Michael Sinclair is the General Manager of BIC East Africa, a subsidiary of BIC, a giant multinational company that has been in existence for the past 75 years. The company-with a presence in 160 countries plus, is a world leader in stationery, lighters and shavers. Bic ballpoint pens are currently the market leader in Kenya, with a market share of more than 35 per cent in value and volume.
Sinclair has an impressive resume having worked for globally renowned brands such as Nestle Nespresso. He is now focused on growing the Kenyan brands in his current position as General Manager.
Adapting products to Kenyan market
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In a recent interview with The Standard, Sinclair reiterated their commitment to adapt the company’s products according to the needs of Kenyans. Currently, the East African subsidiary has over 150 team members and serves ten markets in the region among them Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
On diversification, Sinclair noted that diversifying a company’s portfolio is crucial to its growth, development and proximity to consumers. He added that the company’s core categories include stationery, lighters and shavers.
“The subsidiary in Kenya had inevitably enhanced our growth in lighters by 200 per cent and shavers by 150 per cent excess growth. Prior to 2019, we were selling around eight million shavers across East Africa. Our diversification goes beyond just the product. We also look at purpose. Earlier this year, we announced a partnership with our brand ambassador, Azziad Nasenya, for one of our flagship shavers, Miss Soleil,” he told the Standard.
Interestingly, the company does not manufacture its products locally, a matter that has been questioned extensively. To his defense, Sinclair said that BIC has global operations with a manufacturing presence and capabilities in selected geographies.
“Our utmost priority is producing high-quality, affordable, and safe products for our consumers. We have stringent standards in the production of all our categories and we ensure centralized production lines across our geographies,” he added.
BIC has been for a long time the go-to brand for most consumers. The brand consistency has paid off, with Sinclair noting that they “work relentlessly to provide high-quality products and remain consistent.”
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With East Africa being a unique market, BIC has aligned its distribution channels to fit the market. For example, while in South Africa distribution is predominantly through the modern mass market, in Kenya, 80% of trade is done through traditional distribution channels.
When asked about some of the challenges he faces in his current position, Sinclair was quick to highlight the COVID-19 pandemic. “For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the closure of schools and universities undoubtedly had an impact on the business but we have a strong recovery. The key is to take on the challenge, solve it, learn from it, and move forward. At BIC, we operate a genuine and ethical business. We comply at every level across the geographies in which we operate, and we give back to the communities we do business in.
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