Airtel and Orange Vs Safaricom: The Mobile War in Kenya

The second and third biggest mobile network providers are out to get more customers. They always are by the way, but the new offensives may be worth noting. Like the 500MB for Ksh. 20. That is quite something. But all their tactics may go to waste unless they resolve most of the issues that still face them.

Safaricom has owned a larger proportion of the market for so long. Their services are all a tad more expensive and Airtel is out, together with Orange, to unsettle the Green network. They however will not find this easy. First, Safaricom has very loyal customers. Ha! Not like we all know we’re loyal but Safaricom has made sure they are by binding their services to our lives. We are all bound to Safaricom one way or another. From Bonga points to Mpesa, to Mshwari.

Yu, powered by Essar, exited the market a few months ago. We need to give it to them for trying really hard to get a share of the market. They had the best call tariffs to other networks, the cheapest data charges and even free Yu to Yu calls. Their offers really caught our eyes. Not once, not twice, but thirteen times did I buy Yu sim cards. They were everywhere. At times for as little as 10 shillings. I always used them for like 2 days before reverting to my Safaricom line. It is not like I am advocating for Safaricom. I actually fear daily that they are becoming a monopoly. But Safaricom sets standards daily. Standards that if Airtel, or orange, don’t meet they’ll be out of the game in no time.

Safaricom Logo

Good service delivery is one. Safaricom have a brilliant customer service. Tweet them even at 2am and they’ll call you. I tried that with Airtel the other day when their 500MB for 20/- (which only works at 12am to 6am) was not operational. They replied, with no apologies, 7 hours later at around 8am when the Club Night session had long expired. That did it for me! And their reply wasn’t even substantive. I have never tried subscribing for the ‘free Mbs’ again.
Orange also have their well-known poor customer services. People complain here and there.  Airtel internet has outages very frequently. And they will never bother it to mention to their subscribers. There was a time last year, their internet connection was out for 3 days around Maseno area and they were busy tweeting me to reboot my phone. Safaricom too have their negatives which they always find a way of dealing with. Well except for network around my home area. But Airtel and Orange fail daily on customer service. Customer service doesn’t only entail solving of issues. It includes even things like Airtel Money. Things like Orange Pesa.

Airtel money is way cheaper than MPesa. It is free! You can send money to all networks free of charge. I joined Airtel money and deposited cash which ended messing me up. When you have a service like Airtel Money and you want it to measure up to a service like MPesa, make sure you first have agents all over the country.
I was travelling and I lost my wallet meaning all my cash was gone. The only cash available was on Airtel Money but finding an agent was impossible. Totally impossible. For example, in Moi University main campus, there are around 30 MPesa agents but only one Airtel Money agent. One. And we all know that students handle the most cash in the country. Why haven’t Airtel properly distributed their agents? No one wants to look for an agent like I did that day.

 

Orange have cheaper data plans than both Airtel and Safaricom but their network is never available. They should realise that Nairobi is not the whole of Kenya.  When you buy an Orange line, even using it is a big problem. Their USSD codes are not explained anywhere. You just fumble around wishing it was *144#.  Airtel too are starting to confuse with their USSD codes. We’ve all been used to *133# for checking our balances and now they’re busy introducing *131# as the new way.

Innovation is another key reason Safaricom still leads. You see Safaricom brings new products and the rest follow by copying. Now when we refer to something like Airtel Money we have to say ‘MPesa ya Airtel’. Or we say ‘nisambazie credo ya Airtel’ when we know Airtel call their service Me2U.
For Airtel or Orange to succeed, their approach to new ideas should be open. They should be able to compete with Safaricom by bringing forward unique new services never seen before. For example, we’re seeing Airtel Zawadi re-introduced as an answer to the successful Bonga Points franchise and very soon we will be seeing Airtel’s answer to Safaricom’s Lipa na MPesa. Instead of all these copying, they should build up their own to achieve credibility.

Safaricom has got us locked. Maximising on the fact that their services are ‘expensive’ to untangle customers wouldn’t be a good move. Just having cheaper services doesn’t do it. Airtel and Orange should improve their service delivery mechanisms. Make their service accessible easily, part of life, known. They should be everywhere. You’ll hear of Safaricom Sevens, Safaricom Foundation opening eyes, Mshwari touching lives etc. and brilliant campaigns with things you can relate to. But never of Airtel or Orange. Maybe once or twice. But that isn’t enough. More should be done.

Mpesa Logo

There still is a big chance for two more companies to rise. Especially with the coming of dual Sims, low and high end.  People are ready to swap and use either Sims for cost cutting. But are these services being offered good enough? For example, the unlimited daily internet by Orange at 50/- or the daily 100Mb for 20/- by Airtel which all beat the data charges by Safaricom. However why people are not yet tapping into this? Quality. Publicity. And the fact that Safaricom has got us on lock. Give us all the services Safaricom is giving us, add your own better ones, fresh, cool and exciting then lock us there.