Airtel is on a suicide mission

Airtel Kenya

Airtel is on a suicide mission, but before I wonder why, there is another thing that I don’t understand. Why is anyone still using Safaricom data? This I ask because recently Safaricom announced that its half year profits had gone up, and according to that report, the profits did not come from increased voice revenues nor from increased text revenues. On the contrary, the profits were attributed to growth on data usage and subscribers, and MPESA growth. MPESA growth is fine – expensive, but fine.

But who are these Kenyans still using the expensive Safaricom data when alternatives such as Airtel, Telkom and Faiba 4G exist?

One of the cheapest mobile Internet in Kenya is Airtel Internet. Airtel Internet is actually so cheap so that my wife is able to use it unlimitedly, going to an extent of sharing it with her customers at her shop – making her wonder why her customers haven’t discovered the secret behind free Airtel Internet.

The affordability of alternative mobile Internet services away from Safaricom has made Safaricom to think of lowering its Internet data charges, a thought that is driving Airtel crazy.

During a recent conference call, Airtel Africa Chief Executive Raghunath Mandava said that “whatever is relevant” to satisfy Kenyan customers will be done, to mean that Airtel is ready to lower further their data prices in case Safaricom makes that move first.

The price wars that Airtel started ages ago by offering basically free mobile services, including but not limited to offering new subscribers free credit upon purchase of new line, has not helped the company in any significant way. Over the years, even after the company acquired Yu customers, Airtel has been grappling with loss after loss – we don’t know how much as the company doesn’t spread its books for the public to see, but we for sure know that Airtel has probably never made any profits ever since it set its foot in Kenya when it acquired Zain.

Moves like the ones Airtel wants to make are the moves that sent Yu packing, then Orange followed – moves aimed giving customers free services. What Airtel ought to focus on is to look for funds to fully roll out strong network signal in every part of the country, including rural area, and leverage on that to offer strong voice and data services. Today what the Kenyan consumer is looking for is quality service at affordable pricing, not freebies. The freebies that Airtel wants to give is what will send it straight to hell, or rather, look for a buyer for its Kenyan Airtel brand.


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