20 Year Transformation
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Marking 20 years of Vodacom operations in Lesotho, the past 12 months have signified some of the most significant progressions in the Company’s history as evidence of its never-waning strive for national enrichment.
With the previous years laying down a benchmark for consistently ambitious targets to be set, the business has always compared its success against key performance indicators bridging financial inclusion, internet saturation and customer care; and to achieve its goals in each of these areas, significant investments have had to be made.
“As we continue to invest in technologies to provide faster and reliable internet services, the need to strengthen our transmission systems to keep up with growing customer demand becomes more urgent,” says Managing Executive- Commercial, Johnny Dos Santos in regard to the most recent of enhancements. “In this line, a key project for us was to connect our high capacity sites to a fibre backbone in order to future-proof our transmission needs.
“We identified the state power utility provider as a key partner and entered into a capacity purchase agreement to make use of their fibre infrastructure; and in so doing, provide them with a revenue stream to continue to build their fibre infrastructure throughout the Kingdom.”
A win-win for both parties, it is nationally pivotal relationships and enrichment strategies such as these that have set the tone for triumphs which most recently include 30 percent connection of its base stations to this fibre network, as well as the rolling out of metropolitan fibre through the Maseru CBD for Government and large enterprise fixed voice and data service needs.
“We have further invested in our 4G network and now have 70 4G base stations throughout the Kingdom,” Dos Santos continues. “And, in supporting the growth and strategic importance of m-pesa, we have also kicked off our largest ever mobile money project to move services to an upgraded m-pesa platform; a project which will be completed by mid-2017.”
To facilitate the ongoing rise to prominence of Vodacom Lesotho, the Company will be moving into new premises in early 2017, having commissioned the construction of its own office complex; a landmark moment which is set to kick-start an equally pivotal array of improvements instilled across the company over the next year.
“We are really looking forward to moving into our new home next year, especially as we renewed our operating license for a further 20 years and so we really need a home that will accommodate our growth for the future,” Dos Santos says. “We set out aggressive financial, technological and operational targets which we successfully executed and delivered against, and we grew revenue 20 percent year-on-year for the first time in our history; delivering more than R1 billion in revenue.
“We also grew our market share and now have more than 80 percent of Basotho connected to our network. In line with our desire to connect Basotho to the power of the internet, we rolled out 3G services everywhere that 2G was available, and further rolled out 4G services to more areas throughout the Kingdom. Our M-pesa service also continues to grow and we are most proud of its performance.”
Now comprising as many as 218 permanent staff, 150 outsourced employees, 1.35 million subscribers and a number one positioning in the industry, the Company might be forgiven for resting on its laurels, but its new premises, extensive investments into new technological infrastructures, and a move to a centralised ERP system is an indication of the continuous improvement that the business still strives for.
The investments don’t end from a technical or infrastructural perspective either, with more than R1.5 million spent across training and development programmes in order to generate the most specialised and knowledgeable workforce in the industry.
Subsequently encouraging new assignments, new roles and new initiatives across many members of staff, this has been backed up by a strong relationship with the National University of Lesotho (NUL) where a mutually beneficial partnership has formed; the Company providing this facility and many of the surrounding areas with top class communication and technology solutions, while consequently becoming an employer of choice for the best talent graduating from the institution, with the aim to spread this to other local institutions of higher learning.
“We have also provided an online learning service for NUL where approved content is uploaded by the university and students can access it from anywhere for free,” Dos Santos adds. “With our newly formed partnership with Learning Equality and Khan Academy we are also set to leverage mobile technology to provide free access to world-class online learning materials for Basotho. In November, 2016, Vodacom Lesotho Foundation will launch one of the largest philanthropic programmes in the Vodafone Foundation’s 25-year history, The Instant School.”
“With the ability of connecting every Mosotho to dynamic educational resources and to the broader online world, Instant School represents a significant expansion of the Vodafone Foundation’s ongoing mission to use digital and mobile technologies to bring critical educational resources to the people who need them most. We believe that this non-commercial approach that links to the outside world will present life-enhancing opportunities to learn and gain new skills.”
Corporate social responsibility comprises a primary facet of Vodacom Lesotho’s overall influence in the country, having helped hugely across areas of psychosocial support, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, business development and employment creation over the years; again with the Vodafone Foundation’s patronage in each case.
“Our ambition is to incubate more than 30 Basotho entrepreneurs a year that will translate to direct employment creation and putting the power of technology in improving service delivery, and opening trade opportunities for individual tradesmen and small business,” Dos Santos details. “Beyond investing in Basotho, we remain committed to enabling a healthy generation of future leaders through project Moyo.
“Also known as Project Leseli, the Moyo Campaign is our initiative driven by the Vodafone Foundation that is investing in developing a text to treatment programme that will put HIV positive children and pregnant women in Lesotho on lifesaving treatment, hence improving maternal health outcomes for Basotho.”
The ability to understand the demands and needs of a nation is largely responsible for Vodacom’s success across Africa as a whole over the decades, and as competition increases in Lesotho, this ethos is certainly as relevant today as it has ever been.
Consequently, products and services are tailored to drive the success of any business, corporation or individual; quickly and flexibly.
“We are in an increasingly competitive market and industry, and our customers are looking for products and services that meet their needs, that are differentiated by best-in-class customer experience initiatives,” Dos Santos emphasises. “We are continuing to invest in our systems, but our success will lie in addressing customer needs and experience expectations in the future.
“We are moving as a Company to design our products and support around the needs of our customers. It will be this understanding of our customers and enhanced support for them that will differentiate us as the best in customer experience.”
In adherence of this dynamic, the Company has embarked on its CARE programme aimed at transforming the manner in which customers are supported, by empowering front line staff to quickly resolve issues while giving customers the tools to control their own spend and usage within bespoke designed packages.
“We believe that the ability to treat a customer as an individual, and not just as a number, whilst enhancing the support they receive through all our touch points will be a game changer that continues to build on customer loyalty and stickiness to our services,” Dos Santos continues before applying this philosophy to the Company’s overall goals moving forward.
“I think that it revolves around three key areas. Firstly, have we been able to connect more Basotho to the internet in order to improve their lives?
“Secondly, have we empowered financial inclusion and have we changed the face of mobile money and been able to provide savings and loans products that serve real needs in the market and change people’s lives for the better?
“And finally, have we transformed the Company to have our customers be at the core of everything we do? Have we moved from a being a technology company to a customer orientated services Company that puts the customer first and shows that we ‘CARE’?”