank loan that set base for her success. They also gave her 2 trucks on loan to boost her business and she was also able to buy her own trucks with the fruits of her soda business.
Coastal Bottlers also availed crates to distributors on credit. The distributors were then able to do the same with their customers and this kind of coordinated approach helped the traders to prioritize the little funds they had to buying soda, as opposed to buying crates. This is a beautiful example of a trickle down of benefits to everyone – distributors, traders, and eventually their employees. The ripple effects of this are that communities are economically empowered one family at a time and as we all know, community empowerment is a perfect base for a vibrant national economy.
On her part, and still with the help of Coastal Bottlers, Yasmin helped hoteliers by collecting dead stock of sodas that were near expiry. They would bring them back to the shop and sell those first before releasing fresh stock.
This is a powerful story that Coca-Cola is implementing in different areas to varying extents and this is how traders will get back to their feet after the pandemic with the ‘Open Like Never Before’ campaign.
To other women out there, Yasmin says do not give up. Start somewhere and keep at it. There is money for those who work hard at something regardless of their gender and there is certainly money in the soda business.