Friday, June 01, 2007
The Kenyan ICT Bigwigs (Corporate) – Part 3
Michael Joseph (61) is the Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom Limited and has extensive international experience in the implementation and operation of large wireless networks. He has been in this position since July 2000 and has been primarily responsible for the re-launch of the company and its subscriber growth from approximately 20,000 at the time of re-launch to over 5.5 million as at 21st January, 2007.
He was previously the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for Vodafone Hungary where he was responsible for the implementation and operation of the company’s DCS 1800 network, including the installation of over 500 base stations, 2 switches, an Intelligent Network platform, and the introduction of Value Added Services like WAP, SMS and mobile internet applications.
He landed at his current port of call (Nairobi) in 2000 and re-launched Safaricom. Since then it has grown significantly. It began with a workforce of 200 and now has over 1000 employees. Staff are well trained both prior and during their tenure at Safaricom as Michael places great emphasis in a dynamic workforce that operates as a team. The subscriber base has subsequently grown by almost 600%.
Safaricom is arguably one of the most profitable listed businesses in Kenya. It's revenues and net profit have been growing at an annual compound rate of 27 per cent and 66 per cent - a huge momentum that could double the business in a few years. A profit of kshs12.77 billion in its last financial year made Safaricom the most profitable company in the region. Michael's stewardship has been exemplary.
This kind of growth not only makes Safaricom by far the biggest and most profitable business in Kenya but also the most influential in terms of how it affects everyday lives of the citizens. Michael recognizes that a significant part of the economy is informal and is being facilitated by the mobile phone sector. Safaricom promises to transform communities in Kenya so that the mobile phone, telephony and information technology should no longer be status symbols but integral business and personal tools.
Safaricom’s aim is to remain the leading Mobile Network Operator in Kenya. In order to achieve this Michael has placed a strong focus on quality of service to customers. Integral to this has been pricing and customer service. The ability to grow the rural customer base and offer them appropriately designed products is a particular feather in Michael’s cap.
Michael accredits Safaricom's growth and success to its ability to move fast towards bridging the digital divide, its innovative work force and the firm’s development policy. With Michaels amazing store of energy and the firm’s sustained will to succeed, the team has developed tariffs which are adaptable to every lifestyle and every pocket. Safaricom has derived most of its growth from airtime sales, especially the introduction of the lower denomination top-up cards.
Safaricom has also introduced innovative products adapted to the Kenyan market such as “Simu Ya Jamii”, the community phone concept that has revolutionalised accessibility of mobile telephony among the lower-income population, which cannot afford a handset. Another ingenious product is “SMS Sokoni”, which provides daily agricultural commodity prices through SMS. The recently launched “M-Pesa” which allows subscribers to make simple financial transactions from their phones looks set to become a popular service. It marked the first time in the world that a mobile service provider had ventured in the e-money business.
(Note the development of products aimed at the low - income market).
Micheal has a passion for environmental conservation and has steered Safaricom's partcipation into numerous projects including the Aberdare Forest Fund and the Safaricom Lewa Marathon. He has a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town and is a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (I.E.E.E) and Institute of Electronic Engineers (I.E.E), UK.