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Here’s what it’s like to visit the small Spanish city that has been completely transformed by Zara and its billionaire founder – Strategy – Pulselive.co.ke

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  • Zara’s headquarters are located in Arteixo, a small town on the northwest coast of Spain.
  • More than 5,000 employees across various departments including design, photography, sales, and e-commerce work here. The site is also home to Zara’s largest distribution center, which is responsible for shipping the retailer’s clothing to 96 different countries around the world.
  • The presence of these sprawling headquarters has had a profound impact on the nearby city of La Coruña, where many of Zara’s employees choose to live.

Zara may have grown up, but it never really left home.

The clothing chain has been based in Galicia, on the northwest coast of Spain, since 1975. But what started out as just one store has grown into an enormous, multi-national business that is considered to be the largest fashion retailer on the planet, turning out over $30 billion in sales a year.

Despite this, Zara has always stayed true to its roots, and its billionaire founder, Amancio Ortega, has continued to expand its global headquarters in Galicia to accommodate its growth.

To do so, the company has brought in thousands of employees from different parts of the world to work on its design, photography, sales, and e-commerce strategy. This has had a dramatic impact on the culture of the nearby city of La Coruña, where many of these employees choose to live.

The locals call it the “Impacto Inditex,” and it’s felt in all areas of the city. Whether it be the fashionistas that roam the streets, dipping in and out of its trendy stores, cafes, and bars, or the disgruntled residents who say they face rising living costs, it’s clear that Inditex is having a profound impact on life in La Coruña, for better or worse.

We visited the city in August to see how much it has changed with the rise of Zara:

Amancio Ortega opened the first Zara store in La Coruña in 1975. He originally named his store Zorba after the 1964 film “Zorba the Greek,” but changed it after he discovered a nearby bar had the same name. Ortega reshuffled the letters to come up with Zara.


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The first Zara store.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

The first store still exists in La Coruña today, but there is very little distinguishing it from Zara stores you might find anywhere in the world.

Ortega opened Zara’s headquarters in the nearby town of Arteixo in 1977. This is still its home today.


Ortega opened Zara's headquarters in the nearby town of Arteixo in 1977. This is still its home today.play

Ortega opened Zara’s headquarters in the nearby town of Arteixo in 1977. This is still its home today.

(Google maps)

Arteixo, a small town with a population of about 30,000, is a roughly 20-minute drive from La Coruña, or A Coruña, as it’s known in Galician.

Over the course of two decades, the brand expanded dramatically, opening stores across Spain and in different countries around the world. In 1985, Ortega incorporated the chain into a holding company called Inditex.


Over the course of two decades, the brand expanded dramatically, opening stores across Spain and in different countries around the world. In 1985, Ortega incorporated the chain into a holding company called Inditex.play

Over the course of two decades, the brand expanded dramatically, opening stores across Spain and in different countries around the world. In 1985, Ortega incorporated the chain into a holding company called Inditex.

(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Today, Inditex’s headquarters occupy a sprawling, 860,000-square-foot space in Arteixo.


Today, Inditex's headquarters occupy a sprawling, 860,000-square-foot space in Arteixo.play

Today, Inditex’s headquarters occupy a sprawling, 860,000-square-foot space in Arteixo.

(Jesus Sancho/AP Images)

The headquarters is also home to some of Zara’s factories and a distribution center where clothes are boxed and loaded onto trucks to be sent to 96 countries around the world.


The headquarters is also home to some of Zara's factories and a distribution center where clothes are boxed and loaded onto trucks to be sent to 96 countries around the world.play

The headquarters is also home to some of Zara’s factories and a distribution center where clothes are boxed and loaded onto trucks to be sent to 96 countries around the world.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

The distribution center has had a significant effect on La Coruña’s exports business.


This Zara distribution center is the largest of four in Spain and ships products to Zara's 2,238 stores.play

This Zara distribution center is the largest of four in Spain and ships products to Zara’s 2,238 stores.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

Though La Coruña is the 18th-largest city in Spain, the city and its province accounted for 4% of Spain’s total exports in 2017, according to Economy Ministry data reported by Bloomberg.

This is more than any other region in Spain with the exception of Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.

Inditex is also the largest employer in the region. More than 5,000 people work at its headquarters across various divisions including design, e-commerce, and sales.


Inditex is also the largest employer in the region. More than 5,000 people work at its headquarters across various divisions including design, e-commerce, and sales.play

Inditex is also the largest employer in the region. More than 5,000 people work at its headquarters across various divisions including design, e-commerce, and sales.

(Jesus Sancho/AP Images)

Residents say that this has had a profound impact on the city of La Coruña, where many of these employees choose to live, shop, and spend money. With a population of almost 250,000 people, La Coruña is significantly larger than Arteixo.


Residents say that this has had a profound impact on the city of La Coruña, where many of these employees choose to live, shop, and spend money. With a population of almost 250,000 people, La Coruña is significantly larger than Arteixo.play

Residents say that this has had a profound impact on the city of La Coruña, where many of these employees choose to live, shop, and spend money. With a population of almost 250,000 people, La Coruña is significantly larger than Arteixo.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

“Inditex is the big company that moves everything here,” Adolfo Lopez, 58, a business owner who has lived in the city all his life, told Business Insider.


"Inditex is the big company that moves everything here," Adolfo Lopez, 58, a business owner who has lived in the city all his life, told Business Insider.play

“Inditex is the big company that moves everything here,” Adolfo Lopez, 58, a business owner who has lived in the city all his life, told Business Insider.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

Lopez explained that the sheer size of the business means that almost everyone in the city will know someone who works either directly or indirectly for Inditex.

If you don’t know someone who works for Inditex, you are likely to know someone who works for a business that works for the company, he said.

Designers, models, and photographers come from all parts of the world to work here.


Designers, models, and photographers come from all parts of the world to work here.play

Designers, models, and photographers come from all parts of the world to work here.

(Shutterstock/saiko3p)

Local taxi driver Daniel Chans, 31, said the mix of different cultures has had a positive impact on the city.

“In the past, it was very rare to see an Asian or a black person going out together,” he said. “Now there is almost no racism.”

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It has also made the city more cosmopolitan. Residents say Inditex employees like to gather in one of the city’s busiest streets, Calle de Estrella.


El Charrúa, an Argentine restaurant on Calle de Estrella.play

El Charrúa, an Argentine restaurant on Calle de Estrella.

(Facebook/La Charrua)

“The city has modernized a lot; restaurants that you might find in Barcelona or in Madrid have opened here,” said Tamara Valencia, 29, a sales assistant at a boutique store in La Coruña.

“When you would go out at night years ago you would see no one. Now you find people on the street that you wouldn’t have seen before.”

When we explored Calle de Estrella on a Monday evening, the restaurants were brimming with people.


When we explored Calle de Estrella on a Monday evening, the restaurants were brimming with people.play

When we explored Calle de Estrella on a Monday evening, the restaurants were brimming with people.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

There are several stores along the street that are clearly targeted to a more fashion-conscious customer.


Almacen concept store on Calle de Estrella.play

Almacen concept store on Calle de Estrella.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

Valencia explained that there have been a lot of changes in her lifetime, and a whole host of trendy stores have cropped up.

It’s put the city on the map as a fashion destination.

“People started changing their way of dressing, and as the business started growing, people from other parts of Spain started noticing that people here were dressing well,” she said.

It doesn’t take long to stumble across an Inditex-owned store in La Coruña.


It doesn't take long to stumble across an Inditex-owned store in La Coruña.play

It doesn’t take long to stumble across an Inditex-owned store in La Coruña.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

Within 400 feet of our hotel, there are six: Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Uterqüe, and Massimo Dutti. It’s clear that Inditex is the dominant force in retail here.


Within 400 feet of our hotel, there are six: Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Uterqüe, and Massimo Dutti. It's clear that Inditex is the dominant force in retail here.play

Within 400 feet of our hotel, there are six: Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Uterqüe, and Massimo Dutti. It’s clear that Inditex is the dominant force in retail here.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

While many residents are happy that the city has evolved, it does have its consequences.


play

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

The influx of employees has increased demand for rental properties in the center of town, driving prices up and making it more difficult for locals to live in the area.

“When I came here a year and a half ago and I was looking for an apartment, I found it super complicated to find a one-bedroom,” Sara Canedo, 25, a sales assistant at the Almacen concept store in the old town, told Business Insider.

“The real estate agents said that the majority of these apartments were being rented by people from Inditex.”

According to real-estate agency Engel & Völkers, average rental prices have increased by 15% in the last two to three years.


According to real-estate agency Engel & Völkers, average rental prices have increased by 15% in the last two to three years.play

According to real-estate agency Engel & Völkers, average rental prices have increased by 15% in the last two to three years.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

“[Inditex] has caused a big increase in the rental prices due to the number of employees coming from other cities or countries that have purchasing power,” Patricia Vigiola, a rental agent at Engel & Völkers in La Coruña wrote in an email to Business Insider.

She added: “The request is always the city center.”

Employees choose to live in La Coruña over Artexio because it is a more vibrant city.


Employees choose to live in La Coruña over Artexio because it is a more vibrant city.play

Employees choose to live in La Coruña over Artexio because it is a more vibrant city.

(Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

“Arteixo is a rural area without any residential, cultural or social attraction. La Coruña is just 20 minutes away by car and is where you have all the services for your daily life,” Vigiola said.

Despite these rental increases, most residents seem to view the business and its founder favorably.


Despite these rental increases, most residents seem to view the business and its founder favorably.play

Despite these rental increases, most residents seem to view the business and its founder favorably.

(AP Photo/Iago Lopez)

This is likely because of the investments he has made into the city.

“Half of the city lives thanks to him,” Lopez said of Ortega.

According to El País, Ortega has donated money towards building schools and to benefit organizations that work with the region’s homeless and elderly population.

Ortega has stepped down as chairman but owns 59% of Inditex and is currently the fifth-richest person in the world.

Ortega is known for leading an extremely private life and seldom speaks to the press. He is said to live in a discreet apartment building in La Coruña.


Ortega is known for leading an extremely private life and seldom speaks to the press. He is said to live in a discreet apartment building in La Coruña.play

Ortega is known for leading an extremely private life and seldom speaks to the press. He is said to live in a discreet apartment building in La Coruña.

(Getty Images / Xurxo Lobato)

The residents we spoke to say they have never come into contact with him, and it’s likely that most locals haven’t. However, it’s a face that everyone knows.



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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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