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Vodacom recently unveiled the Smart Kicka, the very first Vodacom-branded smartphone entering the market at a low price point. Aki Anastasiou chatted to Vodacom’s Chief Commercial Officer Phil Patel about the reasons behind the development of the phone and their strategy and goals for mobile internet access.
‘Our aspiration is to be Africa’s largest internet provider,’ says Patel. ‘Today we’ve got 25 million internet/data users across Africa. We think we can more than double that figure in the next couple of years. But one of the key barriers is the cost of a device. The majority of people can’t afford it. So we thought let’s design a device specifically for South Africa to challenge the entry-level price point.’
‘Getting the device in the customer’s hands is only the start. We want them to be able to affordably use it, every day of the week.’
The Smart Kicka will also be sold around the world with Vodafone. It’s a sturdy, quality device that looks great and works efficiently. Patel explains that they wanted a smartphone without compromise, avoiding the pitfalls of many cheaper, entry-level cellphones which struggle with short battery life, slow processing speed and limited memory. ‘We’ve designed this to be a proper device, with enough battery life for a full day (1 400mAh), a 3.5-inch screen and the latest version of Android so all the applications work. And it’s got 4GB of memory so you can download apps and work out of the box with no compromise at all, at a low price point,’ he says.
The high cost of data is another barrier to access and Vodacom has now introduced cheaper, more flexible data options. ‘Getting the device in the customer’s hands is only the start. We want them to be able to affordably use it, every day of the week,’ says Patel. Vodacom’s new Power Bundles are time-based options for accessing the internet – similar to the concept of use at an internet café. R3 buys an hour of Vodacom internet usage (with a 50MB limitation).
‘We believe our customers want transparency, they want certainty of how much they can use and that’s the philosophy around the bundles,’ Patel explains. He explains that Vodacom’s strategy is all about ‘much more for more’.
With today’s demand increasingly focused on data rather than voice, especially in the youth, Patel believes customers don’t necessarily want a flat rate. Rather, they want to know how much they are going to get for their money. They also want usage which they can customise according to their needs. It’s this demand that Vodacom is working to meet with Power Bundles. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you want to buy for an hour, a day or a week, you have flexible options so you can purchase whatever fits your wallet for that time. It’s the most affordable way of using the internet,’ says Patel.
Accessibility in a country where fixed-line internet is so limited is also a challenge – and a great opportunity to reach more people as far as Vodacom is concerned. Patel says their aspiration is to be the largest internet company in South Africa and so their strategy for the coming financial year is simple: ‘Everywhere that we have voice, we’ll also have data. And it’s 3G data, quality internet,’ he says. Vodacom aims for a minimum experience of 1MB per second, enough for video-quality access.
Patel add that Vodacom will continue to roll out their 3G towers to reach more and more customers all over rural and urban South Africa.