#Opinion&Analysis: NetOne, The Phoenix Rising from its Ashes

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Established in 1996 is Zimbabwe’s wholly state-owned mobile network operator NetOne which set the pace for other competitors which were to follow innovation wise.Just like any other business grows comes in leaps and bounds, the oldest MNO which turned 20 last year seemed to play the underdog to its competitors Econet Wireless and Telecel Zimbabwe.

While other players had aggressive promotions that attracted customers, NetOne however took a laid back approach on the back of sanctions which stiffled its performance. Most people shunned NetOne for being state-owned labelling it the, “Line remasabhuku (loosely translated as The Village Headman’s Sim card) thus preferring other players in the industry.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

As downbeat as NetOne appeared to be, with good market intelligence, NetOne from the back seat observed what others were doing only to bounce back with trendsetting innovations.

In 2010, NetOne was the first MNO to introduce per-second billing which was essential for allowing subscribers to make cheap short calls. Realising how effective this per second billing introduced in the country by NetOne was, Econet and Telecel followed suit as it was cheaper compared to the expensive per minute billing.

Another innovative package introduced by NetOne was its mobile money platform One Wallet. The product which had to be relaunched in 2013 is struggling to pick up the tempo playing in the shadows of Ecocash.

NetOne unleashed the cheapest data bundles on the land which gave subscribers 17MB for $1. The company also introduced the Dollar a Day promotion in 2013 which endeared them to many subscribers at it gave them more than ‘value for their $1’.

With their enticing deals, those who had buried their NetOne lines thinking the network was redundant were left with no choice but to unearth them to get a share of the benefits.

NetOne Acting CEO Brian Mutandiro

NetOne had the cheapest Unlimited social media bundles before putting a cap on them.

Responding to emailed questions, NetOne’s Acting CEO Brian Mutandiro told TechnoMag that for the sake of adding variety, the company tweaked the Dollar a Day package to pave way for much more exciting products.
“We have eliminated the tendency of overdependence on one package, namely, Dollar a Day in its original format. This package is a good but was offering mostly voice at a giveaway prices hence the network was subject to severe congestion and network resources were stretched without commensurate revenue benefits.
“We overhauled our product structure to make the Dollar a Day package an optional offering rather than an automatic benefit. This enabled decongestion of network resources which enabled the network to offer high quality revenue generating products,” he said.

“We embarked on a transformational exercise which has seen the giant re-awakening and in 2016 we had a 14% increase in active subscribers and increased our market share,” said Mutandiro.
Mutandiro added, “The ongoing restructuring that started in 2015 has brought some light to our operations as the new team blended well with those who retained their posts. I must say it has not been easy as we grappled with a lot of issues but I would like to applaud the entire team for remaining focused.

“One of the success factors was the deliberate strategy to diligently uphold corporate governance principles and have significantly strengthened the internal control environment in line with best practice.”
NetOne’s One Fusion package launched last year reignited its dominance in the sector. Noticing they were missing much from the line they once ridiculed, many Zimbabweans came back to their senses migrating to NetOne. This was after feeling ill-treated by a mobile network operator Econet which hiked its data rates and remove daily data bundles. The company gained 500 000 subscribers with data usage phenomenally leaping by 110 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Giving value for your money is what NetOne knows best, as One Fusion does so.
“NetOne we have been pioneering in providing cutting edge communication technology solutions for individuals, corporates and churches. The popular OneFusion plan is an example of this.

“Through, OneFusion Zimbabweans get value for their money through affordable rates and quality service. The bundles start from $5 all the way up to $200. One Fusion’s cheapest offerings are the $5 which grants subscribers 6 times more than what is being offered by competition. For a period of 30days we offer 60 on-net voice minutes, 18 minutes to other networks, 300MB data, 700MB Whatsapp bundles, 900MB Facebook bundles and 10sms. The larger offers from $50 upwards also include international voice minutes. This has led to hundreds of thousands migrating to us as it meets any budget,” said the NetOne boss.

According to Mutandiro, NetOne subscribers find their mobile number portability SWITCH campaign convenient.
“In this campaign we are providing special numbers by matching the last six digits of their old number(from another network). This is the reason why in the year 2016 Netone had the highest growth in mobile data utilization,” he said.

He also noted the importance of liaising with their employees.

“ We have engaged the employees, and communicated our expectations and they also give us their views on what they think will take us forward and because of this empowerment the staff have autonomy to be part of the journey to the top.
“This initiative has brought greater visibility and transparency to organizational operations and the staff greatly appreciates this.
“We have also made a deliberate effort to complement network expansion with customer centricity hence focusing our subscribers who are the reason for our existence,” said Mutandiro.
Tackling the threat of Over the Top Services which are eating into the sector’s revenues, NetOne continues to usher in exceptional packages.
“In this global age where we have high demand for data we pried this lucrative opportunity by successfully introducing unique product offerings. We started paying adequate attention to demand fulfilment initiatives to increase customer satisfaction and enhance the user experience with our products,” he said.

He added, “The low hanging fruit was to quickly find alternative sources of revenue growth to cushion against declining contributions from traditional voice and SMS as a result of competition from Over The Top services (OTTs) like WhatsApp and Viber. The strategy is therefore to optimize underutilized capacity in our cutting edge LTE network and I must thank the government for facilitating the China Exim bank loan of $218 million which has been very useful in our expansion project. We are nearing completion of Phase 1.”

The company celebrated its vicennial anniversary through a campaign trail themed ‘Igniting Mbiri Yedu’ with its subscribers all over the country’s 10 provinces and rolled out more base stations.

 

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