Just from bubbling from being declared yesterdays blog of the day on Business Daily i have decided to be a bit generous with my “brilliant” ideas and help out Zain Africa catch some leg up on the roaring Lion of Kenya that is Safaricom.
Now that Safaricom has shown us how packaging voice products and adding a sprinkle of Mpesa can churn billions in net profit from what is supposedly a 3rd world country, it is clear that the next and perhaps only frontier of war for the other operators is Data. Enter Mxit…
Mxit a mobile social network from South Africa is Safaricom’s latest magic trick. Its entry one week ago has kicked up a storm amongst Kenya’s local developers (Storm1, Storm2 and Storm3). One thing is for sure, this is either Safaricom’s waterloo or greatest show ever, it cannot be anything other than those those two options. Why?
Well this move by Safaricom to put it mildly angered many of the country’s developers (refer to storms above), thinkers and bloggers. This cannot be good for Safaricom even though it ostensibly has the money and mechanisms to buy back some love from the angered folk and thereby mitigating against any future loss.
Granted that this may be, as I said earlier, the best business decision ever by Safaricom, it has certainly made key and influential people in Kenya distrust its intentions. Don’t forget perception is KEY e.g. Andriod of Google is now gaining ground on Apple iPhone because the latter is perceived to be a closed system with ill intentions.
Why should Safaricom give a hoot?–
Safaricom has 16 million subscribers last time i checked, of which 8 or so million are banking on Mpesa a system that does NOT belong to Safaricom. Therefore any pressure on them would not necessarily lead to the quick and spontaneous action that may be needed for its looming battles.
On the other hand Zain soon to be Bharti has a 45 million or so subscriber base in Africa and even larger one in India. Importantly it already has an App Store with more than 1000 Applications in use in India that probably would not differ too much from the Kenyan or African Use case or Business case. This makes Data a clear entry point for Zain.
So here are some pros and cons for such a move by Zain.
- They have a disgruntled set of pretty skilled APP developers in Kenya that they could entice with hugs that smell of Kshs.
- They have a huge subscriber base in Africa which speaks an indigenous language SWAHILI.
- They have a burning desire to embarrass Safaricom even if it is just once.
- They have the experience needed to enter this space at will.
- They own their own payment platform Zap unlike Safaricom.
- They have been upstaged by Safaricom’s magicians time and again.
- They have failed to understand Kenya’s “peculiar” habits.
- They also do not engage Kenyan developers.
- They have not luffed to the debunk for a very long time.
- Importantly they do not have the 3G data infrastructure to beat Safaricom.
This last point is what i suppose should be worrying the guys in Zain head office and i have what i think should be a solution. Zain should opt for a Distributed Application Network Space. What i call DANS. Why?
The main advantage is that they would be able to ride on Safaricom’s fantastic(by Kenyan Standards) 3g network thereby saving billions in infrastructure cost. In this case they would give incentives to already existing application stores/platforms in Kenya like Whive.com, Symbiotic Labs and SpaceKenya.com to port products to their subscribers for decent commissions.
By focusing on Mobile and Web Apps at the same time Zain would win the data race and steam ahead of the competition, giving itself breathing space to build the Data infrastructure it would need to compete with Safaricom the Great.
So as a developer of Mobile Apps including the one in this post I humbly asking the people at Zain to consider this option and give the battered and almost defeated developers in Kenya some hope.
This move could possibly go south because of the insanely huge magical powers of the Safaricom’s Maestro(s) but at least we will say we gave it a shot… and hopefully someday we will all luff to debunk even if its just my local Mpesa/Mkesho Agent
John Karanja is the founder of Whive.com and was recently a Chairperson of Mobile Web East Africa Conference in Nairobi in January.