The African continent has been rapidly investing into the telecommunications industry as its economy continues to grow. Despite the constant conflict in major countries in Africa, as well as poverty and crime remaining in society, the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market resides inside Africa, although the mobile phone market has only become popular in the last decade. In particular, the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the largest importers of mobile phones in Africa, and according to recent statistics, mobile phone usage in the region has increased to double the global average. However, a reliable and consistent service provider has yet to be established in the Democratic Republic of Congo; therefore, the implications and benefits of such a service are discussed herein.
Congo Mobile Service Provider
The flawed mythology that treats Africa as a homogenous disaster area is being challenged by investors and economists1. Investors have continued to add to the growing economy in more ways than one. As the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to import mobile phones, the main source of income and growth for the country relies on the production of coltan, one of the materials used in the production of mobile phones. By working alongside the mobile manufacturers in the area, it is possible to get cheaper handsets and thus more affordable service, since the handsets are very easy to produce, and the coltan product used in the manufacturing stage is a readily available resource. Therefore, it is a two-fold strategy in which the manufacturer and the service provider can benefit in cost reductions via a corporate partnership.
Due to globalisation, the coltan material is extracted and exported to the Asian continents, where they are manufactured and packaged, then are sent to major mobile phone company’ headquarters for testing and certification. Once complete, the mobile phones are imported back into the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they are distributed and sold by mobile phone outlets. As mobile phones are part of the telecommunications industry, it relies heavily on satellite communication for reception and connectivity.
However, there remains the question of a valid service provider. Although corporate giants such as Nokia have office branches in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the service provided by the company is limited, as it is more cost effective to replace a mobile phone than troubleshoot the problem. As such, there is a great need to fill the gap between the supplier and the consumer, as millions of Africans rely on third-party networks for consistent service. As such, the need for establishing a support service that links providers directly to consumers, serving as the middle man, remains.
There are three main influences regarding the establishment of the Congo Mobile Service Provider (CMSP). Firstly, the network on which many of the mobile phones are relying upon needs to be increased. Currently, many of the mobile phones in the Democratic Republic of Congo rely on a roaming network, meaning that the reception and connectivity is inconsistent with the receiving and making of phone calls and text messages. Therefore, the network should be connected to relative countries in proximity, so that carriers can link to nearby networks and establish a consistent connection. This will be routed and provided by the CMSP.
Secondly, the location of the service base will be an issue that remains to be solved. Although business is booming, the safety of civilians, as well as foreigners, continues to come under threat, even in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, a suitable location that is still relatively accessible to the public, but within the boundaries of safe premises, will constitute a location that will serve as the service base. It should also be in close proximity to other mobile phone providers, in the central business district, and within distance of the embassy or consulate.
Thirdly, the management of the CMSP should be carefully selected and maintained. Although it is suitable for Congo residents to be employed within the business, the first point of contact should remain as a foreign contact. This is mainly due to the fact that the Congo people value the service of foreigners, especially in such an industry as telecommunications. The Congo employees should be given the responsibility of ensuring that the business is profitable, by engaging in marketing, maintenance and operations of the business; whereas the foreigners should be charged with customer service, liaisons and other related responsibilities.
Labelling of a service as successful or unsuccessful in such a country as the Democratic Republic of Congo relies on the cultural and economic implications, as well as marketing initiatives by the CMSP. Emerging markets are radically different from traditional industrialised societies, and require rethinking of the core assumptions of marketing, such as market orientation, market segmentation and differential advantage2. These three purposes serve the purpose of labelling in the telecommunications industry.
Regarding market orientation, the organisational culture of the CMSP should be an organic one, mainly for the purposes of the company structure. As telecommunications continue to improve, the organisational culture of CMSP should be able to react and handle the changes in the industry effectively, as well as embracing the technology and implementing changes as necessary. This will assist in tapping into the market and increasing the differential advantage, as will be mentioned later.
In terms of market segmentation, the sub-set of consumers who have a need to be met, namely a reliable service provider, will be targeted and strategies surrounding their needs will be implemented to meet them. As there are millions of consumers who have mobile phones, but few have a reliable service provider, there is a consistent need for such a service that CMSP can provide, along with support and assistance when required. The support provides consists of mobile troubleshooting, handset servicing, sim card and battery replacement, Wi-Fi and network connectivity; as well as assistance with replacing or upgrading handsets, customer service, and improvements in mobile user-friendliness.
Regarding differential advantage, as aforementioned, there are few companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo that provide a consistent service to mobile users. The few that do are not readily accessible to consumers, nor do they provide ongoing assistance; which is where CMSP comes in. The business will provide all three core services to consumers, filling the void between mobile phone providers and the customers themselves. This will become the differential advantage for CMSP.
As most Africans use mobile phones such as Nokia, CMSP will partner with such companies as their main service provider. By doing so, the brand loyalty that Africans have to Nokia and other such mobile phone manufacturers will assist in the establishment of the business. To enhance the users’ experience, mobile phone brands will be displayed prominently in marketing campaigns and joint business initiatives between Nokia and related companies, and CMSP.
By partnering with a well-known brand such as Nokia and other similar companies, the business will be able to grow and expand to serve a wide proportion of consumers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Furthermore, by partnering with the major mobile phone manufacturers, the CMSP will be able to attract their customers and link them to the company’s service provider. This corporate partnership will be able to increase brand loyalty amongst the locals.
Offshore outsourcing has emerged as a popular competitive strategy, and emerging markets have become increasingly attractive location-wise3. Therefore, CMSP can take advantage of the outsourcing of mobile phone manufacturers by establishing a consistent service and linking customers of their companies to support and assistance when needed. As there is a great need in the Democratic Republic of Congo for such a service, Nokia and other mobile phone manufactures may be open to linking with another foreign company for service provision capabilities.
Product Life Cycle
Such a product as mobile phones is involved in all phases of the product life cycle, as it has many facets. However, the service provision of mobile phones fits into phase four, which is the utilisation stage. In such a stage, communication, management and collaboration are seen as the driving force.
For example, communication channels in the telecommunications industry for the Democratic Republic of Congo are not yet completely established. Therefore, CMSP has an advantage in this area, mainly since they are a new player and can improve on existing issues with communication problems by offering their service provision as a solution.
In addition, the management of CMSP will be completely run by foreigners, since this will ensure that autonomy is delegated to the local employees, while maintaining a high standard of efficiency and effectiveness when dealing with service provision. Customers will be provided with assistance and consistent support, whether they are new mobile phone users or experienced professionals. As research shows, mobile phone technology has been embraced by all income groups, not just low incomes households, in Africa4. Therefore, the population will rely on a service that meets its expectations, such as that provided by CMSP.
Lastly, collaborative ties with major mobile phone manufacturers such as Nokia and other similar companies will ensure that strength in numbers is the main advantage for CMSP. As one of the few, if not only, consistent and reliable service providers in the region, the company will provide local expertise coupled with foreign technology and implementation to provide an unparalleled service.
Although there are relatively few competitors, as reliable service providers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are scarce, the main competitor remains as Vodacom. Since the company both produces mobile phones as well as provides service to customers, the business has an advantage in both size and profitability.
However, Vodacom only provides service to mobile phone users that have mobile phones linked to their specific network, or have mobile phones produced by their company. Therefore, the pricing of both mobile phones and the service provision is often bundled in and offered at a local rate. Those outside their market, or those who do not have mobile phones produced by Vodacom, are not part of their consumer base.
Since this is the situation, CMSP can use a pricing strategy such as target rate of return on sales. This pricing objective will utilise Nokia and other related companies’ customer base, linking them to the partnering service provision of CMSP, and using prices consistent with the major mobile phone manufacturers. Therefore, it will be a consistent rate of return, and sales will be aligned with mobile phone packages provided by corporate partners. With such a wide customer base, the target rate of return on sales will be maximised.
Distribution Chain and Strategy
When incorporating CMSP’s service into the distribution chain, the means of distribution itself is quite simple. One the mobile phones are sold to customers by the manufacturer or mobile phone outlet, the customer is then referred to CMSP, which relies on the mobile manufacturer and supplier for products and corporate partnership regarding service provision. This completes the distribution chain.
In regards to the strategy, a selective distribution strategy should be used, since the producer or manufacturer relies on few intermediaries, or partners, to carry their product. CMSP will be linked to major mobile manufactures, suppliers and distributors, such as Nokia and related companies, for mobile phone production, customer relations, and links to the company’s service provision will be provided to all existing, current and new customers.
When implementing such a strategy in the distribution chain, it is important to add value in every step, from the sale made to the service provided. Therefore, the process will be streamlined so that customers’ issues are met on time and within the company’s mode of operation, so that the business continues to grow and expand.
Although all five of the traditional promotional mix is quite useful in increasing company awareness and enlarging the customer base, there are three specific promotional tools that CMSP can utilise when promoting its exceptional service.
Firstly, advertising the company using mainly print, mobile and in-store advertisements will cover the broad media outlets that customers usually follow. By investing into this cost-effectively, CMSP will be able to capture the captive audience that uses such media, and introduce them to its service provision
Secondly, public relations is an important aspect of promotion, particularly on a corporate level, and can take the form of charitable contributions, issue advertising and even speeches by senior management at joint corporate launches with Nokia and CMSP, along with related companies. By engaging in open presentations of the quality of service the company provides, more customers will in turn be open to utilising such a service.
Thirdly, direct marketing using word-of-mouthinteractive consumer websites, promotional letters and outdoor advertising will enable the CMSP to reach those who are both technology literate and beginning novices. As much of the African population are good story-tellers, with the aid of a targeted marketing campaign, which will include local transportation advertisements, will be quite effective in spreading the word about the company and its quality services. It is argued that growth has been more closely linked to investment5. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to reach consumers and increase the customer base is to engage in such a direct form of marketing.
In summary, the establishment of the Congo Mobile Service Provider will provide consistent, reliable and exceptional service to mobile phone users, including ongoing support, assistance and technical troubleshooting for those in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As potentially one of the only type of service providers in the region, it will provide a unique service to the local Congo people, and will fill the void between mobile manufacturers and consumers, who have no current service provision on such a basis. Therefore, it will not only provide a service to the local population, but will also add value to the telecommunications market and reinvest into the economy of the country.
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