(CP-Africa): Bharti Airtel, one of India’s largest telecommunication recently signed a deal worth $8.3-$10.7 billion to fund the acquisition of Zain’s African unit. Airtel currently serve over 200 million customers in Asia and Africa. With the successful completion of Zain’s acquisition Bharti Airtel is now the fifth largest mobile company in the world.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman and Managing Director, who spoke at the formal rebranding of Zain Nigeria to Airtel Nigeria said the new owners are set “to do things differently from how they have been done”. According to him, “We will take the network into the deepest parts of the country. We will take it to where networks had never been. We will not compromise on quality while doing this. We will do things the way the communities want us to do them”. He revealed that Bharti Airtel has been trying to enter the African market in the last 13 years “we understand the nuances of the market”.
Mittal said that Bharti began its African journey by promising to deliver world-class and affordable mobile services to customers and delighting them with innovative products. “I believe we are taking a major step towards delivering on this by introducing the heart of our business – the Airtel brand – across our operations in Africa. Our African customers will now be able to enjoy the same best-in-class brand experience as our customers across India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.”
Adding that Airtel will remain committed to taking their network deeper into Africa, ensuring its services touch the common man and bridge the digital divide in the continent. “I am confident that over the coming years Airtel will win the hearts of customers across Africa and emerge as one of most admired brands of the continent.”
Airtel brand comes with a promise to meet the emerging needs of customers with innovative, affordable and relevant solutions to empower consumers, giving them the freedom to do what they choose and provide them with the tools to meet life’s daily challenges.
The red primary colour of the logo: reflects the warmth and vibrancy of the African continent. It is the colour of life and of the African sun at dusk. This reflects the brand personality of being brave and bold, sensitive and empathetic.
The new curved addition to the logo: a symbol to help ensure instant recognition of the brand across diverse international markets.
Low cost handset package: To effectively provide a mobile phone free of charge to all new subscribers. The package, launched in conjunction with Nokia, is priced at approx NGN 3,500 (USD $23) and includes a brand new Nokia 1280 mobile phone, a free SIM card and the equivalent value in free Airtel talk time and SMS text messages.
Electronic Distribution of Airtime: Electronic Distribution involves the trading of airtime electronically via Point of Sale Terminals over the GSM networks backbone. This ensures that subscribers can acquire airtime for their phones without unnecessary stress of the purchasing of phone cards.
Sales and After Sales Service of Mobile Phones and Accessories: This aspect entails the sales and distribution of a new line of very functional mobile phones, after sales service and sale of accessories under an Agency Agreement. Airtel is currently the sole distributor of Sagem mobile phones and accessories (in Nigeria).
GSM Payphones in rural areas: In a bid to ensure availability of a means of communication round the country, Airtel will be deploying GSM payphones in and around Africa, with special emphasis in the rural areas, thus bridging the digital divide.
With 40 million subscribers on the African continent, Zain operates in 16 countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Zain Nigeria, which has over 15 million subscribers in its 0802-0808 network, has in the past eight years been owned by different operators and had changed names severally. Since inception in 2001, it had transformed from Econet Wireless Nigeria to Vodacom, to V-mobile, to Celtel and to Zain Nigeria and now Airtel Nigeria.
On the impact of such changes to brand identity, Akin Adeoya, managing director/CEO of Marketing Mix, a media and branding communication firm based in Lagos said on Business Day news ”If they are going to have a re-branding which will encompass a change of name, it will be a case study internationally. One would not have thought it would have survived so many changes, almost on a yearly basis. “It will go to prove that if the business proposition works, the branding challenge will also work. The brand already represents a multiplicity of contrasting images to the customer. Some people still call it Econet. Some call it Celtel.
“The brand is challenged. There is need for some level of stability. My own advice, if possible will be for the owners to retain the brand name, rather than change it immediately.”
Meanwhile, Charles Otudor, Managing Director of Adstrat Consult, a brand and marketing consulting company, noted, “the constant change in corporate identity of Zain creates top-of-the-mind brand identity crisis and distortion. It is critical for brands to retain consistency in feel, look, and language. Also of critical importance is the brand behaviour. Most consumers purchase or invest in brands based on the perceived brand promise. Consistency remains a key component of that purchase and it is mostly a result of trust. That trust can only be achieved via consistency. Besides the perception issue, there is also the economic cost of the new brand implementation. Most brand identity implementations always cost a premium.”