MTN Group on innovation

In its quarterly update for the period ended 30 September 2012, MTN Group recorded 182,7 million subscribers, effectively increasing its numbers by 3,8%.

Bornman du Toit, General Manager, Products, Services and Innovation. (Image: MTN Group)

MTN Group President and CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa has stated the Group’s performance was underpinned by solid operational management and the rollout of appealing value propositions – despite aggressive pricing competition, regulations and economic challenges across different markets.

This performance has enabled the company to increase guidance for net additions from 2012 from 21.25 million to 23.70 million.

“MTN has continued to implement on its strategic pillars of improving shareholder returns, developing existing and new revenue streams, optimising costs and improving customer experience. Most relevant during the quarter was the execution of competitive products and services in response to aggressive price declines in the market, a continued focus on data growth and improved network rollout. Looking forward to the balance of the year, acceleration of our network expansion will be a key priority across the majority of our operations as network quality remains a key enabler for our business,” the company has stated.

Technology and innovation are very much a part of the company’s strategy going forward.

To find out exactly how much, IT News Africa recently caught up with MTN’s Bornman du Toit, General Manager, Products, Services and Innovation, to discuss the company’s strategy for instilling innovation throughout Africa.

What is the company doing to inspire a culture of innovation within the organisation, amongst staff?

Innovation goes beyond the focus of one specific area, like a tool, a commercial product or running exciting innovation events. We have a holistic approach towards innovation that involves the entire organisation. We currently have various mechanisms to lodge ideas, comment and collaborate on challenges, throughout the organisation.

What are the main drivers behind mobile solution development?

We need to remain relevant in the lives of our consumers. The days are gone when you can have a holistic approach towards consumer-end products. You need to understand your specific market segments and how to approach them (whether via normal marketing channels or social media, via print media or electronic media due to education levels etc.). Our consumers are also at different stages of technology adoption. In some instances, we need to be ahead of the technology curve (like LTE) and sometimes still need to get people to type an SMS.

What is the company doing to increase smartphone penetration?

We support all major handset manufactures and operating systems. Our solutions are handset-independent. We therefore focus at price points of devices and lowering barriers to entry for our consumers.

What does MTN view as challenges within the African ICT market, specifically from a mobile point of view?

• Access to ubiquitous high-speed connectivity to support the proliferation of appropriate applications for the M-Health/Agri/X vertical industries, as well as the SME market.

• Appropriate skills for the support of any and all links of the value chain.  Currently, especially in rural areas, there is widespread adoption of basic mobile services, i.e. SMS and USSD.  The opportunity to start using mobile applications is significant, and this initiative needs to be driven by government, regulatory, operators and application providers.

• Basic literacy to use and enable VAS applications using mobile technology.  This can be overcome by the development of icon driven applications for basic services.

• Unwillingness/discomfort to use mobile technology to share financial and personal information.  What is evident is that with the introduction of Mobile Money, this mindset is changing rapidly.

What is the company’s view of access to the Net via the mobile phone?

We believe that the Internet benefits our customers, but we are also conscious of price sensitivities in our markets. We therefore try to look at this from a holistic perspective. Initially, we focussed at lower barrier to entry around specific price points like handset and recharge vouchers. Over the last few years we proactively lowered these entry points (with sub $20 handsets and very low recharge denomination cards). We then build MTN Zone on top of this. The result is that people are not only able to make calls, but are also connected (which wasn’t the case few years ago).

In the data space, we have partnered with Opera Mini to bring their unique browser technology to our consumers. This has resulted in faster download speeds at a lower cost to the consumer, which equates to controlled spend while experiencing the Internet. 

Chris Tredger, Online Editor