As Bob Collymore take a few months off due to sickness, here at Kachwanya.com we would like to wish him a quick recovery. We hope to see him back soon on the steering wheel of the most profitable company in East and Central Africa, Safaricom. Meanwhile we would like to take this chance to highlight what Bob has done to move Safaricom to where it is today and his contribution to Kenyan society as a whole.
August 2017 marked the seventh year of Bob Collymore at the helm of Safaricom. By the time he was taking over the leadership of Safaricom from Michael Joseph, very few people expected Bob Collymore to outperform Michael Joseph, with many reasoning that Safaricom’s profits of Kshs 20.9 billion registered in March 2010 was the highest a corporate could achieve in Kenya’s business environment. Safaricom’s performance in 2011 would give some credence to the pessimists when Safaricom recorded a pretax profit of Kshs 18.4 Billion down from Kshs 20.9 billion pretax profit of the previous year.
But the slow growth of 2010/2011 that continued into 2011/2012 financial year would not discourage Bob Collymore. Actually, the slight deep in profits gave him a drive to prove just what he could do to make Safaricom a teleco giant in the region. In 2011 therefore, Bob Collymore launched Niko Na Safaricom concerts across the country which helped drive new subscriptions, subscriptions that would start paying off in the 2012/2013 financial year.
In May 2013, Safaricom would for the first time in three years report an increase in net profits, from Kshs 12.6 billion reported in 2012 to Kshs 17.5 billion, an almost 40 percent increase in net profits. The profit growth was attributed to the good performance of non-voice services led by MPESA, text and data. In 2012, Bob Collymore signed a deal with Commercial Bank of Africa for the bank to provide loans and savings platform to MPESA customers dubbed M-Shwari. M-Shwari would play a gigantic role of MPESA growth and profitability for the teleco in subsequent years.
From 2014 onwards, Safaricom under the leadership of Bob Collymore launched an aggressive drive to ensure the entire country was covered by data, where Safaricom launched 4G network in selected areas in Nairobi, upgraded data in all major towns to 3G, and ensured more than 78% of the population was covered by at least 2G network. Focus on data again helped the teleco grow in profitability where in 2014 the company reported a Kshs 23 billion in net profits.
Bob Collymore’s focus on data did not mean he had forgotten the other non-voice revenue sources like MPESA. For MPESA, Bob Collymore oversaw the migration of MPESA servers from Germany to Kenya, a milestone that enabled MPESA increase the number of transactions to about 900 transactions per second and made it possible for MPESA users to see the name of the person they intend to send money to before okaying the transaction through a feature dubbed Hakikisha.
Through rollout of 4G networks across several towns in Kenya, continued strengthening of 2G and 3G networks, and focus on innovation on MPESA and other services, profitability of Safaricom has risen over the years when in 2017 the teleco reported an all time high pre tax profit of Kshs 45 billion. Some of the innovations in Safaricom both in voice, data, text and MPESA have included introduction of services like Lipa Na MPESA which has ensured the number of active MPESA customers continue to rise, youth friendly tariff BLAZE which has made it possible for young people to both enjoy Safaricom services and be their own bosses (BYOB), use of a single bundle for data, voice and text through a product called Flex, and among many others.
Bob Collymore has also steered Safaricom into non-teleco related industries, remarkable one being Little, initially Little Cab, where the teleco has taken the lead to compete with Uber in the taxi business. These non-teleco businesses forced Safaricom to rebrand from Safaricom the better option to Safaricom Twaweza, where Bob Collymore explained that Twaweza signifies the ability of Safaricom to bring people together to share in little joys of life, as Safaricom had grown to become a Digital Lifestyle Enabler.
By market capitalization, Bob Collymore took over at Safaricom when the teleco was valued at about Kshs 400 billion, and has since grown to valued at over Kshs 1 trillion at Nairobi Security Exchange. By 2016 and early 2017, Safaricom accounted for almost 50% of the entire NSE, but has since dropped to 42%.
In July this year, Bob Collymore’s term at Safaricom was renewed for a further two years up to August 2019, but if Bob Collymore were to leave Safaricom today, he would be most remembered as the Bob who made Billions worth Trillions (NSE) for Safaricom.