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Talking Shop: Peter Kang’iri

Peter Kang’iri, CEO of Kenyan supermarket chain Quickmart, is prioritizing human capital and a digital transformation journey.

Few industries are as fast-paced as the supermarket sector. With tens of thousands of products under a single roof, dozens of staff and countless shoppers, so many variables have to be tracked on a daily basis.

For Peter Kang’iri, CEO of Kenyan supermarket chain Quickmart, there’s no substitute for local knowledge and experience when navigating the ever-changing industry.

"As Kenyans, we better understand the opportunities. We know the population, the number of residents in an area and where we need to go for new locations," he tells The CEO Magazine.

Local connections enable Quickmart to be a truly customer-driven organization, where shopper satisfaction is of the utmost importance.

"The opportunity in Kenya is huge in the retail sector."

In joining Quickmart, Kang’iri was driven by the potential in the Kenyan retail sector to consolidate smaller supermarkets to create a bigger retail chain. At the time it was a family-owned business with 11 stores, but in 2019 it merged with another smaller supermarket chain, Tumaini, under the Quickmart name. One of the conditions of the merger was that Kang’iri would lead the new venture.

In five years, the footprint of the merged company has expanded to 60 supermarkets, from hypermarkets to supermarkets and smaller, express-style formats, with convenience, fresh products and free parking hallmarks of the Quickmart shopping experience.

That figure is showing no sign of slowing down, either, with approximately four openings a year. Kang’iri continues to work with partners to find new greenfield locations across the country to reach different market segments.

"The opportunity in Kenya is huge in the retail sector," he enthuses.

Human Capital

When he originally joined Quickmart in 2013 in a consultancy capacity, Kang’iri’s mandate was to restructure the company in terms of human capital.

"In Kenya, it hasn’t always been easy for retail to attract talent," he says.

Quickmart’s current workforce of 7,000 shows how far the company has evolved in terms of fostering a positive corporate culture, although he acknowledges that there are still plenty of learnings to draw from international examples.

"After founding the Quickmart chain of supermarkets, Kenya’s second-largest retailer, we are now venturing into the real estate market with the brand Basic – Make It Easy. As a pioneer of the strip mall concept, Basic is achieving success in multiple locations across Kenya such as Thome, Kileleshwa, Nyali and Narok, and is redefining the way people approach their retail experiences." – Duncan Kinuthia, Founder, Basic – Make It Easy


"The future of retail will depend on human capital," Kang’iri notes.

In practice, that means putting in place programs that give staff comprehensive training on everything from product information, back office administration and supplier negotiation.

"That will be the major shift in any successful retailer in Kenya," he adds.

Ecommerce Shift

Another major step that Kang’iri intends to take at Quickmart is to bring together the best of advanced technology and human skill to unlock major workflow improvements. Over the last five years, Kang’iri and his team have been identifying IT gaps in the business and are actively searching for a system that can integrate front and back end operations.

"The end-to-end training and new technology can really take us on a digital transformation journey where we will be moving into the next phase of Quickmart," he says.

"The future of retail will depend on human capital."

Part of that digital transformation journey includes a push toward ecommerce. Over the next three-to-five years, Kang’iri hopes to target a five percent ecommerce market share for Quickmart, up from around one percent today.

"Ecommerce is not really a big factor in the Kenyan retail sector. Most of the local retailers, they’re still in the implementation phase," Kang’iri says.

While Kenyan retail customers may still be more interested in physical visits to the supermarket, according to Kang’iri, times are slowly changing, with more and more Kenyans moving to digital products and services.

A Direct Model

Execution of Kang’iri’s plans hinge on extremely close relationships with Quickmart’s suppliers. Instead of following a central warehouse model, it has pursued a direct model with suppliers to ensure a seamless supply chain.

"We have the inventory, we have our own fleet management, we place the order and the order is normally supplied within two days. Within 48 hours, we get our product on the shelf," Kang’iri explains.

"Within 48 hours, we get our product on the shelf."

Unlike other sectors where suppliers may only have weekly or monthly interactions, for Quickmart, stocking daily products like dairy and meat means that suppliers are deeply involved with operations starting from 4am.

A diverse supplier base supports Quickmart in offering customers a large range of products, with 65 suppliers representing more than 70 percent of total supplier trade. Others, such as Basic – founded by Quickmart Co-Founder Duncan Kinuthia – support the company in its core mission of making the customer experience as simple as possible. Kang’iri is also collaborating more closely with international partners, including Unilever.

Forging such strong partnerships further boosts the range offered to customers and ensure Quickmart continues to stand apart in the face of intense competition.

"As a trusted partner of both corporates and small and medium-size enterprises in Kenya, Family Bank prides itself on being the financial partner of choice for Quickmart. Our partnership over the last 15 years has been guided by our common goal of driving sustainable economic growth in Kenya. Its success allows us to invest in Kenya’s key industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, transport and construction." – Nancy Njau, CEO, Family Bank
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