Mbugua Njihia is CEO of Symbiotic Media – the company that created Sembuse, an SMS based messaging service for Africans looking to enjoy social networking. Mbugua is also a Safaricom Innovation Board Member, a Founding Member of the East African chapter of the Mobile Marketing Association, as well as the Founding Chair of Mobile Monday (Kenya Chapter).
The Com World Series team caught up with Mbugua ahead of the East Africa Com conference and exhibition (Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, 17-18 April) to find out a bit more about this speaker’s experiences and focus.
CWS: How would you sum up the characteristic of the East African telecoms, media and ICT industry this year?
MN: One word – Evolving. Market forces and innovation are ensuring that all players in the ecosystem are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. The biggest challenge remains the business models to be employed as cut throat competition, especially in the telecoms space, sees mobile operators enforce strict KPI’s on their managers that mean they are not flexible to explore differentiated models. The investments done to realize mobile data have also forced the MNO’s to frown on data revenue share as they seek to recoup their costs.
CWS: Which type of services do you think consumers are going to be calling for in 2012?
MN: Mobile commerce will grow in demand with increased mobile phone utility and a better exposed consumer base. I use mobile commerce as opposed to e-commerce as the channel for these payments will be mobile.
Mobile entertainment still ranks high in consumer demand; the challenge is to innovate both on content, delivery and business model.
CWS: How important do you think cost-efficiency/reduction is for service providers in East Africa this year?
MN: With increased competition, service providers must cut costs but retain service quality. We have seen Airtel outsource certain functions to IBM to cut costs and focus on core business. This means providers must look at tools and partnerships that help meet these two objectives.
CWS: What do you think are the 3 key attributes needed to succeed in East Africa’s telecoms, media and ICT industry going forward?
MN: Innovation, partnerships and capital
CWS: What do you think is needed to improve mobile services for the underserved in Africa?
MN: I think the entry of governments in the provision of government centric services on mobile will drive both adoption and awareness of services. This will affect positively the rollout improved mobile access by the MNO’s as there will be a better case for ARPU with increased demand for data driven services. Private sector innovation will then follow suit leveraging on open data initiatives and increased consumer demand.
CWS: Which key message do you want to highlight to the audience during your participation at the MMA Summit @ East Africa Com in Nairobi this April?
MN: Local competency on matters mobile development is available and its imperative that brands and other players seeking to make use of the channel to meet their business objectives tap into it. Mobile is an indispensible part of the marketing mix. For the mobile network operators, be flexible on piloting different business models and open up access to network resources that will allow for increased innovation on services.
Mbugua Njihia is CEO of Symbiotic Media, Safaricom Innovation Board Member, Founding Member of the East African chapter of the Mobile Marketing Association, Founding Chair of Mobile Monday (Kenya Chapter).
Symbiotic Media is an emerging leader in mobile business, mobile entertainment and custom web and mobile application solutions. The company’s expertises stretch from development of public services, mobile and web based software platforms, business process improvement, distribution and monetization of content, and more.