There is no need to ditch Orange Kenya – not yet

Thirteen years later and he hasn’t stopped using Kencell.

I do realize there are those of you who haven’t heard of the word Kencell, and if you have, then it must have been through historical sources. Let me tell you a story; long ago before today, Kencell was a mobile service provider in Kenya and not only that, she was the queen of the market. If the mobile market is her husband, then she is the first wife.

She was the queen when a phone five times worse than Nokia 3310 needed Kshs 100,000 to own, the days when majority still relied on telephone booths to make phone calls, booths by Telekom and later by her. Then she made a mistake – she refused to target ordinary Kenyans as customers.

Kencell charged her voice services per minute. 15 bob a minute. Safaricom charged per second, and although Safaricom billing could be as expensive as 35 bob a minute during peak hours, many preferred the per second charges – and that’s because very few made a more than 10 seconds phone calls. And that’s how Safaricom overtook Kencell to become the queen.

Then Safaricom started reporting profits to the billions, lots of billions. In a year the media could report that Safaricom made a profit of 9 billion shillings, then 12 billion – and the billions kept on rising. Kencell, on the other hand, stagnated. Due to lack of growth in profits, Kencell sold out herself to Celtel.

I believe you heard of Celtel as it wasn’t ages ago that she was here. But it didn’t take her long before she could become Zain – and before we could get used to calling her Zain she had already become Airtel. That’s why up to last year you could still hear some calling Airtel Celtel. You will still find Airtel Internet settings with Celtel name tag.

As Kencell moved to Celtel to later become Zain and now Airtel, many mobile users changed providers, but not my uncle. Ever since he got his 073 then 0733 number on Kencell, he has remained true and faithful to the number. Not even the number portability could sway him into trying a different network, and his reasoning is simple – every time his service provider changed names, the services got cheaper, and of a far better quality compared against the prevailing competition.

He is not alone. My wife always narrates the same story about her mother.

Today Orange Kenya is holding her breath waiting for Communication Authority to give her a green light to the agreement she has made with Helios Investment Partners to sell the entire 70% of her stake in Telkom Kenya to Helios; and once this agreement is effected, Orange Kenya will change her name to something – maybe to something like Hellcel, and this has got several Orange subscribers worried. One such subscriber is Prof B. C. Oyuke who, after hearing that Orange is quitting Kenya, tweeted:

I would like to take this opportunity to assure Prof Oyuke and many others like him that there is nothing to worry about. Helios Investment Partners is not buying Orange to make it a worse network. On the contrary, they would like to come and strategize on how to woo many subscribers, including my uncle and mother in law, into their network. The only way to do that would be to offer better services and quality products at affordable price ranges.

Last week I almost ditched Airtel to Orange but I didn’t because Orange does not have a product that can compete against Airtel’s Unliminet. When Helios takes over, and they implement an offering that can run head to head with Airtel Unliminet, and they ensure they do not have money stealing products as the stupid Airtel Unliminet Modem (see the article This is how you will lose money on Airtel Unliminet), be assured that I will quit Airtel and gladly join Orange. But that will depend on one more thing; that their customer care be as fast as Airtel’s Jamo and Caro but more helpful.

As Helios comes into the market, it is certain they will have to invest a lot of money in customer acquisition, improving the quality of service, expand their network coverage to villages like my Uncle’s where they haven’t reached, and modernized their infrastructure to go 4G in major towns. Most importantly, they’ll have to remain the best cellular Internet Service Providers as most of their current customers love them for their fast Internet.

Unless Helios decide to mess up with the quality or cost of services, Orange subscribers  should be like my uncle – stay put, and wait. No need to ditch Orange. Not yet.

Odipo Riaga1827 Posts

Film Director, Tech and Business Blogger, Chess Player, and Photographer. God is Science.


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