Founded and led by CEO Ridhwan Khan, Mobicel launched its first independently-designed mobile device in 2007. Having since then gone from strength to strength, Khan’s eyes are on a future in which Mobicel’s market share surpasses 20%. With products ranging from entry level functionality to high end smartphone devices and tablets, each of Mobicel’s product lines are uniquely tailored to suit the target market.
South Africa’s telecom sector is one of the most important ones in the continent. However, there is a monopoly that hits the investments. How do you see the development of the ICT sector in South Africa?
One of the biggest issues we have in South Africa is educated consumers. Our infrastructure is fantastic compared to the rest of Africa. The technology is there but probably 55% of our population is still using 2G devices. Our networks have invested heavily in infrastructure to build healthy resources. Unfortunately, 4G hardware is expensive. Mobicel wants to provide users with affordable communication. Networks have tried to subsidise as well but have also faced losing subscriber base to the competition.
How do you make sure people can rely on your brand?
By maintaining affordability. We can, for example, compare our story with Toyota and Hyundai: When Hyundai came into the market, they were offering the same product for cheaper. In our industry, Huawei is moving away from entry level products and presenting us with an opportunity. All the big brands have abandoned the bottom space – I don’t consider them competitors. People can rely on us because we know our market: We offer a US$10-100 device and we go no further than that. We focus on that segment, which in South Africa alone is a market of 40 million people, not to mention the rest of Africa.
What are your plans to boost your market share and what do you expect to achieve?
We want to get to 20-21% market share. We have previously used price and product to penetrate the market, but that is not what we want to be any more as a brand. My goal is to get people to love the product and the brand. We want to be inspirational. If my users can sell my device, I have accomplished what I wanted.
Within the current economic climate, there is massive opportunity for Mobicel. We offer the same technology, if not better. We had to overcome being a “no name” or unknown brand – people don’t trust a device they have never heard of. Now we have a double digit market share. South Africa is dominated by the postpaid market, but a consumer can buy one of our devices without a 24 month contract attached and without interests. We are adding value by levelling the playing field. We have also developed our after sales department. We just launched a device with 1 year warranty on LSD repair no matter what causes the break.
How does partnership play for your sustainable growth and to strengthen your brand?
South Africa is dominated by operators who are controlled by retailers. It is one of the few countries where you can walk into a grocery store, a clothing store, or a pharmacy and you can buy devices.
How Mobicel is going to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year?
I can’t disclose too much about that but there is a lot coming. You just need to watch this space. We have a lot of things in the pipeline and I see massive opportunities in South Africa at the moment in terms of the segment in which we are operating and where there is need for improvement.