Why Coca-Cola abandoned Upper Hill

Tuesday November 20 2018

Coca Cola Beverages Africa managing director

Coca Cola Beverages Africa managing director Daryl Wilson during the interview at Radisson Blu on July 11, 2018. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

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Soft drinks maker Coca-Cola says relocation of its regional offices from Nairobi’s Upper Hill area to Lavington is aimed at providing a modern workplace that enhances creativity and innovation among its staff.

Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa Ltd, the regional subsidiary of the giant US beverages manufacturer, which oversees operations in 14 African countries, has moved to newly-built 90 James Gichuru office.

Regional general manager Ahmed Rady said the new work station provides a “more open and less formal” environment for employees as the firm focuses on diversification of products to match the needs of increasingly health-conscious consumers.

“We want to provide our employees with the best work experience and one of the key projects, which are global, but we are working on here (in Nairobi office), is called “Workplace Vision 2020” where the space that we provide is more open, more collaborative. It also inspires creativity, innovation and is less formal and more comfortable with more hang-out places,” Mr Rady said in an interview with Smart Company.

“We started this project as a renovation of our old office, but we quickly found that because of the structure of the old office, it was not going to be ideal and we will end up having to do mixed jobs if you want to get everything that we want done.”

He said the company opted for a new office because it was looking for a work station near residences and social amenities such as schools, shopping malls and restaurants.

This, Mr Rady said, fits the demanding needs of a more agile and faster-paced business with a growing young, innovative staff in the next 10-20 years.

The relocation, whose planning started in 2016, means the soft drinks firm has started paying rent after 10 years at the iconic Coca-Cola Plaza, which it completed in August 2008. Coca-Cola has occupied one floor of the three-storey, 67,000 square feet block, where rent ranges between Sh130 to Sh200 per square foot. “It is true paying rent is costlier than being in our own building. But I think that with the space we have found, the right decision was to go into renting because this is one place that fitted all our criteria,” Mr Rady said. “It’s a costlier decision than renovating our office, but it was the right thing to do if we really want to transform the place where we work. It is going to cost us millions (of dollars) in coming years.”

The firm on May 15 opened a Sh7 billion juice processing plant in Nairobi with a production capacity of 28,000 bottles per hour using a hot-fill technology in line with its strategy to become a full beverage company.

The maker of soda (such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, Krest and Sprite), water (Dasani & Keringet) and juices (Minute Maid) has embarked on diversification of its product offering to include tea and coffee-flavoured drinks, sports drinks and smoothies.

“A few months ago, we set a vision that we are going to offer a wide variety of drinks that fits all the consumer occasions and needs. Hopefully, within the next 18 to 24 months, every time you want to drink something, you are going to have a choice from the Coca-Cola Company,” Mr Rady said.

“It is important to know that consumers want different drinks for different occasions and based on their lifestyle.”