Vodacom Lesotho has come a long way, starting from only a single base station site when the company started operations in 1996 to becoming one of the most competitive communications companies, not only in Lesotho but in Africa.
One of its strengths in the communications business is seen through its continued investment in various products and services, a remarkable approach that has seen it having the largest network footprint in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
With over 220 2G sites and 125 3G sites, innovation is seamless at the house of Vodacom.
The company’s investment in efficiency, particularly when it comes to its network, sets the benchmark for it to deliver not only voice, sms and internet services, but also to integrate revolutionary services such as their latest innovation M-PESA and also provides a total communications service offering that helps to transform people’s lives.
Being a part of one of the world’s largest communication companies in the world, a single brand allows Vodacom to develop and roll out products that are successful in other markets and deliver the same high standard of service that has become synonymous with Vodacom products.
The company has leveraged this through the recent launch of M-PESA and in an interview with the company’s Executive Head of M-Commerce, Johnny Dos Santos on Tuesday, it was clear that Vodacom would in many years to come continue to launch new products and services to meet everchanging market needs. Tsitsi Matope (LT) spoke to Dos Santos (JDS).
LT: Over the years Vodacom has lived up to its reputation of being a giant in communications innovation. Tell us about your latest innovation, M-Pesa? And explain how it works?
Johnny Dos Santos (JDS): M-PESA is a mobile money service that allows users to transfer money from person to person, transfer money from urban to rural areas, purchase airtime and other utilities through the convenience of a mobile wallet, stored on your mobile phone.
The service is available to the over one million Vodacom subscribers across Lesotho who are able to transfer money and make purchases between themselves as well as family and friends on other networks.
LT: What other unique services can users get apart from money transfers?
JDS: Yes, the service also allows you to purchase Vodacom airtime from the convenience of your mobile phone for either yourself or others. Each airtime purchase through M-PESA also gives you a free 30 percent extra airtime!
LT: What prompted such an innovation?
JDS: We recognised that the scope and efficiency of the financial sector plays an important role in facilitating economic and private sector growth.
It is estimated that over 62 percent of Basotho adults are either informally served or are financially excluded and if they are to be financially included, it is important that non-bank formal distribution channels be leveraged in order to reach them with more services and products that can improve their livelihoods.
We saw a transformation in the way financial services are being delivered in developing countries and in particular, the rapid mass-market penetration of mobile phones has created opportunities for new business models to emerge and we believed that M-PESA in Lesotho can be the driving force that can improve the lives of Basotho.
LT: What has been the response so far and how many Vodacom clients are now using this facility?
JDS: The response has been phenomenal with now close to 300 000 users having registered for the service since the launch only four months ago. We have seen the fastest uptake of mobile money services through M-PESA in the world and this shows us that there is a need in the market for access to affordable and convenient mobile money products.
LT: Does this kind of service cover the whole country?
JDS: Yes, the entire population who use the Vodacom network have access to the service.
LT: What is the level of understanding on how to use this facility and what is being done to widen its promotion?
JDS: The market does understand the product and the rapid uptake of registered customers’ shows that Basotho have a need for the service and will adopt the product as it forms a part of their daily lives. We obviously continue to market the product and as new services launch through M-PESA, you will see more of the brand and the products showcased that you will be able to make use of through M-PESA.
LT: Where else have you introduced this facility and what has been the response?
JDS: Vodacom and Vodafone have launched this service in all the markets in which they operate and have over 20 million active customers worldwide. M-PESA transaction volumes equal 30 percent of the market’s Gross Domestic Product and we firmly believe that Lesotho, through M-PESA will become one of the biggest mobile money success stories to rival the performance of other markets and mobile money products.
LT: Let’s talk about the Lesotho market in terms of its responsiveness to new communication products- mobile phones and other services, how do you rate the readiness to utilise new services and products?
JDS: The market has been very receptive to new products that have been launched. As an example, the uptake of internet usage has grown exponentially and we are seeing an increase in the number of smart phone devices replacing traditional feature phones, as our customers begin to experience the power of the Internet.
LT: And what are the challenges?
JDS: The challenge is always to bring down the entry costs of these devices and we are working on various initiatives that have started through increased coverage of our 3G network as well as introducing more affordable smart phones and tablets for our users.
LT: Which other products do you think your clients need to explore?
JDS: Free4Sho allows you to get free Calls, SMS and Internet. Simply dial *111# to get 100 percent extra for free on any bundle that you purchase.
LT: Vodacom is known for its responsiveness to various communication needs, what should your clients look forward to next year, perhaps?
JDS: We have a range of exciting products lined-up for the next year for both our business and consumer users. We see M-PESA complementing a range of our new initiatives as well as introducing new financial service and payment gateway opportunities to add more convenience in the daily lives of our customers. It is an exciting time ahead that will see Vodacom delivering solutions that solve real life issues.
LT: What gives you that extra edge? What makes you more visible on the market, competitive and how do you manage to remain relevant in the communications sector?
JDS: Our vision is to make every customer smile so we invest heavily in product testing and staff training in order to ensure that our customers receive the best level of service from us.
We continue to challenge ourselves, striving to deliver products and services that create possibilities and change lives.
It is this dedication and continuing drive to revolutionise communications that sees us being recognised as the network of choice.