9Mobile – Teleology Holdings: Waiting for Adrian Wood Magic

WorldStage Newsonline– There are high expectations from the Nigeria’s telecom sector from Teleology Holdings Limited, the preferred bidder for 9Moblie, formerly Etisalat, now with the confirmation that it beat the deadline to deposit a non-refundable $50 million out of the $500 million it offered to buy the struggling telecommunication firm.

Mr Adrian Wood, the promoter of Teleology is not new to the Nigerian terrain, having once served as the CEO of MTN Nigeria, currently the market leaders.

What brought about the problem of Etisalat was the inability of the Middle East investors to service about $1.2 billion loans obtained from 13 banks which include Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, First Bank, Stanbic IBTC, FCMB among others.

Observers believe that for Teleology Holdings to source fresh funds locally to complete its purchase of 9Moblie and implement other programmes lined up would be almost impossible since the potential lenders are the ones hit by the default which led to the exit of Etisalat promoters.

The banks involved had made provisions for the bad loans in their 2017 financials reports with deep negative impacts on their profit.

Another obstacle that the Adrian Wood’s Teleology is expected to face is how to stop the continuous sliding of  9Mobile brand following the protracted sale process.

9Mobile logo

According to industry report, 9Mobile’s customers dropped from 20,521,952 in January 2017 to 17,075,813 in November 2017 while the Nigerian Communication Commission’s Monthly Internet Subscribers data for December 2017 also showed that 9mobile lost 68,341 internet users while competitors like MTN, Airtel and Globacom gained 2,642.666; 911,040 and 87,538 respectively. The 9mobile’s loss reduced its internet users to 11,338.839 as against 11,407,180 in November same year.

Waiting for Adrian Wood Magic

Management direction is a key factor in success of any organization and this is an area that might work in favor of the 9Mobile brand giving the track record of its new chairman in the person of Adrian Wood. To his credit, he was the Chief Executive of Officer of MTN Nigeria between 2001 and 2004, a period that witnessed the aggressive penetration of MTN into the Nigeria market terrain, during which the foundation for the achieved fame of the brand was laid. And if the feat can be repeated, then 9Mobile is in for a ride that will alter the present leadership structure.

The MTN brand during the period failed to obey the “law of leadership”. The 1st of the 22 immutable laws of marketing that say, “Being first in the market is better than having a better product” by displacing Econet Wireless, the first licensed GSM provider in Nigeria, to become the leading GSM company in the country.

Critics of the “law leadership”explained that being first doesn’t matter if the idea/product is not good. In other words: being first gives you very big advantage over competition but doesn’t guarantee success. It doesn’t matter that you’re first to market if no-one needs your product or if your product is very bad.

However, this did not actually define the case with MTN and Econet, the difference was that with the aggressive and managed entry of MTN into the market place, it was able to displace Econet that secured the first GSM License, not necessary because the other was a bad product.

Looking at it from a Brand Marketing and Management perspective, this can be traced to the market entry strategy and operational management approach of both brands. The MTN brand was positioned to lead by deploying every available consumer engagement mechanisms. The brand message “Everywhere You Go” resonate with their aggressive push to connect with the consumers across the country, supported by huge marketing and communication budget.

This underscores the words of Al Rise & Trout that “Positioning is not what you do to a product; it is what you do to the mind of the prospect”. The brand was in the face of the target audience through well managed and coordinated consumer engagement channels.

The MTN brand became a personality overnight, its slogan Y’ello not only became a household word, it became the generic word for “Hello” in the county’s communication space.

However, followers of Adrian Wood will attest to the fact that he has the aggressive personality and management ability to take the 9mobile brand to a new height with the right financial backing.

Accessing local funding may be a major challenge, but with report of Teleology’s investment of $11 billion and with right financial backing from international consortiums and partners the brand can achieve the impossible.

Mr Adrian Wood while rolling out his company’s plans explained that, Teleology has an ambitious plan of action that will guide its rapid overhaul not only of the network but all aspects of the operations.

According to Wood, 9mobile is transiting into a new phase that will be defined by optimal value delivery: “value to our employees, value to our customers, value to local communities and indeed to all stakeholders.”

He explained that the new organisation to emerge would be engineering- led and brand-driven. It would strive to ensure that 9Mobile operations delivered fulfillment to the customers, empowerment to local communities, protection to the vulnerable and excellent rewards not only to the shareholders but to all stakeholders.

The company planned to double the 9Mobile network with new 3G/4G specific cell sites as well as a several thousands of kilometers of fiber optic cable across the country.

It would drive a special programme of rural internet coverage, focusing on 4G with broadband access planned for all of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas.

Youth engagement and employment programmes were also planned with all build contractors, distributors and consultants, while investment in broadband internet access technologies which were completely new to Nigeria was also planned.

The 9Mobile network will be optimised for high speed and high capacity data including imaging, video, games, music, IPTV and more.

Teleology envisages an increase of 50 per cent in direct employment in the new 9Mobile. There is an active plan to introduce within the first year, several million 4G-capable premium quality smartphones, at exceedingly affordable pricing.

“Nigerians should look forward to a new regime of intensely exciting and innovative brand loyalty rewards programmes, from the new 9Mobile,” he said.

“Teleology had entered into an alliance with Safaricom, the largest network operator in East Africa, famous for its global “mpesa” mobile financial services system. The system advances financial inclusion and supports the network with the highest operating efficiencies in Africa.”

He noted that, Teleology’s coming at a period when competition in the Nigerian telecom industry had for some years been limited to price wars between the various GSM companies, the coming of Teleology would herald a new era of intense competition and market share.

The body language is positive with these comments from the new CEO, if the brand keeps to its promises as expected, the consumers and the Nigerian economy we be the better for it, considering the huge investments that will accompany activations.

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