Business Unusual in a covid-19 world – Part 3

Business Unusual in a covid-19 world – Part 3

400 267 Brenda Akinyi

In the latest edition of our business unusual series, we feature Nicholas Kasidhi, Head of Talent Engagement, EABL, and  Hussein Kiarie, Business Manager, PULA Advisors.

Nicholas’s core role is to lead end-to-end Talent efforts across East Africa for purposes of future-proofing the business with a consistent pool of top external & internal talent base for succession cover; enabled by strategic sourcing & pipelining, continuous learning, diversity & inclusion and a compelling employer brand positioning.

Hussein has been with PULA for about 1.6 years. He’s a jack of all trades and takes pride in being a generalist. At one point in Pula, he managed Administration, HR, and part of Finance departments within Pula across 6 countries.

They shared their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized how we work:

How has COVID-19 impacted your business or businesses you work with (positively or negatively)?

Hussein Kiarie

Hussein: When I initially wrote this section in April, there were mixed feelings about it though an overall negative feeling but fast forward to June, it proved to be the burning floor that has kept us on our toes. The transition to work from home forced us to find new ways of working, forming new processes, novel ones, simple ones that made us more effective and efficient in meeting and surpassing targets and productivity levels. Being a tech start-up our employees are key to the success of the firm. When the tragedy beckoned they stood up for the challenge and overcame it. Below are highlights of negative and positive impacts of COVID-19


  • We’re forced to be innovative around engaging with clients and partners: e.g. we just did a field insurance training on zoom at almost zero cost. Previously this would involve hiring a venue, catering for lunch and transport
  • Time to reflect on business priorities
  • We were forced to set up systems to allow for remote work which will be invaluable to the company in the long run considering running operations in different countries
  • A general increase in staff motivation and productivity levels as working from home allows for people to be in their comfort and away from distractions such as traffic and self-management of working hours


  • Movement is restricted meaning limiting business development activities and field activities
  • Delays in new hires and capital expenditure given the uncertainty
  • Delays in new funding
  • Additional costs relating to social distancing and working from home.
  • Lack of physical interactions and relationship building among employees

Nicholas Kasidhi

Nick:  Since the first case Covid-19 case was announced, swift measures were put in place to contain the spread of the disease. These measures significantly disrupted our trade, consumers, and employees alike. We are in a VUCA environment, and frequently we carry out a scenario planning exercise in the business, but never in our imagination had we seen such a scenario at play! Our business pre-COVID 19 channel split was 95% on-trade and 5% off-trade. With the closure of on-trade channels, our brands were only available in the off-trade. _ Mainly supermarkets and convenience stores and consumption could only be at home. It also meant that we could only sell spirits and canned beer. In response to this, new “ways of working ” were quickly implemented in line with the global Diageo protocols. With a focus on putting our people’s health and safety first. Adopting global Diageo practices locally has really supported us to deal with this crisis with pace and effectiveness. We have also ensured that we are adhering to all government directives.

Our crisis management team has also been instrumental in supporting the business navigate this very dynamic environment and they have ensured that our people are safe. During this period, we have a significant number of employees working from home, however, we are still running our spirits and canning beer lines, which means that some of our Supply and Commercial teams are on duty. In the midst of all these, our teams have worked together, remained agile and acted with speed to adapt to the changing and complex environment.. mostly dealing with issues we have never had to deal with before. Yet while dealing with this, many of them are also taking care of their families and loved ones back at home.

(If you’re Working From Home or remotely) What’s your favorite thing about Working From Home or remotely? Least favorite?

Hussein: My favorite thing about working from home is the chance to really have a quite comfortable environment to really zone out in tasks and duties for the day, I can swear my TAT is faster now on the same activities I used to do while at the office.

Least favorite is not getting a chance to interact with my colleagues, socially and intellectually.

Do you think that this will signify a shift to more remote work in the long run?  Why or why not?

Nick: “One challenge for remote workers is setting boundaries between work and their personal life so they can be effective and stay sane.”   A few basic pointers include:  Setting a schedule for the day, Taking regular breaks – set an alarm for every  90 minutes, Protect your off-work time –don’t be tempted to answer phone or emails after hours, Make space for you –separate work from home life –different place, times, clothes can all help, Cultivate relationships –make time to keep socially connected and have some fun, Stretch, drink water, go for a walk….move frequently, Move away from your screen for lunch!

Hussein: Yes I do think this will shift to WFH being a norm in the future of work. Most startups who were already practicing minimum required office attendance per week are realizing that WFH does not necessarily lead to loss of productivity and complete WFH is possible.

For corporates, I think it’s becoming clear that big offices and expensive C-suite get-ups which in a rational sense are purely cost centers are not really necessary and other options exist. It’s been very evident that staffing 100+ employees in multiple floors can be averted to some extent as most of the staff can work remotely with a minimum required office attendance established.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to all sectors but to a significant section.

What motivates you?  Where do you find sources of motivation?

Hussein: I’m motivated by trying to leave a better example to my younger siblings. What hard work, persistence, focus on studies and a go-getter attitude can do in terms of achieving your goals and having a better chance at a fruitful life.

What’s an inspiring or motivating story you’ve seen as a result of COVID?

Nick: ‘Never waste a crisis’ so they say. The most inspiring story I’ve seen during this period is just how fast our enterprising skills showed up in response to the next normal ways of survival. For instance, I’ve recently witnessed the increasing number of car boot sales by the roadside ranging from groceries to cereals and other necessities. An indicator to demonstrate that ‘when the world throws a lemon your way, make lemonade’. Many other examples of innovations in our learning institutions. From ventilators to manufacturers leveraging some of their production lines to produce hand sanitizers in bulk. I have also stated in a recent Business Daily publication that the world of work has already shifted substantially and Covid-19 only brought this reality much closer than most of us may have anticipated with the ‘future of work’. Critical to appreciate that we are operating in a VUCA environment and it’s no longer business as usual. This is an uncertain time. It’s also an unprecedented time and so we have to embrace an agile and resilient mindset to thrive.

Huge thanks to both Nick and Hussein for their valued contribution to this piece. Look out for our next series in the coming weeks. You can also read our first and second series featuring companies in Kenya and India.

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