On the surface, there might be nothing much from the new Safaricom logo but deep in its realms the telco is inching closer to its dream of becoming a raft or an enabling platform for just about everything away from its old mobile telecommunication roots.
As we all know, a raft or an axle is a central shaft for a wheel or gear either fixed or rotating. Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore speaking in an earlier interview said the firm was moving to becoming a raft.
“We don’t want to become a company for everything, we want to become a platform for everything. And in fact we’ve even moved on from using the word platform. We now use the word raft because platform is something which sits still. A raft is something which moves. And the world that we’re in today is moving at a particularly rapid pace,” Collymore told Business Daily. “So we want to be the raft that people can climb onto to get them where they want to go. We have stopped thinking about mobile phone companies being our competitors.We don’t want to think of ourselves as a telecommunications company. In fact pretty much every Friday afternoon I interview incomers to the company and we hardly get any with telecommunications background now. They’re coming from all sorts of other backgrounds.”
The first thing Safaricom did was act as a platform for mobile financial services M-Pesa then it went to power Little, an Uber competitor and Sendy, a courier firm which has since pivoted from peer-to-peer services to B2B. As a platform, Safaricom also powers Eneza Education and M-Survey and M-Tiba, a mobile health wallet and M-Kopa, a fintech firm lending solar systems to off-grid communities in Kenya.
As a pipeline model, Safaricom was acting as an airtime vendor investing in hardware and software infrastructure to make sure people could easily and conveniently make calls so it can sell more airtime. It needed a robust network capable of serving millions of customers. It did. However, with the advent of OTT platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber, Safaricom realized selling airtime won’t be dope in the next decade as voice which still its biggest revenue earner-close to 75 percent of its total revenues was headed to this VoIP applications.
As a platform, Safaricom provides Internet for these apps but sees its future beyond being just a platform as anyone can provide Internet for these apps. Therefore Safaricom is moving into M2M communications where it can power heavy automated industries which earlier wouldn’t need telecommunication services such as robust irrigation systems, video-on-demand school system, energy and water sensors, transport communication systems among others.
With partners such as Huawei, Safaricom aims to power smart cities, the government of the future, starting with the government data center and the national police control center among others. Safaricom is repositioning itself for all these with its new brand from a telecommunications brand to a digital lifestyle enabler through a new brand campaign titled Twaweza: when we come together, great things happen.
The firm says its new brand position seeks to connect Kenyans to each other and also connect them to knowledge and information in a bid to democratize technology to bring out the best of their trademark resourcefulness, creativity and enterprising spirit.
With an over 70 percent network coverage across the country and over 28 million subscribers providing over 200,000 touch points for its customers and offering over 100 different products under its portfolio, Safaricom is so close to its dream of becoming part and parcel of Kenya’s every individual and sector and government or private agency. It was time for the mobile communications better option brand, which was launched to beat competitor Kencell, to be dropped and forgotten.