Airtel posts a Kes. 45B loss for the last financial year. Safaricom, its main competitor in the same market, posts a reverse figure – Kes. 48B profit. Airtel, originally known as Kencell Kenya, was the pioneer mobile telephony operator in the country. Safaricom started later on, and experienced a myriad of customer service issues due to its technological challenges with its infrastructure. Give it to the then association with the then parent company, Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation, a government parastatal.
But then, how comes the originator of the mobile telephony concept was beaten to the game? It behooves us to keenly look at the business models of the two antagonists and you will discover a deeper and much engrained secret: Values.
Safaricom started off as an enabler of communication with its “Get Connected” brand proposition. It enabled even the marginalized then to connect with each other and endeared itself with the rural poor and unreached. The competitor, showed itself to be elitist – marketing itself as an urban brand and only concentrated itself to its urban target market. It was considered expensive. However, the network quality was superior.
Then came the game changer – Mpesa. As we speak, Safaricom has transformed itself from a principally mobile telephony company to a cross sectorial aggregator to currently, a digital enabler incorporating data and other services on its platforms. It’s purely a hegemony!
Airtel tried to catch up with its Zap service but Kenyans wouldn’t accept the brand. To them, Mpesa, especially after the 2007/2008 PEV crisis, proved to be a much more reliable and homely service than Zap. Mind you Zap even waived off all fees! Airtel, since its inception, has seen changes in its leadership with nine CEOs taking charge. For Safaricom, as a show of its stability, has only had one transition in its top leadership.
That is the power of a brand. If you really want to make it in business, learn your target market. Aligning your value system to the target market’s ethos and you will be good to go! Apple is the way it is not because it is cheaper, but because its users find it easy and amiable. Safaricom too, is running on this same platform of values. It all boils down to your WHY.
The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:
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