The New Crop of Business Wars
In the early to mid-2000’s, there arose a new term that has remained in our mouths to this day. And we seem to contextualize it and perfect it with each new mutation in the industry. It started with our local music artists. They called it beef.
In my innocence, I heard it in the village where I was raised and thought it meant what I knew it to mean. I had been taught in school that beef was meat. It was food. And when I would have the privilege of being sent to the market on occasional moments, my dad would stress that I buy beef steak. And to carry such a ‘gold’ back in the day elevated one to a status of a legend.
When I now learnt that beef had a different meaning, I wondered. Whoever came up with this new meaning wasn’t serious or so I thought. How does a good thing equate to animosity and war be it of words or market or whatever manner?
On a micro scale, the beef with our musicians however opened my eyes to the wars in business mostly on the basis of competition. For example, suppose two musicians were in the same genre of music and each one of them was operating in a solo capacity.
One thing is for sure, they will have to cross each other’s lines at some point in time. This is because they are all operating in the same cosm. They compete for the same number of people who translate to mean their market. In other words, they all are after a common scarce resource; a common market.
In a macro scale, the same dynamics come to play. We have heard more often than not of ugly wars among competitors in big business. Most of them involve these big multinationals who are often competing for the same space and the same resource with local players.
Unfortunately, as we have somehow seen, these wars turn ugly. The multinationals end up resorting to intimidation and suppression as well as manipulations. It is common to hear that a company pays retailers to put their competitors’ products off the shelves.
In more bizarre cases, they can go a notch higher and decide to pay goons to destroy their competitors merchandise on transit. They can also burglar their premises and destroy their properties and assets which are the core factors of production.
Manipulation takes the form of litigation where the guys with more of the money lodge a malicious case against the competition. They don’t stop at that but go ahead and bribe the administrators of justice who in turn administer injustice to the unlucky competitor with less money.
At this point, a serious war emanates whereby the party that feels injustice has been served on their plate of justice decide to fight back. Things often end up getting messy and ugly. Dirty linens get to be exposed as each party tries to drag their opponent down.
It becomes the tale of the guy who laughs at the other person in the mud. And then the person in the mud decides to pull the one laughing at him into the mud as well. They all finally end up in the mud with none to help the other.
Looking at it objectively, both of these guys up losing. It could have been a gain had the person not in the mud decided to help the one in the mud. They would both laugh and be happy and go focus their energies collaboratively on building themselves on their various endeavors.
Back to the musicians’ beef story. The solution to the beef stories back then somehow ended up birthing collabos. It may not have been something new, but these guys probably asked themselves what they were gaining by living in animosity and realized they could amount to more if they worked together.
Collabo is a slang word derived from the English word collaboration. This means that instead of you pulling me into the mud, what if you pulled me out and we did something about this mud so that tomorrow you don’t end up in it yourself.
The same happened a few years ago with Chase bank. It had been placed on receivership. Considering past experiences, most entities put on receivership ended up in the grave. But something interesting happened this time round.
Instead of competitors in the same space being happy that it was one competition off the market, they decided to help one of their own. KCB’s Joshua Oigara and NIC’s John Gachora (he is currently the managing director of NCBA) reached out to each other and worked something out and saved the bank back in the day before the acquistion by SBM bank, the Kenyan subsidiary of State Bank of Mauritius.
Another interesting story can be learnt from the NCBA case itself. It is called a merger. NIC and CBA were two banks operating in the same Kenyan space. After a deliberation, they came to a common agreement to merge and work together. It is called synergy.
As for the case of acquisitions, it depends on the metrics involved because some of them are done in unhealthy ways through intimidation and hostile takeovers. Where there are gentleman’s agreements in the acquisition, then that is another good of abating unhealthy wars.
So, the new crop of business wars is not war per se. It is a collaboration arrived on by principle. And this is the way to go. Instead of pulling each other down and losing everything, why not pull each other up and gain everything.
As a matter of factor, a candle that lights up other candles, doesn’t dim or lose its own light.