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CEO interview: How data strategy is pushing up Airtel's customer base

Airtel Kenya on Thursday launched new data bundles where customers receive more data at the same rates as before and also enjoy free WhatsApp services.

Business Daily’s Annie Njanja talked to Airtel Kenya managing director, Prasanta Das Sarma, to get insights on Airtel’s growing customer base and the firm’s decision not to pass the 15 per cent excise duty imposed on internet services to the customers. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

In the Q4 Communications Authority (CA) sector statistics report indicates that Airtel’s customer base grew by 3.56 million, what strategy helped Airtel to gain more market share than the rest of players in the industry especially in the last three quarters?

They are a couple of things that we are doing that is attracting new customers.

Our voice and data bundles are very popular especially with the youth segment, and are the two key drivers in creating new customer base.

Also the last few months we have launched 4G services also both in Nairobi and Mombasa and this has encouraged a good number of 4G users in other networks to move to our network.

We have also been improving our network coverage. More areas are coming under our network and that is obviously giving us more customers to our network.

Data is a key driver and customers are really liking us for better products and coverage.

Earlier today, Airtel launched new WhatsApp bundles, from the packaging of the new products it seems that Airtel is looking to tap into youth to grow its customer base.

From our records, the median age of internet users is 19 years, and a lot of Airtel users being in that age group, we keep that in mind in whatever we do, especially in terms of launching new products.

The WhatsApp bundle is targeting this group. And so when the purchased data plan is exhausted, the users continue to enjoy receiving and sending messages through the platform at no extra cost until the bundle expires.

What is Airtel’s long-term plan in capturing new customers and maintaining old clientele base?

4G is most definitely a key factor. We are continuously exploring new technologies and ways which we can improve our network, 4G means faster internet and a great customer experience.

From the pricing of the bundles, how has Airtel factored 15 per cent excise duty tax imposed on internet services by the Finance Act 2018.

We believe that happy customers will bring us business. And so none of our bundles will be effected by the taxes.

About mobile money interoperability, any plans to expand scope?

Mobile money interoperability is obviously picking up with Airtel customers, I am seeing more and more people are using it and this is helping it. Overall, we are very happy about it.

Expansion of our distribution network is a continuous process, we have an internal plan but as more customers keep coming we need to keep expanding our network and reach to keep up with that. It (distribution network) is evolving every day.