Archive for the ‘Safaricom’ Tag

Of Zain, Bharti Airtel and Indian MNCs in Kenya

So MTC Kuwait, trading as Zain, is flipping its Africa operations to Bharti Airtel of India? If the deal goes through, and we shall know by March 25th, then the metamorphosis of Kenya’s second largest GSM mobile network, by subscriber base, will have undergone yet another momentous change.

Starting off as Kencell (jointly owned by Naushad Merali’s Sameer Group and Vivendi), part of the company was then sold by Vivendi Universal of France to Celtel BV, then promptly re-branded Celtel. That was in 2004. Celtel continued with many mistakes that Safaricom capitalised on. Dealers were unhappy, marketing and advertising did not touch the Kenyan soul (many of them were cut-n-paste pan-African ads which did little to “talk” to Kenyans), and a high employee turn over, especially at the executive level did not instill alot of confidence in the business. Interestingly, the most recognised CEO in Kenya is Michael Joseph of Safaricom, who has been at the helm since inception.

Almost a year later in 2005, MTC of Kuwait came knocking with some serious petro-dollars, a whole US$3.4bn and bought out Celtel International with all its network assets, including Celtel Kenya. The network later went on to be re-branded as Zain, in line with MTC’s international branding policy. The story has not ended yet, as we await March 25th when Bharti and MTC will emerge from the boardroom.

The journey has been long and arduous, as Zain’s number 1 nemesis and market leader, Safaricom, overcame teething problems in the early years to streak way ahead of the competition. Safaricom simply studied what the people wanted, capitalised on Zain’s simple mistakes, like charging a fee for any recharge voucher (since discontinued) and basically connecting with the ordinary Kenyan who was being introduced to mobile telephony, or any form of telephony for that matter, for the first time. Safaricom quickly cut an image of a “mwananchi” (citizen) conscious company, while Zain, then Kencell, was seen as elitist and playing to the corporate theatre. This was to set the battle field dynamics that played until the other two late entrants, yu, an Essar Telecom network, and Orange, a France Telecom network came in. Safaricom by then was light years ahead in terms of innovation, products (especially M-Pesa money transfer), mass subscriber base appeal, philanthrophy, network coverage etc.

It will be interesting to see how Bharti Airtel of India deals with the Zain brand, an early starter turned laggard. Bharti is no push over, it is India’s largest integrated telecom company in terms of customer base. They offer mobile services, fixed line services, broadband & IPTV, DTH, long distance and enterprise services. Globally, Bharti Airtel is the 3rd largest in-country mobile operator by subscriber base, behind China Mobile and China Unicom. In India, the company has a 24.6% share of the wireless services market, followed by 17.7% for Reliance Communications and 17.4% for Vodafone Essar (part owned by Essar Telecom, operating in Kenya as yu). Are the Indians coming?

Will Bharti start by re-branding Zain? Perhaps this time to Airtel (the brand they use in the largest GSM network in India?) How do they address subscriber apathy despite great tariffs, well built network, and competitive products e.g. Zap money transfer? How do they address the distribution chain?

We can only wait and see.

Is Safaricom Internet Screaming Fast?

Just got off the superhighway using Safaricom Bambanet, and my tyres are still smoking! I still cannot believe the speeds I experienced! Have the speeds increased, nay, skyrocketed? It was too fast for a typical Kenyan like me who is used to snail speed Internet.

What is the experience of you Bambaneters? How is the speed? Is your airtime getting finished too fast? Does anyone know how Safaricom calculate the actual download / upload usage?

Some users are aghast at the speed, not of the connection, but of the airtime being depleted at speeds greater than those inside the fibre optic cable.

Enlighten us people. What’s your experience?

Zain, Orange, Safaricom – Tariff Wars

People, the tariff wars are here! Zain fired the first salvo by asking us all “Sain” minded people to “Vuka 8”. This means you “vuka” to Zain and make 8/- per minute calls to ALL, repeat ALL networks. You are firmly in control now. You decide.

Not be outdone, Big Brother Suffer-icom, sorry Safaricom, shot back with a weak, mee-too rate of 5/- per minute from 10pm – midnight and 2.50 per minute from midnight to 6am ONLY on Suffericom, sorry Safaricom to Suffericom, sorry Safaricom calls. I hope nobody will make the mistake of waiting for these unGodly hours to call me. Have you noticed that Big brother never tells you how much you suffer when you make a call to another network? If you new you would go inZain, sorry, insane.

New kid on the block, Orange, is rolling out funky shops, funkier adverts and stuff. Their tariffs are not very impressive either, just so-so. Does anyone have an Orange GSM phone? What’s their network like? These are their pre-paid rates.

Family and friends — 3.50
Orange mobile, Orange fixed plus, Telkom fixed — 7.00
Other networks — 14.00
SMS local (all networks) — 3.50
SMS international — 10.00

But, their data services are worth looking at. Go here and pick an Orange

Back at Essar House, where the Econet lives, all is quiet, but am sure they are soon going to kick up a big dust storm. We are waiting!

Of Safaricom and a 3G hotspot

Post Update!

Our beloved and leading GSM network, a.k.a Safaricom, is finally acknowledging that we, the 10mn plus customers, actually matter. They are going to allocate us cool KES. 1 billion (out of the many), in the form a swanky new contact centre on Mombasa Rd (its actually in Mlolongo). There should be at least 300 Customer Scare, sorry Care, personnel at hand to attend to our silly problems, which we are always bothering the busy and leading provider with. The call centre will allow us to answer four times as many calls than we are able to answer now, the CEO was quoted as saying. It feels good to be recognized as the king, after a few pickups were thrown our way for endless chatter.

Methinks, with hungry competition (read Orange and Econet) sniffing the air, and Zain re-branded and ready for battle, dear Safcom is cleaning up house in readiness for bruising wars. Let’s wait and see, 1 or 2 years down the line, who will be king.

When all is said and done, its the customer who will win by taking our chatter-box selves where we get value for money, or will we? Remember we are still peculiar.

BTW: I sincerely hope Telkom Kenya will bring a fresh new brand with the launch of their GSM network, something like Orange, which the mother company uses elsewhere. Else, we shall look away uninterested and unexcited. Just do a manual network selection on your phone, and KE 07 will appear.


Original Post….

While still on the theme of things wireless, broadband, and Nairobi, our city is now blanketed by a 3G, ultra-high speed broadband hot spot, or something like that. Kenya’s runaway success story, GSM mobile service provider Safaricom, has done it again. Depending on which side of the Mobitelea fence you sit, those fellows at Safaricom are really thinking hard. They announced a multi-billion profit figure, before tax, then launched a 3G service in the city of Nairobi (complete with various connection bundles), then launched a free call service, between 9pm and 6am, for a month. You simply need to have registered once, and oh yer, recharged your account with at least 100 bob of airtime. (Some math: with 10million plus subscribers, x 100 bob each, did they just make a billion this weekend? Maybe.) Caveat: Recharging using the 20 bob voucher x 5, or the 50 bob voucher x 2, will not equal 100, a least according to our beloved Safaricom math. So you will sit patiently waiting for 11pm to chatter, only to discover you airtime has been depleted. Read the small print, comply, then call away. What is annoying is that the chatterboxes are driving other customers south.

With peculiar calling habits already entrenched, Kenyans have been chattering from 11pm to dawn without ceasing. Expect lots of calls after this hour from long lost friends, and some enemies as well. So this past week, Safaricom, the company we Kenyans love so much, has been ringing in our minds. We wonder what is next from them?

So has my dream come true? Wireless broadband on the balcony? Safaricom are promising that, and I am making a beeline for the local shop to get me one of those USB modems. I should be whistling away as I surf, while other Kenyans chatter for free. For a sum of 1,999/- per month, I shall enjoy broadband on my balcony, for a download cap of 700MB. We just have to see what that exactly means.