Why Airtel Uganda MD, Anwar Soussa was sacked after one year in office

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by Moses kaketo

Airtel Uganda market share drops to 41% as MTN jumps to 53%

Airtel Uganda will next month have a new managing director after Mr. Anwar Soussa, who served for only a year, was reportedly shown the exit. His exit comes after Airtel Uganda registered poor performance during his one-year tenure.
Mr. Soussa joined Airtel Uganda in June last year. He replaced Mr. Tom Gutjar, whose stay was cut short over poor performance. Telecom Managing directors normally sign year two contracts. However, the contract can be terminated if the performance is below expectation.

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Sources at Airtel Uganda told Newz Post that the poor performance of Airtel Uganda forced Airtel Group in Nairobi to recall the man who turned around Airtel Uganda and threatened market leaders MTN Uganda.
Mr. Soussa will be replaced by V.G Somasekhar who is currently serving as Airtel Africa director for special projects. Mr. Somasekhar served as MD of Airtel Uganda from December 2010 to February 2014, during which period he oversaw the Airtel-Warid merger.

According to the notice shared on August 9, 2017, Soussa is leaving Airtel Uganda as a result of a personal decision to take up a new and exciting opportunity outside Airtel.
However, investigations by Newz Post reveal that his early departure is a result of rather poor and declining performance of Airtel Uganda.

The departure of Soussa means, in a period of less than two years, Airtel Uganda will have had three managing directors. And over the last five years, the company has had five MDs against three managing directors at MTN Uganda. That is how bad the seat has been hot at Airtel Uganda.

The origin of troubles
By June 2016, Airtel Uganda market Share stood at about 44 percent, while that of rival and market leader MTN Uganda was at 51 percent. The unfortunate was about to happen.
Knowledgeable sources say Airtel Uganda did not properly handle the UCC directive of [New] Sim Card registration [ Using National ID]. From the UCC clean-up., MTN market share had jumped to 53 percent thanks to adequate planning while Airtel Uganda had lost, her market share now stands at 41 percent from 44 percent- a difference of three percent [ 3% of 8m translates to about 2.4m customers) this loss of market share was result of number of factors.

Airtel agents are said to have made several ‘fake’ registrations, however, during the [ UCC] clean-up, several Airtel customers who had not registered their lines did not comeback, they had thrown away their sim-cards and moved on.
This prompted management to come up with a campaign dubbed: Welcome back our customers – on radio, tv and posters. However, the campaign did not have a serious impact, as many customers had moved on [ [perhaps joining rival networks]

It should also be noted that there are thousands of Airtel customers who owned two lines- Airtel (075) and Warid (070). When UCC tightened, they did not have reason to maintain the two lines of the same network. This was opportunity to buy an MTN line.
MTN [ with the Nigerian experience] had tried to clean up their system before the UCC sim card registration deadline. They had prepared much earlier before the UCC deadline. And given the fact that many MTN customers are loyal and high end, majority had registered. No wonder MTN is not making much noise about sim card registration on Radio, TV and other media

Group demands results
A reliable source at Airtel Uganda told Newz Post that, the Airtel Uganda MD was given three months to do something- regain the lost market share.
A few strategies were put in place, one such was ‘Mega Masappe’ campaign, a retention tool in which subscribers win daily and weekly prizes such as motorbikes, brand new cars and cash. The campaign was launched in July 2017.
Newz Post understands that when the bosses in Nairobi noticed that there was no concrete strategy to regain the lost market share, they had to pull out the axe. That’s how Mr. Soussa found himself out. It should noted that MD’s are never fired, to save their image, they are asked to resign voluntarily.

And when they looked out, the choices were limited, they had to recall the man who helped turn around Airtel Uganda- V.G Somasekhar. Mr. Somasekhar, will be reporting next month as Mr. Anwar Soussa takes on ‘better’ opportunities outside Airtel.
Other issues
During Mr. Soussa’s tenure, Airtel Uganda lost five key and experienced staff in the marketing and sales department to rivals MTN Uganda, they were later to launch similar packages to match that of Airtel Uganda.
The staff are: Ian Mugambe, in charge of trade and innovation, a one Rhona, who is very experienced in Usage and retention, Kenneth Wanasolo, regional manager and a one Hame- who was in charge of selling high end devices to corporate companies. This was huge blow for Airtel Uganda, unfortunately, no effort was made to replace them with equally better talent.

How MTN beat Airtel
During the registration process, MTN gave out specialized phones to agents to help out in registration of new and old customers. The phones were connected to head office and NIRA to ease the process. Within a few minutes, the customer was registered.
On the contrary, Airtel instead chose to roll out kiosks from which customers would register from. However, the person who was given the contract to supply Kiosks did not deliver on time. Of the planned 1,000 kiosks, only a handful of them were delivered. Airtel had to promptly buy a few phones for agents to register customers as UCC august deadline looms. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, not so many phones were given out to agents.

As the UCC august deadline looms, it remains to be seen whether Airtel [ the company has intensified radio campaigns calling on customers to register] will be able to retain her current market share, otherwise, thousands of Airtel Uganda customers remain unregistered.
Airtel has one problem- a sizeable number of her customers are not loyal, they are largely low end. The kind who own more than one sim card, if you annoy them, they can easily abandon the network.

Can Mr. Somalakhar change things at Airtel Uganda? Including regaining the lost market share? This and more, will be addressed in our next article.

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