How I rose to the summit of publishing
Maintaining a job for a couple of years is not one of the strongest attributes for many employees. Not so Mrs Mercy Maina, the general manager of Moran Publishers. She has been in the company for 21 solid years and she is still counting.
She joined the company in 1995 after graduating from the University of Nairobi. Her sticking with the company for this long has paid off handsomely as rising to be the GM is by no means a small feat. She oversees operations in East Africa, Zambia and Malawi.
Ms Maina who is in her 40s has climbed through the ranks since she joined the firm when it was known as Mac Millan Publishers. She started as a marketing executive before being promoted to marketing manager, a position in which she served for seven years.
“My role as I set foot in this company was to develop promotional materials and run book fares and exhibitions. This was an entry level position. Within a few years, I was promoted to marketing manager overseeing a team of five sales people,” says Ms Maina.
The next stop is the current job as the general manager which she clinched four years ago.
“Young graduates wonder how one can stick in a company for 21 years,” she says. “Passion and patience for your profession are key.”
She adds that to excel in any profession one has to be trustworthy, be a person of integrity and work hard and be team player.
Currently she is the only female executive heading a publishing firm in Kenya following the exit of long serving Longhorn managing director Janet Njoroge and Kenya Literature Bureau managing director Eve Obara who is set to retire soon.
She is also the only female member of the Kenya Publishers Association Council and heads the organising committee of the annual Nairobi International Book Fair.
Moran Publishers has more than 80 staff but employs 500 more people indirectly through partnerships with book sellers and distributors. The firm’s current turnover is about Sh500 million a year.
Her role model is Mr David Muita the owner of the company, who bought MacMillan from its UK parent company six years ago. Mr Muita 65, rose from being a salesman in 1984 to its managing director in just six years. He secured a Sh200 million loan which he used to buy the company and rebranded it to the current Moran Publishers.
The local publishing is estimated to be worth about Sh3 billion in annual revenue. The competition is tough with about 15 companies jostling for a share of the market. The competition has been made stiffer with the rise in online publishing. Some of the prominent publishing houses include Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, the Kenya Literature Bureau and Longhorn.
Ms Maina says Moran Publishers is holding its own in the market because of its high quality products. The firm is also fast getting into digital publishing with platforms such as eKitabu and Grademine.
Grademine is a digital platform that allow educators to record and store learners’ performance report cards. With eKitabu (an e-book), readers can buy and read books on tablets, computers as well as mobile phones.
Ms Maina says she likes seeing the firm’s employees grow in their careers adding that this is the best way to retain them “Retaining talent is one of my strengths. My average employee for instance has stayed in the organisation for close to eight years, even though the publishing industry is quite competitive,” says Ms Maina.
She holds a degree in business economics from Nairobi University. She has also done short courses in strategic management locally and abroad which she says have sharpened her skills and exposed her to diverse strategies used in different markets outside Kenya.
What makes her tick? “I am determined to see Kenyan children get the best education,” she says. “I am also intensely interested in developing a reading culture which has been going down.”
She says being part of the negotiating team that saw the company changed from a multinational to a local company in 2010 with interest in the Kenyan readers is one of the highlights of her career.
“When MacMillan sold their interest to local shareholders, I was involved in the negotiations, and felt really great, having made history in the organisation,” said Ms Maina.