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Kenyan firms, agencies embrace e-Christmas cards to cut cost 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Most Kenyan companies and government agencies are closing on Friday for the Christmas break to enable employees join their families in celebrations.

While some would resume operations soon after Christmas, others have told their employees to return until the New Year.

Years back, most employees would on such a day get a card from their organizations wishing them and their loved ones a happy Christmas.

But times have changed, thanks to increased use of social media and other forms of electronic messaging in the east African nation.

What the employees would walk out of the office with on Friday as they head for celebrations are electronic Christmas cards sent by the human resource offices.

Most of Kenya’s private firms and government agencies have adopted this form of sending best wishes to their workers and customers to cut cost and change with the trend.

For the employees, a majority have already gotten cards via WhatsApp while messages for customers are being sent through social media sites.

“We send our warmest Christmas wishes to all our staff, stakeholders and the public and a peaceful and welcome 2019,” an electronic message from the Commission on Revenue Allocation, a Kenyan government agency, said on Friday.

From the Commission on Administrative Justice, a message posted on social media and sent via WhatsApp to staff read in part on Friday, “... we send you warmest greetings for the season and best wishes for the New Year 2019.”

Dozens of other Kenyan organizations also sent electronic messages on Friday to wish their staff, customers and the general public a happy Christmas.

Beatrice Nzimbo, a human resource officer at a public relations company in Nairobi, noted that firms have adopted e-messages because they are cheaper, can reach more people and conform to modern technology.

“I don’t know of any organization that is still sending the physical Christmas cards, even to its employees. It is expensive and a tedious process because you have to involve third parties to do the work, who include designers, printers and even courier services, and all these cost money,” she said.

With electronic messages, Nzimbo said, the cards are designed by the communication department and then broadcast just from within the organization as long as one has the contacts.

“Companies are spending zilch on this new way of sending messages. Social media came as a blessing to many firms because they would initially spend at least 20 shillings (0.19 U.S. dollars) to send each card,” she said.

However, as they embrace the electronic messages, public relations agencies, printers, designers, courier services and makers of hand-crafted cards are counting losses as they lose business.

Some still miss the physical cards.

“I got a WhatsApp Christmas message from our company this morning,” Alfred Gatere, who works with a bank in Nairobi, said on Friday. “I felt appreciated, but my belief is cards have a more personal touch because the boss would sign them,” he added.

According to him, cards had some form of permanency as one would get and keep them in their bedrooms or living rooms for the better part of the following year.

“But with the electronic messages, they are just for a moment. Once you open and read them, that is it. And the fact that you will not print the message, it gets lost within other photos or videos on your phone in a few days,” he observed.

The shift is not limited to companies and government agencies. The use of e-cards has caught up with Kenyans long ago, and supermarket and bookshops no longer stock Christmas cards.

A spot check in two retail chains in Nairobi on Friday revealed that Christmas cards are not gracing the shelves.

Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solutions, noted that with 42 million Kenyans using the internet and social media, it makes no business sense to send physical cards.

“E-cards reach millions of people, are cheaper, convenient and modern, and that is what any organization would want. Unfortunately, some businesses are suffering but that is what happens with disruptive technology,” he said.

The number of letters sent locally dropped to 11.8 million in the third quarter, from 14.2 million in the previous quarter, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya, as technology continues to erode fortunes of the post offices.



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