Raul De: Opening Up Data Market in Nigeria Will Boost GDP

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Raul De

The Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Raul De, speaks on how growth in the telecommunications sector is impacting businesses in Nigeria and why MTN recently carried out volume revamp on data in the market.

Can you shed more light on why MTN implemented a volume revamp on data in the Nigerian market? Was it a bait to lure in more subscribers in the midst of other competing brands?
Before I address the question, let me first clarify what actually happened. We didn’t slash the price, rather we increased the volume. For example, we have N1000 bundle, which is one of the fastest selling bundles in the market; not only for us but for all the players. Now, everybody was offering 1.5GB full day, in our case, we were doing 1GB whole day and 500MB in the night. We were also giving 1.5GB but that 500MB was restricted between 1am and 7am for usage. We didn’t reduce it to either N900 or N800; it’s still N1000 but this 1.5GB, you can use it for a whole day instead of 1000 whole day and 500 in the night.

We also introduce special price point which is N200. You know there are some people who are heavy data users. With the N200, subscribers used to get 1.5GB but we now introduced it to 2GB. This is coming few weeks after launching our 4G+, which offers customers faster data speeds. We understand that many of our customers are now going on 4G, especially because of migration to smartphones and with this, they will need more volumes. If you look at those on 2G, they will do more of facebook, WhatsApp and others; not too much of youtube and not too much of video. But the moment you go on smartphone, the usage pattern changes because the experience becomes different. Therefore, the whole idea is not to reduce price but to increase the volume, so that people get more data for the whole month.

Did you do all these to give subscribers more value for money?
Yes. The volume increment is a means of delivering more value to the customers. Under the new structure, customers can now enjoy more value for their money with up to 30 per cent more data volume for 30-day plans.

Meanwhile, customers would also enjoy up to 100% incremental volume for weekly data plans and 25% incremental volume for daily plans. In addition, new customers would enjoy introductory offers, with access to prices as low as N50 for 50MB and N500 for 2GB, and also receive a 100% bonus on data purchases for four months. With the faster internet speeds delivered by the launch of 4G+, this new structure could not have come at a better time for our customers, as we have seen that faster data speed means more data usage.

The increased quality and speed on the MTN network, has enabled customers to explore new ways to use old services while discovering applications. In the space of a few years, people went from instant messaging to sharing funny videos and from listening to music to streaming high definition movies. Like I stated earlier, people’s data needs have changed and we recognise that our customers need much more and we are delivering that for less. Besides, to enjoy the volume increment, a customer can dial 131, *131# or download the MyMTNApp on their mobile phones. Let me break it down in sequence; a 1.5GB 30-day plan will cost N1,000, a 2GB 30-day plan will cost N1,200 and N2,000 will get MTN customers 3.5GB worth of data for 30 days.

But despite all these, Nigerian subscribers still complain that the telco companies are swindling them, especially with the rapid way the so-called monthly data plan goes off within days. Can you please clear the air around this in line with your brand promise?

This issue has been raised in many fora but let me explain where the problem comes from. First, let me state that this majorly happens to the users of smartphones because of the Apps people use like android, google and others. All these apps, especially google take a lot of data. To guide our subscribers, we arrived at two pro-consumer approaches. The first is what we call video optimisation, which enables you to fix your video to determine what you want to see. At 2G, maybe it’s at 460 stream per seconds but the moment you move to 4G, it becomes like 1000 stream per seconds, so the same video is at higher definition. With video optimisation, we put it back to you to decide what you want to see. That ensures that data is used at a lesser speed. Number two approach is that we are educating our subscribers that all these analytics can be switched off if they are not in need at that particular time. With this, if you are on mobile data, you decide what should be uploaded and what should not be uploaded, particularly on android, google and others. The truth is that when all the analytics are on; they are burning data as they transfer information to the cloud. In this case, you can stop it if you don’t want them to take your data. Finally, let me state expressly that Telcos are not taking GB from subscribers because that is not our business models. Our business model and brand promise are to give our customers value for their money and not to shortchange them. The way the analytics take data to transfer information to the cloud is not in the control of the Telco operators.

Having said this, can you please share with the public the feedback you have gotten from your customers after the volume expansion?
In data, there are two clear parts which we follow, we have dual data strategy. First, we have people who are freshly joining internet; they start with N50 or N100 per day. They are not heavy users because they are just trying to see what they can do with internet. For these set of people, our strategy is to give them small bite volume so they can go to the internet to see what they can do. The second set are the volume users, these are people who consume 1GB or 2GB and so on. For the two categories of users, we give offering that would give them more value for their money depending on their usage patterns; no discrimination or condition. So far, so good, the feedback has been very encouraging and that’s why MTN has remained the market leader.

Beyond data and voice calls, can we look at the business itself and where MTN stands in terms of value-added proposition and business growth?
Frankly speaking, from MTN perspective as a telecom operator that has been in the market for more than 18 years in the country. As a company that is not in Nigeria for the short run but for the long run, it’s a clear fact that the more people are connected, the more GDP growth happens and the more people are connected, the more education is enhanced because we bridge communication gap and ease the way of doing business.

With MTN services, people get more knowledge and are able to make decisions. In our country Nigeria, people are determined to succeed and willing to learn from great leaders and this is possible through access to information. People are striving every day to learn from and emulate these set of world leaders. To this end, what MTN for instance has done is to make accessibility easy; either through voice or data.

First, people start with voice calls and graduate to data usage. For both, you can get information, either through calls or internet application. The bottom line is that the more people calls or research through internet, the more people get online, the more people get educated, the more people are connected, the more it’s better for the country because people base their decision on knowledge. That’s what our company does because for us it is not about selling airtime and data alone, but to impact people. In fact, there are villages where we don’t even make so much profit s but we connect them, with the believe that with time, they will be viable, hence our evergreen tagline; ‘MTN, everywhere you go’. One major strength we are proud of is that despite our large geographical spread, each of our sites gives subscribers data. Regardless of how small a community is, if you get MTN network there, you will get a minimum of 2G but the highest is 4G. It will also interest you that the coming of MTN and other operators have boosted the SMEs.

10 years ago, MTN was like a father of all in the market but today there are three major operators that are competing heavily with the brand. How do you see MTN today and kindly share your view on the data segment of the market?
The way we look at the market is a bit different. As a player, you can approach the market from competitive point of view or you approach the market based on the categories that are opening up. I agree with you that we are competing with one another but strategically, to better impact the life of consumers.

For instance, the data segment of the Nigerian telecom market is opening up and more people are coming in. The question each of the players is working to address is how to be the preferred brand. To me, what is happening today is that the market is witnessing a healthy competition for the betterment of the consumers. Everybody is working to improve on quality because if I cannot give you the required quality, you will take a leave from my network. As a result of this, pressure is on our team to give consumers the best and I’m sure this applies to others.
I agree with you that it’s not a single player market but many players market where one brand is trying to outdo the other. At MTN, we have always put our best foot forward with good network, better customer experience and value-added proposition. If you also look at data market, it’s also looking up good and everybody is keying into it. For us at MTN, this has encouraged us to invest more in the market and we have remained the leading brand.