Powerful brands understand their customer’s needs and remain relevant
By Olive B. Lumonya
Many times, we celebrate powerful brands long after they are gone, we never give them the opportunity to know how impactful they have been on individuals, society and the nations.
I still believe Winnie Mandela, would have died peacefully, if in life all the great words that were said at her funeral had been pronounced while she still lived.
Prof Juma Waswa Balunywa’ s contract has been renewed to serve a brand that he birthed, a brand that has now become admirable and has created impact in the region. His personal brand in the education sector stands firm, tall and big and it has and still is synonymous with the transformation and revolutionalising of university education in Uganda. Powerful brands are synonymous with innovation, Prof Balunywa is known for having revolutionised business education and spearheading the private students’ scheme in Uganda that has become a model for many universities across the world.”
He actually is the reason we now have private students. Balunywa is credited for having challenged the status-quo.
Since 1988, private universities have sprouted rapidly all over the country and can easily be described as one of the most dynamic initiation of education. Up until 1988, Makerere University was the only university in Uganda. Today, we boast of over 36 private universities, 11 publics, four military and four degree awarding institutions in Uganda.
With the changing world, powerful brands must always re-invest themselves, be flexible to change. Balunywa will always be remembered for his deep-seated urge to transform Uganda’s higher education models from traditional bureaucracy of over reliance on Government funding to mobilising resources from private students to run learning institutions – a move that sparked off a revolution in Uganda’s education sector. Up until 1990, all the students studying at public universities in Uganda were Government sponsored.
But in 1990, the private students scheme was introduced to open doors to private students to join Makerere University under private sponsorship. Today every public university in Uganda has privately sponsored students alongside the Government-sponsored students Transformation indeed has taken place.
Balunywa believes his main contribution to the education sector is “increasing access to education for as many people as possible, lowering cost of education in the country and three which you may not see very well, is the fact that we are now doing things independently.
Prof Balunywas powerful brand speaks loudest in the education sector, he depicts a down-to-earth character and is very unassuming. His actions speak louder than words and that is what a strong brand must reflect or broadcast. I found a beautiful article online where he was described thus: “The first time you meet Professor Waswa Balunywa, you will be shocked to learn that he’s a professor. First, because he doesn’t move around on some spring-boards. He’s down to earth.”
According to Dr. Olubunmi Ouuoso, Secretary General/CEO Commonwealth Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa, Prof. Balunywa, is more than an asset to Makerere University Business School (MUBS), Uganda, he is a great asset to Africa… I hope that MUBS will be conferred the well-deserved title of the Business University of Africa, which he has transformed into a centre of excellence of business studies, entrepreneurship and leadership training.” Powerful brands are admired, treasured and with a long-term perspective. Powerful brands are the epitome of knowledge, dependable, offering solutions to their customers. Prof Balunywa has published several books and has been referred to as a visionary leader, with practical solutions to situations.
One of his peers in Nairobi said: “He is versatile, you can’t believe that his background is in business because he has mastered, science, technology engineering, human resource and with all these attributes, he remains humble. He is innovative, always with new ideas on how to move any organisation or institution forward, incisive and with incredible knowledge in various disciplines. Understanding and connecting to one’s customer is critical. Prof Balunywa’s passion for the young people is unquestionable. He has impacted knowledge and skills to young people including, entrepreneur and development, while encouraging and empowering them.
“The young people should know that jobs are not there. It’s you to create the job. So if you want to create a job, you must think out loudly”
Powerful brands understand their customer’s needs and remain relevant, He’s active on Social Media where he shares his life’s learnings and observations. He’s on Facebook, on LinkedIn. And has connected to his students and is able to handle their issues. His email is known to all students and he takes care to reply each email he receives first thing in the morning.
Powerful brands inspire, have impact and are recognized, in one of the media it is reported that one of his peers stated that “He is someone who believes in the career development of his peers and many of them have undertaken several trainings with his support as Principal which some take for granted but is not easy to get in other institutions. adding that, Balunywa is known for having revolutionalised business education and spearheading the private students’ scheme in Uganda that has become a model for many universities across the world.”
Powerful brands will always wade away negativity in tough times and customers will ignore or doubt the negative stories but with innovative ideas, strategies and positioning, they wade off challenges and become even more stronger. Professor Balunywa’s brand has continued to become more and more stronger amidst the challenges.
Strong brands will leave a legacy, Balunywa’ s legacy will always be in the revolutionalising of university education in Uganda, introduction of private students scheme which has generated income, increased number of graduates, establishment of a business university, the resulting establishment of many private universities in the Country .Powerful brands create impact that outlives them. Mandela’s brand still lives on and MJs music sold more in death.
Writer is the Country Director of the SOS Children’s Villages Uganda and a Chartered Marketer (UK)