By Kamau Mbote
The latest campaign by Orange Kenya to compare its off-net and on-net prices against those of market leader Safaricom has elicited a lot of sober conversation in the market but is unlikely to change the market perception and loyalty to Safaricom.
In the advertisement that is on newspapers, online as well as audiovisual media the France owned teco puts into assumptions various factors in its attempts to woo customers from Safaricom.
Largely the classifieds assume that the majority of the 20 million Safaricom customers are likely to be unaware of the costs discrepancies between their current operator and other market options.
The commercial also assumes that Kenyans are largely in Safaricom because of the voice services offered by the telecommunications giant.
In this two assumptions Orange Kenya hopes that the advertisement will enlighten customers of which operator is actually ‘the better option’ and that Safaricom has achieved its loyalty purely because of its telecommunications services rather than a culmination of activities including community service, its Kenyan background and its persistent innovation.
To discuss the price factor let us first remember that Orange Kenya is not the first telecommunications company to pick up a fight with Safaricom by triggering a price war. In fact, almost all battles with competitors have been price related including one fuelled by Airtel in 2011 as well as another by Yu which the most ruthless was pricing free on net calls.
In the many wars that have been witnessed in the telecom battlefield Safaricom has always emerged the winner though sometimes scathed such as in 2012 when there was a drop in profits.
However during the same period the other three operators made losses leading to concerns being raised on the consequences of such price wars from including the current CEO of Orange Kenya Mickael Ghossein who said that the losses witnessed in the industry could actually lead to low investment in infrastructure.
So what has actually changed? To date let us remember that only Safaricom of the four operators is making a profit.
The point here is that Safaricom customers have for long known of the cost element in remaining with the green operator.
Orange also assumes that voice services alone call lead to large migrations from Safaricom not realizing the huge number of Kenyans using Mpesa and other value added services such as Lipa na M-Pesa, Vuma Online internet for matatus, partnerships with M-Kopa, M-Farm, M-cow among others. This has for long been the strong hold for Safaricom hence the loyalty the company exerts.
Safaricom is also the only telecom that is seemingly investing in apps developments which it also avails to its customers.
In the era of smartphones and the increasing local uptake of the devices should shape the direction of products telcos should take.
Orange Kenya also hopes that a majority of Kenyans who witnessed its services while it was the market leader could have slowly forgotten its inadequacies to slowly flow back to its platform.
Safaricom is without doubt a darling of many Kenyans due to its CSR activities with various local events sponsored by the company many of whom would not risk losing out various benefits to an international company.
Above all Safaricom has succeeded in branding itself as a Kenyan success story with roots deeply originating in Kenyan soil and any mind changing commercial will foremost require customers lose their patriotism.
This guest post by Kamau Mbote, an energy, business and ICT reporter based in Nairobi. This post about creepy adverts first appeared on his personal blog and we have published it here with the author’s permission.