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The Tiger Taking On The Fat Cats

When he left India for Tanzania, Sanjeev Kumar didn’t know he would start a banking revolution.



When you first meet Sanjeev Kumar, you do not expect the kind demeanor from his serious stature. The Founder of Bank M stands tall in blue jeans, a black Lacoste dress shirt and a black jacket. He breaks into a small smile as we exchange greetings and lets me know that he is ready for anything I may throw at him.

Although he is behind one of Tanzania’s most successful banking institutions, Kumar’s background is very far from finance. Born and raised in India, he graduated with a degree in law, specializing in taxation law, and was selected to join the management-training program at State Bank of India, the biggest bank in India about 35 years ago. It is here that his love for banking was born; Kumar says it grew on him and he wouldn’t go back to law today if given a chance.

So how does a man of Indian descent end up in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam? Call it perfect timing. Kumar built his banking experience with State Bank of India and soon after moved to the French bank BNP Paribas before making the calculated move to Tanzania in 2001 to become the Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Trust Bank (DTB). His time here showed him the challenges his corporate customers had with managing large cash collections that would not get delivered to the bank in time due to the early closing times most institutions enforced.

“When I came to East Africa, banks here were fat cats and customers didn’t have a choice and had to take what was given. Banks used to open whenever they liked and closed promptly at 2PM,” says Kumar.

This gave him the idea to provide customers with better service by extending operating hours during the day and keeping the bank open over the weekend.

“There are banks in Asia who have done the longer working hours strategy and it has worked for them, but they couldn’t incorporate the service standard guarantee so when I saw that, I knew this new model would work very well in Tanzania and Kenya as well.”

Bank M was an idea formulated by Kumar, and five other investors, after he left DTB in 2004. Kumar had a desire to do his own thing and create an institution that provided the type of service customers were looking for.

“We started with focus. I believe focus is the key for good customer care, so right from the word go, we were focused on wholesale banking and within wholesale banking we concentrated on large business families. We don’t do anything else. We don’t do savings accounts, no ATMs – nothing except wholesale banking,” says Kumar.

Since opening in July 2007, Bank M has grown steadily with paid-up capital now reaching TZS73.06 billion (around $33 million) and balance sheet and profitability growing at a compound annual growth rate of 45% over the past decade. The company has since won the heart of the Tanzanian corporate sector with its longer working hours and customer service guarantee. It is the only financial institution in Africa that is open 12 hours a day, from 8Am to 8PM, seven days a week. It also won the Best Commercial Bank Tanzania 2015 award and is the sixth largest bank in the country in terms of profitability.

Kumar claims that this new style of banking has helped Tanzania’s economy in various ways. Many of Bank M’s customers are supermarkets and restaurants that deposit their earnings for the day in the late evening hours. The bank also does cash collections and deliveries from their customers’ offices.

Bank M started at the right time in Tanzania. The country’s GDP has consistently grown since then, at an average of 7 to 8%, but there is uncertainty for the private sector, according to a Stanbic Bank report on African markets.

“Prospects are looking good for Tanzania’s economy as it grows closer to the 7% mark, making it stronger than both the Kenyan and Ugandan economies. The jury is still out though on the various reforms mandated to enhance productivity in the region,” says Jibran Qureishi, Regional Economist for East Africa at Stanbic Bank.

Jesse James A’ruwa, Co-Founder and Senior Investment Advisor at SMA Capital Limited,  however, says banks can still do more.

“There still remains a huge gap to fill in the financial sector to ensure that the public has access to the full array of financial services, including access to money markets and investment funds etc. I believe that for the financial sector to really take strides towards advancing the economy, the stakeholders within the financial sub-sectors need to adapt their products to the reality of the Tanzanian people and their mindsets,” he says.

Kumar has since opened a variant of Bank M in Nairobi, Kenya.  The majority shareholders of Bank M have set up a Bank Holding Company, M Holdings Limited, which has been licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya as a non-operating bank holding company. M Holdings has been licensed by CBK to acquire a minimum 51% stake in local Nairobi bank, Oriental Commercial Bank – now rebranded to M-Oriental Bank. With this new acquisition, the bank will focus on large family businesses in Kenya. Kumar says there is a big difference in finance management between Kenya and Tanzania.

“In Kenya, $1 is just KSH102 while in Tanzania it is TZS2,235, so the circulation is much less in Kenya. In Tanzania, if you change $100,000 you’ll need a suitcase to carry it, but in Nairobi that is still manageable cash. So Kenyans don’t need as elaborate a structure but we will definitely still offer cash pick-up and delivery.”

Bank M plans to expand in eastern and southern Africa, to countries such as Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Malawi.

Kumar is an avid runner but finding time for this can be difficult. He spends about 14 hours a day in his office in either Tanzania or Kenya, but says it does not feel like work as he enjoys his job immensely. He credits the company’s success on its customer service.

“Our focus on clients is the main factor that determined our success. Giving them the kind of service they wanted, delivering what they need to them at the time and place of their choice,” he says.

Kumar left India to advance in his career as a banker and ended up doing a lot more than that. He has found a new home in East Africa and is playing an important role in developing the constantly growing financial sector here. Fat cats beware.


From The Arab World To Africa



Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty




In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions



South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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