In Uganda what you wed isn’t what you marry – Airtel and Warid Part II

In a recent blog post I was talking about what the buyout of Warid by Airtel meant for Uganda. And now that the wedding campaign has come out and we know that the fact for sure is that it is real I think it’s going to be exciting to see how the in-laws work together to make sure the marriage stays together or doesn’t. Well from an industry standpoint the issues to fix will be many.
Well, because not unlike human relationships marriages (or mergers) are not easy. The first issue normally comes with choosing which side of the bed. A small issue but you see in the end even when the wife will take her husband’s name she will have great influence on how happy he is for the rest of his life. So he has to make certain concessions. I think things like that can be deal breakers and impact the relationship deeply.
It is my strongly held view that while Airtel has its merits it also has challenges that will not allow it to get the most out of its new “wife”.  Its like how you date the most enviable girl on the market and you marry her. The truth is that all the other guys wanted her but didn’t have the cojones to approach her. But in reality while you had the balls in a moment of courage you can’t tame her or keep her down or whatever male subjugation of women is called these days. She had a life of her own before you came and you are hoping she dims her brightness for you. Ugandan women – no chance. You must find your place in her shadow /spotlight or another wife.
As the most enviable brand in the market people were aware of what they were buying. They knew where Warid was at every point in the value chain. Known for the most innovative product offers on the market that bright star considerably dimmed when compared to the lackluster and modular Airtel charade. The truth is that integration of products can happen but when push comes to shove most of Warid’s innovative products will be dropped in order to drive a more streamlined brand agenda and product profile. The sad thing is that those were the things people loved about Warid in the first place. So the wife must assume the position and prepare herself. Things like the Entrepreneurship Fund don’t have equivalents on the robust aggressive Airtel side of things. Like marrying a man who never puts the toilet seat down when he goes to the washroom, he never knows why you get UTI after UTI. If he changed his behavior he might be able to afford that little dress you want.
Buyouts are different from mergers in that the guys who get bought out never get a choice on whether they stay. Most times a young blue-eyed auditor from a world renowned audit firm works out the optimum “offload capacity”; how many resources the buyer is able to take on with the buyout and therefore the rest will have to be offloaded. Now it might mean more revenues for Allen and her cohorts at the URA but if more than 50% of the current employees at Warid get laid off she can expect that much less in taxes and probably not as much an increase in boda boda revenues as their new chosen professions start to emerge. Kind of like a guy telling you after getting married that you have to drop your single wild partying friends since they “aren’t in your class anymore” and yet that brother met you in club!!
Most times the husband determines the sex positions the relationship will assume. Sure when you are dating he might let you ride on top a few times but my feelings are that this normally tends to change once the ring is slipped on. Similarly, if it was not previously determined how the customers are going to get screwed, there are going to be issues about this. Mass market pricing and continuously communicating seemed to have worked around what Warid was doing however whether this will work for the aloof new head of house is another matter. We wait and watch for changes coming soon. For now I would tell the customer to assume the position.
Speaking about positions, when the hottest girl on the market gets taken other girls get jealous most especially her friends. It says they weren’t worthy enough of the ring; especially when some of them have been on the shelf for a longer period of time-openly looking to be picked up, attending weddings, being at funerals, showing open interest, going to the gym so as to hide the cellulite [read UTL]. It simply isn’t fair. It makes them seem less attractive and openly speaks about their value to the market. But then what I think is that such behaviour prompts the lady in muzigo number 3 to get all antsy and start asking for her own wedding (no more akawundo kakubye’dirisa – Luganda for cohabiting). And we can already see this behavior with freebie Fridays, bonus weekends, etc. We are going to see a lot more “promos” from MTN before the market settles. Whether that is a bad or good thing we are yet to see but I can tell you that all the miniskirts are going to come out now.
Meanwhile back at the ranch
Now how about the step children? Anyone in the industry and who knows their products well knows that Warid Pesa was the most superior mobile money product offering on the market. Some have argued it was a technology thing [a superior IN] and others had it down to the Chinese invasion [Huawei and ZTE]. Either way the erstwhile sheltered child of the home Airtel Money was not as boasted or even as robust. With the marriage comes the scenario of the mother saying to the father “don’t let your child spoil my child with his bad manners”. One of two scenarios could result. The stepchild is abandoned; Warid Pesa gets chopped up for pieces or some modules but is overall co-opted into Airtel Money. In the second scenario; the stepchild thrives and shines – someone thinking straight takes Warid Pesa and gives it its true place in the spotlight and watch it make money for them.
When I first said the reason for the buyout was because Airtel needed a superior product to compete with across the continent, it was argued that Uganda was the last place to look for such a thing – since as my former boss used to say “Nothing good grows out of Uganda” but consider this for a minute. If you buy Warid in Uganda you not only get a challenger brand and 3 million customers, you also buy a mobile money product superior to anything you have anywhere on the continent in 17 countries, complete with its copyrights. Now the details were not disclosed but if I were an Indian billionaire I would think that’s 17 stones to pay for 2 birds. Like marrying a girl and finding out can also cook, and think business. Don’t laugh, in Kampala it’s like a venn diagram to find a girl who can do all three!! The third quality? That one they can all do – with bells and whistles!
I think that we are bound for some turbulence ahead but then again like most things Ugandan, someone who is NOT the ordinary citizen will win. We can celebrate now and we should because after all who doesn’t need a party in these dark times but we should always keep an eye on that shiny horizon for the sky rumbles and cloud billow with the wind of changing times.


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