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Meza spells out vision for Celtel

NAIROBI, July 23 – The new Celtel Chief Executive is admitting that lack of a strong distribution network may be the biggest contributor to the mobile operator’s failure to effectively penetrate the market.

Rene Meza, who was recently appointed to revive the company’s 8-year operation in the country, told Capital Business on Tuesday that its tariffs were also not consumer-friendly.

“We didn’t offer enough competitive prices to our customers and therefore missed on the opportunity and thus the situation we are in currently,” he said

With about 3 million subscribers, Celtel’s performance compares poorly to that of their main rival Safaricom that boasts of 11 million subscribers.

In its last 8 years of operation in the country, the mobile operator’s ownership has changed hands three times, and hired four Chief Executives.

Safaricom, on the other hand, has been under the same boss over the last 10 years.

Now, Meza who joins Celtel from Tigo-a mobile operator in Tanzania-says he will concentrate on three main pillars to reverse the negative trends for the company.

“I want to focus on a good distribution network, good products that meet my subscribers’ needs and affordable rates, as the basics to see this company forward,” he said.

He observed that despite the company being the single provider in some towns in the country, its products did not match up to the needs of the people.

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Meza felt that these fundamentals could have been ignored at the company’s launch, consequently making it almost impossible for it to maximize on various opportunities that have presented themselves over time.

“I intend to change that and as you have seen, we have launched a number of user friendly products in the short period of time I have been around,” he pledged.
Celtel is due to be re-branded to “Zain” in the next 2 weeks to reflect its new owners. Such constant ownership and management changes have previously raised debate on the company’s stability.

And could the entry of 2 new players in the market-Telkom and Econet-making further compound the mobile company’s problems?

Meza, however, assured that the re-branding was intended to launch celtel on an international platform and would not affect the growth of the business in the country. He explained that the company intended to spend Shs25 billion in the next 2 years on the new brand as part of a 15-country branding process.

He said: “I don’t think the problem is in a name, really, if you name it celtel, kencell, whatever! As long as you fulfil the customers’ needs, they will be happy, and that is our focus.”

The Celtel boss was of the view that what could pose challenges was the high rate of interconnection fees, the entry of 2 competitors and correcting some fundamental mistakes the company made in the past.

Further dismissing claims that the company was experiencing a mass exodus of employees since the entry of the new management team.

“Just because I left my former company in search of a better opportunity does not mean that my company is experiencing a massive exodus,” he quipped.

The mobile boss termed the claims as ‘perception’ as opposed to ‘reality’ revealing that some former employees were sacked due to under-performance.

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He expressed optimism of retaining key technical staff to counter the high demand for the few trained experts available.

Finally, on Kenya’s business environment, Meza had positive words, citing good infrastructure for mobile operators, a good human resource base and stable electricity supply.

“Out of the 15 countries we are operating in, I think Kenya has enviable resources. For instance, in my previous station (Tanzania), some resources like a constant supply of electricity were hard to come by,” he observed.

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