Taking a brand to new heights
Long held as a government industry, Ethiopian beer manufacturing is now dominated by private and mostly international players since the privatization of BGI in 1998. Among the dominant players, including Diageo's Meta and Heineken, the one that has emerged as a worthy competitor is Habesha beer.
As it begins to go national after its humble beginning when it used to be sold in the proximity of the capital only and with its catchy but sophisticated popular commercials and celebrity endorsement and being a main sponsor of Buna Soccer Team, the success of the brand to the Ethiopian market among others seems to fall on a 28 year old, Afel Amberber. She has managed to take the brand to exciting and elevated steps within the Ethiopian market in record time and now, the beer is being a dominant choice in some parts of the nation.
For Afel, started her professional journey five years ago at an advertisement agency, Cactus Communications, working on a project the company was conducting for Unilever. She was said not to like the sector then, when marketing professionals seldom received the needed recognition but she liked the advertising side of it.
A few months later, she would join Orangeswitch Advertising and Marketing, one of the famous groundbreaking advertising agencies, noted for producing some of the noted commercials in the nation, becoming, through words of mouth, a player in the booming marketing sector. "That was the experience that would make me fall in love with the industry," Afel told The Reporter. "I got to challenge myself and take on projects that unleashed my potential. It was during that time that I found out about my true potential and power towards the things that I love to do, such as insights and strategy."
Then, by chance, she was lured to work for one of the newest breweries in the market, Habesha Breweries that was starting off in what would become a competitive market and needed to find talents. With Habesha, she knew it would be a special place where she would do some of her best work with more freedom and resources to become artistic and try unique approaches she has developed over the years. "The company lets its employees challenge the status quo and always strive to be the best version of themselves. This applies to me as well, as I was able to flourish and achieve many things within a year time. In the coming years, I hope to see the brand I am working on achieve great things which I am eager to be a part of," she said.
Afel joined Habesha 13 months ago as a Market Research Analyst and has quickly moved up the ladder to managing one of Ethiopia’s iconic brands. This rapid rise stems from her hard work (she usually works 12 hours a day, six days a week) but also Habesha’s recognition of young talent and their vision to put such talent in management positions”
She is excited with the future and there are much exciting projects on the horizon for her at Habesha, including the opening of the first brand store of the company within its headquarters in Bole which sells some of its signature wears that have been popular and iconic and many have been asking how they could own it.
For some of its products, the company teamed up with some of the youngest designers in Ethiopia including Samri, an emerging designer of leather bags and jackets, put in charge of designing some of the leather wears. The store inaugurated most recently and invited some of its celebrity ambassadors, including Betty G at an open-air party earlier this month. It has since seen a traffic of people walk in to purchase its goods.
"I have always liked their jackets with its icon at the back and I have been asking to buy one but have had little success," Henok Tilahun told The Reporter. "Right now, I am happy to know I can purchase them for myself and others, with success and they are being sold at a competitive price."
Tesfaye Leuelseged, a Henok’s friend who came from Canada, had visited the store several times to purchase the jackets for his family members as a gift. Until now, I was only able to taste their products whenever I flew on Ethiopian Airlines. "What I like about their signature store is the fact that what you purchase here are not sold elsewhere and they are unique. And as a gift, they remain great to those who do not reside in Ethiopia. They seem they have created a unique brand that celebrates our country and there is something about wearing a product that says Habesha proudly," he said.
Afel is excited with what the future holds for her as she moves forward with her career at Habesha, where the company has a strategy to lure undiscovered talent, instead of exclusively focusing on veterans or trying to bring others from its competitors.
Afel says she sees herself as taking on challenges and considers her personal values to be focused om continuous development, integrity and hard work. "I will continue to thrive and leave up to these values," she said. Newly married and still active charity volunteer, she has motivated her colleagues to join her and become a corporate citizen as well, something encouraged and supported at the company.
"For me, the experience the happiness and joy I see in mentorship and volunteering is something that brings me the greatest joy," she said. "And I am lucky to work at a company whose DNA is not just making money but having an impact," she added.