Island Nation Innovators
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Motivated by its aim to bring exclusivity to customers in Seychelles, Airtel has forged ahead with the completion of its fibre network in a bid to make sure local customers can access the best and latest services across the technology and telecommunications sphere.
2016 marks 18 years since Bharti Airtel Group entered the international market with its first African foray in Seychelles. It was the first telecoms operator in Seychelles to bring prepaid and HSPA/EDGE and 3G services to the country, in addition to a whole host of value-added services that utilise cutting-edge and often industry-first technologies; such as expanding its 4G data and fibre capacities, entering the television services market, and bringing its staple Airtel Money and Airtel Premier services to Seychelles.
“Our high level of innovation, emphasis on customer experience and inclusive technology will ensure we remain ahead of the competition, and our products are carefully designed so that when customers try us, they stay with us for life,” Managing Director (MD), Amadou Mahamat Dina stated back in 2015.
Even through tough economic times, the Company has shown resilience and invested in the necessary backbone infrastructure to answer the developing needs of Seychellois customers; reportedly securing more than 65,000 mobile subscribers by the end of the first quarter of 2015.
Witnessing vast technological improvements and an ever-increasing mobile penetration rate - which currently stands at more than 150 percent - Airtel Seychelles has taken advantage of industry trends and quickly adopted 4G, becoming both the first 4G African venture for Bharti Airtel Group, and the first commercial LTE network in the country. “The service is a state-of-the-art network based on FDD-LTE, making Seychelles among the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to commercially deploy this cutting-edge technology,” explained Dina.
At the end of last year, Airtel Seychelles provided 4G coverage across 70-80 percent of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. He further detailed: “Initially, 4G coverage was available in urbanised and key areas of the country as part of phase one; with the service available in corporate offices and the airport for example. As of May, 2015, we added 15 additional sites in phase two of the project.”
According to recent statistics, more than 60 percent of Airtel Seychelles’ subscribers now own a smartphone, which points towards the organic evolution of a more technically-savvy customer base in the country, seeking more innovation for their money.
“The 4G network was launched by the Vice President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, which demonstrates just how deeply rooted and valued the Airtel brand is in Seychelles. Mobile data usage has currently only reached 25 percent in the country and therefore, the market holds ample opportunity for Airtel to grow,” Dina added.
Similarly, 3.75G has been rolled out over a large proportion of the country and its islands, with more sites planned for Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. “Our long-term goal is to achieve the same quality of service, wherever you are in Seychelles, and the Government has been very supportive throughout these milestones,” summarised Dina.
There was even more cause to celebrate this year as Bharti Airtel became the third largest mobile operator in the world; something which Dina was proud to be a part of. “Airtel has had a deep impact on the lives of the people and society,” he commented at the event. “Airtel serves the needs of major corporations as well as fishermen, farmers and construction workers. Being classed third in the world is admirable taking into consideration that Bharti Airtel is a Company which was launched only 21 years ago. Airtel Seychelles has been at the forefront of innovation, first to launch prepaid services, 3G, 3.75G, 4G and mobile money, and we will continue with this trend.”
Meeting local needs
With telecoms representing one of Seychelles’ biggest growth sectors and a substantial GDP contributor, Airtel has worked hard to make sure that its investments fulfil the needs of its customers across the islands. Leveraging the Group’s wider investment support of 100 million rupees back into the development of the business in each country every year, Dina is committed to using this investment to make sure that “wherever our customers go, they will receive the same high quality service and connectivity levels”.
Airtel Seychelles is driven by both Group strategies and an individually tailored approach specific to the country’s 115-island structure. “Working for a globally-renowned Company places us in good stead when it comes to industry challenges,” said Dina. “The in-depth knowledge that the Group has of Africa’s telecom market allows us to focus on the positives and get excited about what the future holds.”
By adopting a local strategy to meet local customer needs, the Company is well on its way to adopting the qualities of a smart city, with the aim of becoming the best in Africa. “We are in the top three i-city African nations and strive to provide a high quality of IT communication and associated infrastructures not just in urban areas, but across each island,” affirmed Dina.
Only the best
Affordability and quality of service are the two cornerstones of Airtel Seychelles’ operations, and in order to provide this, the Company is proud to have brought only the best technologies to the unique island nation; including Airtel Money and Airtel Premier.
“Given that more than 50 percent of Seychellois are banked, combined with the high mobile penetration rate of 150-plus percent, has guaranteed rapid uptake and has brought Airtel Money’s financial inclusion services to great heights which we are extremely proud of,” emphasised Dina.
Alongside this, the launch of Airtel Premier in 2014 has pioneered exclusivity and inclusion in the telecom market for loyal Airtel customers. Those subscribed to Airtel Premier receive priority treatment from the Company and have access to the latest and greatest services. “Airtel Premier is for customers who have been with us for a long time and expect the best service. The Premier customer is fast tracked through any interaction with the Company, with priority routing on services on the network plus the ability to earn loyalty rewards in terms of offerings like Priority Pass; a service that allows our customers to access hundreds of airport lounges in more than 120 countries worldwide,” he detailed.
“So far, we have received positive feedback in terms of our level of service and will continue to invest in Airtel Premier going forward, adding more destinations abroad to extend this VIP treatment.”
This ethos for the best value innovations and service extends beyond Airtel Seychelles’ telecoms remit into its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities in the community. “Above all, we want every single citizen to feel Airtel is part of their DNA,” Dina concluded. “On average, we complete two or three CSR activities every month that tackle every aspect of the community; education, healthcare, sport, environment, music and more... We have many more surprises coming up this year.”