Emerging battle fronts for Safaricom, Orange, Yu and Airtel Kenya


Emerging battle fronts for Safaricom, Orange, Yu  and Airtel Kenya

It has been correctly observed that for the Kenyan Mobile Network Operator (MNO) the voice market is only a cash cow in a wide array of business ventures and revenue streams.  Last week I wrote about the epic battle between Safaricom and Airtel in the voice and Short Message Service (SMS) market. I shall call these engagements battles as they appear to be quite a number along a couple of frontiers that our MNOs will need to fight it out over time. This is all in the bigger, long term war among the operators for favor with Kenyan consumers.

In this post, I shall share some quick, simple thoughts on the various market frontiers
  1. The mobile money frontier

Safaricom’s M-PESA service in Kenya has in the past two years become a globally acclaimed success. It has revolutionised lives in Kenya. The country has also become an attractive market for products building on innovations around mobile money. All the other three MNOs have declared that they are not being left behind in the long term quest for revenues in this market and are propping up their counter-offerings to M-PESA. I have previously written about some of the sectors key success factors and potential pitfalls the you might wish to explore. I shall steer clear of  further associated debate in this post.
  1. The data connectivity services frontier

Earlier in 2010, Moses Kemibaro, a reknown Kenyan blogger also wrote on how Safaricom was slated to become the largest Inernet Service Provider (ISP) in Kenya. It appears Orange and Yu have since taken the cue and began engaging Safaricom on yet another battle - the mobile internet service connectivity battle. The battle on this frontier is bound to be so ruthless that traditional ISPs might be driven to the peripheries by the better funded, increasingly resolute MNOs.
  1. The online content frontier

In this frontier we expect to see more activity in the online content vending and advertising segments. Incidentally there are both international and local - home grown players in this market segment that the MNOs will have to contend with. The MNOs will at various points experience the might of global online content players. These are the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft and their interactions might include mutually beneficial partnerships or direct competition. Then there are the local content players, blessed with expert knowledge of the local culture and social landscape. It will be interesting to see how local niche markets emerge as local content developers become more creative in partnerships with the MNOs.
  1. The customer focus frontier

In Kenya we are more used to the term customer care. With ISO, ITIL and other global best practices becoming more popular among Kenyan firms, the usual contention on definition of terms will be unavoidable. However, whether we call it customer care, customer service or customer focus, this is the battle front whose intricacies are a little less obvious. Controversial matters on patriotic emotions and corporate social responsibility will remain customer focus concerns. However the matter of actual service delivery and support will become significant game changers. I shall reserve further arguments on this for a separate future post as opportunities arise.

The usual conclusions
On each of these battle fronts, it appears that we shall not be confined to the boredom of watching the usual two main protagonists (Airtel and Safaricom) fighting it out. Orange and Yu are already taking firm positions and claiming serious stakes on the new frontiers. These newer players are pretty much announcing that they shall not be mere by-standers.

It is almost obvious that the above competition will result in consumers receiving better services. They will be better facilitated to lead productive lives. Kenyan professionals will be engaged to come up with more innovative services whose success could be replicated to the rest of the world. M-PESA should be a good example on how great innovations can come from Africa. Sadly for some, the obscene profits margins experienced by dominant players previously will not be feasible. In the end we shall have created a more robust knowledge-based economy.

Finally, the pleasant realization from the promise of these impending battles is that in all the instances the consumer and the country wins.