Lessons We learned During the Pandemic
At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, KABANA, like many other businesses, had massive order cancelations for leather products, a huge decline in export revenues, and increasing pressures on keeping staff on payroll. This led to extremely tough choices like staff redundancies and repurposing our factory to make PPE materials.
With support from the Mastercard Foundation, we purchased basic textile machines, repurposed the existing machines, and trained staff to make textile products.
This was a steep learning curve for us, given our background in leather making is very different.However, we have learnt a lot, and some of the significant lessons include:
- Covid-19 lock-down effects showed us that it is crucial as entrepreneurs to be dynamic and quickly adapt to situations that affect our businesses. Even if we maintained our primary business lines (leather bags), our ability to adapt swiftly to producing PPE products allowed us to stay operational. We leveraged our resilience during a pandemic to seek funding and technical assistance opportunities from organizations like Mastercard Foundation, GIZ, and Netherlands’s CBI.
- Collaboration with other SMEs is essential. For example, KABANA, with 11 other SMEs formed a consortium and applied for Mastercard Foundation Covid-19 recovery support to enable us to retain staff and repurpose factories to make PPE materials. As a consortium, we were able to leverage each other’s strengths to repurpose factories, improve bargaining power in purchasing, and access markets. This is a key lesson to the business environment where we always compete without seeing the value of collaborating.
- At KABANA, we have learnt the importance of diversification of product lines and markets. This slow period allowed us to analyse our strategic goals, gaps and opportunies critically. For example, we hugely relied on one client and business line (leather bags) as a business. This called for innovation and making strategies to target new markets. Thanks to support from GIZ, we are rethinking our branding, product design, and markets with a particular focus on Europe. Additionally, we launched Bana design –making garments from upcycled products and textiles. These include T-shirts, shoes, uniforms, belts, and various clothes types.