‘We are looking into the future with confidence’-NetOne CE

NetOne is optimistic its OneMoney, a recently launched mobile money service, will fare much better than its predecessor OneWallet. The mobile network operator hopes to broaden its value-added services. This week, Zimbabwe Independent business reporter Tinashe Kairiza (TK) interviewed NetOne MD Brian Mutandiro. Below are excerpts:

TK: This year you launched a number of initiatives cutting across from mobile money to insurance and, from the look of it, NetOne is literally becoming the face of mobile services. Can you give an insight into the drivers behind these initiatives and the future of NetOne?

BM: The market is evolving and requires the company to be innovative and offer customers a diversified product offering that cuts across all their needs through one platform. In line with our tagline — The World In One — which is the key driver in our vision to provide sustainable communications solutions delivered with an edge, NetOne will continue to explore value-added services that will enhance the unique experiences of our customers and offer them an array of services through the mobile phone and at the click of a button. NetOne belongs to the people hence our products are affordable.

TK: You recently launched OneMoney which replaced OneWallet. How certain are you that you will make it riding on this platform given the failure of its predecessor OneWallet?

BM: As NetOne we have confidence that OneMoney will be indeed more successful than its predecessor OneWallet owing to our investment in a robust and highly scalable system that has been used successfully within the region i.e. The M-Pesa product. This platform is more stable and has the capacity to support high volumes of transactions seamlessly, therefore we are optimistic that OneMoney, coupled with its affordable tariffs, will not only carve a dent in the market, but is a solution that offers our customers value for their money. The usage has already increased and thousands of people are registering.

TK: Last year you indicated that plans were on course to launch a mobile money international platform in October. Give us an update on this and the challenges that have resulted in the delay of this product.

BM: As with any new initiative, it is prudent to test it on the local market first and harness its full potential locally before spreading our wings beyond our borders, whilst at the same time conducting the necessary due diligence in the targeted international markets to ensure that all critical issues, e.g. aligning to the various laws and compliance issues within the respective countries are finalised before extending our product internationally, so we are currently concentrating at home.

TK: There has been talk by government encouraging mobile telecommunications players to share infrastructure, does NetOne have any appetite for this initiative?

BM: In any industry you must abide by regulators hence we have no problem with that. NetOne has embraced this initiative and we have already made inroads towards this through synergies with other telecoms players and will continue to explore other areas of synergy moving forward.

TK: You recently slashed service tariffs. In light of this new development, do you think NetOne will remain competitive or will incur losses in the long run?

BM: We will remain competitive, our tariffs, along with other costs will continue to be reviewed in order to balance the need to offer affordable packages to our customers, whilst creating sustainable value for our stakeholders and driving business continuity.

TK: What is your outlook in terms of your subscriber base growth?

BM: As NetOne, growth in subscribers remains a critical focus area for us as we are yet to reach market saturation, and there are so many untapped opportunities which will come from unlocking underserved areas. Zimbabweans are migrating to our network and we are confident this will continue to rise exponentially.

TK: Do you have plans to launch new products in the short-term?

BM: We have launched a significant number of products over the past few months, and will continue to analyse the market for areas which we can plug, new trends etc, which will inform new product development as well as the enhancement of existing products. As I said during the beginning of the year, there is more to come — watch the space.

TK: Is NetOne in a position to meet the licensing regulations set by the regulator, particularly the licensing fee?

BM: NetOne takes regulatory issues seriously; therefore we will work towards complying with the requirements.

TK: What is your general comment on the mobile industry in Zimbabwe in light of the current economic situation?

BM: Generally, the mobile penetration in Zimbabwe has greatly improved over the years and the market at large has embraced mobile technology as well as its value-added services, which trend we should continue to see moving forward. Data usage has increased and One Fusion has played a significant role to this.

TK: There has been fierce competition in the sector among various service providers. Would you say the competition has been fair and healthy, and do you think that the regulator has done enough to ensure a level playing field?

BM: The regulator is doing well in creating a level playing field. We are happy that there is healthy completion as this encourages value addition through innovation and in the end it is the customer who benefits.

Fact File: Brian Mutandiro

— An economist by profession;
— Been the acting chief executive officer for NetOne since March 2016;
— Was appointed NetOne’s chief operating officer in early 2016;
— Appointed managing director of Almin Metal Industries in 2012;
— In 2006 he was the managing director of Chemco Holdings;
— In 2004, he was the business director of Delta Corporation (soft drinks division)
— Became strategic managing director of Innscor Africa (franchising division);
— Appointed managing director of Innscor Africa (franchising division) 2002;
— Planning manager for Coca-Cola Central Africa in 1996; and
— Appointed chief exectuive officer of the Postal and Telecommunications Corporation in 1999.