Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya are coming together to form a new venture aptly named Airtel-Telkom whose CEO will be Airtel Kenya’s current CEO, and Chair will be Telkom Kenya’s current CEO. People had a field day with that name. But that’s besides the point. Although I wish they chose something a little more creative. People suggested AT&T, AirTel, AirKom, you know etc.
If you’re wondering what’s bound to happen next with this merger… well, nothing we know of. Both carriers will see no immediate changes in operations and both will continue to work, and have their products and services as ‘Airtel’ and ‘Telkom’. So maybe once things are finalised, and the deal is approved we’ll see a new name. Hopefully. Because Airtel-Telkom is such a long, weird name.
When you look at it, this sounds like a good plan. Airtel enjoys 22% market share, while Telkom has 9%. Together they make up 31%. Which makes them together a worthier competitor to behemoth Safaricom’s 64%. But I feel like this won’t necessarily translate to serious competition for Safaricom.
Even though we still don’t know the details of what’s bound to happen in the long run, we know that Airtel has struggled in the Kenyan market for a while now. There had been talks of them looking to exit the scene, which were then refuted with plans for acquisition. And maybe this is their actual exit/acquisition plan. One more kick before we sink.
Telkom Kenya has seen significant growth since investment by Helios. But at 9% market share, they can not seriously compete with any other Telco in a country where almost everyone is a Safaricom subscriber, with an extra couple of SIM cards. This merger seems to be a bigger deal for them than for anyone else, as they now stand to grow their base significantly. It is worth noting that the deal doesn’t include Telkom’s Real Estate portfolio and unnamed government services.
Before the new venture announces any new services, or operation strategies, all we can do is speculate. But what we can be sure of is that as a new company, Airtel-Telkom will need to stand out. Same thing that’s been said for years to anyone looking to compete with Safaricom. Stand out. Don’t copy. Don’t play catch up. Be the first in newer endeavours.
Personally, I hope Airtel-Telkom focuses on accessibility, and value to customers. I have written here many times about how impossible it is to find an Airtel Money agent, and how terrible Airtel Customer Service is, as I have complained about the Telkom network coverage being poor. If together they can improve on customer service, ensure 90% plus coverage, and if together they can find more appealing avenues in different sectors like Safaricom have found in things like Business, Home Fibre, and E-commerce, then and only then, will they be a serious contender.