As a beautiful paradise in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles competes with many other island nations across the globe from the Southeast of Asia to the Caribbean and neighboring countries. You have managed to position yourselves, of Seychelles, as a prime touristic destination, but what about the business atmosphere and environment here in Seychelles?
Business in Seychelles is remarkable.
Firstly, I appreciate the good work of the government of Seychelles because, when compared to other African countries, they facilitate doing business in this country. Here you are guaranteed transparency, control mechanisms and a good set of rules making clear how to run your business in accordance with the law.
Any investor and any businessman look for transparency wherever they go as it allows a business to move forward.
Airtel is part of the world’s third-largest mobile operator, Bharti Airtel, which landed in Seychelles in 1997. Could you elaborate on the company’s strategy ever since?
This is an amazing story. Our chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal started to operate in several towns in India. Then, one day he came here on holidays and liked the country; he felt at the time that it was the right time to bring the best service he was offering in India to the people of Seychelles and Seychelles’ guests. This became a reality in the following years, and nowadays, any innovation in Airtel is first rolled out in Seychelles. He believed that Seychelles, being the top premium destination, should have the best and all the latest technology.
Since 1997, we are the first to launch prepaid services, the first to launch 3G, the first to launch 3.75G, the first to launch 4G and the first to launch Mobile Money. For every new technology in the world, we are the first to launch it in Seychelles. That shows clearly the amazing bonding between Airtel and Seychelles.
Airtel is the leading comprehensive telecommunications services provider with over 55% market share of mobile market in Seychelles. To which factors do you pinpoint this success?
I will be focusing only on the main ones. The first factor is the innovative products we are bringing to this market. There are only 90.000 residents and 300.000 tourists coming on average per year. It is a very small market compared to Nigeria, Zambia, Mali, and other African countries. However, the moment you have the smallest community, the expectations get high. People are expecting a high quality of services. That is the first element that makes us different to our competitors, we always make sure that we give the best in the telecom industry. Every year we invest more than $7 million and above just to maintain the quality.
The second factor is our focus on delivering excellent customer experience. The technology alone itself is not useful if it cannot give to our customers a delightful experience. Every customer must be heard and handled properly. That is where we make a difference, and people appreciate it, and it is reflected in our market share growth.
The last factor is the affordability. We are not only bringing the technology -which is innovative- we are not only bringing the customer experience, but we are also setting a price that is affordable.
Airtel provides comprehensive telecommunications services such as Fixed and Mobile Telephony, Internet, Ship to Shore Services Satellite telephony and a host of value added services including VSAT Services and International Gateway for International Traffic. How are you targeting investors setting up businesses in Seychelles and thus in need of these services?
As a worldwide telecom company, we are leveraging on our presence in various countries across the world to target the investors coming to Seychelles by proposing innovative products along with a high quality of services. Therefore, the number of the corporate businesses using our service keep increasing year on year. Actually, most of the multinational companies, hotels, and the government are connected to Airtel network in Seychelles.
How did it feel to win a Seychelles Business Award for most innovative in 2015?
We are extremely proud of being recognized as an innovative operator in Seychelles. Airtel Money has brought financial inclusion to millions across the African continent, and Airtel was the first telecom operator to introduce this life-changing service to the Seychellois public. Given that more than 50 percent of Seychellois are banked, this, combined with the high mobile penetration rate of 150+ percent brought financial inclusion services to great heights in Seychelles. Currently, we have been able to tie up with the major utility companies (PUC, Intelvision) and retailers chain (STC, Grocer’s, Krishnamart,…) in Seychelles to enable our customers to pay their bill (from home) and shopping through Airtel Money. In addition, we have recently signed an agreement with the Agency of Social Protection so that the students and other beneficiaries can get their allowance directly on their mobile money wallet. I strongly believe that by creating a Mobile Money ecosystem, we will contribute to improving the economy of the country such.
Although Airtel is part of an international group, we have noticed great involvement with the Seychellois; could you elaborate on your CSR in Seychelles?
You touch upon a very important point to me. I am someone who personally cares about the community and I am the one leading my team to make sure that giving back to the community becomes part of our DNA. It is something we do on a daily basis.
We are focusing mainly on three sectors: Education, Health, and Sports.
In terms of education, we are giving to all the schools and universities free Internet. We believe young Seychellois should not pay a lot of money to access online courses. By equipping these young people today, we know that we are building the future of the country.
We also introduced an award aimed at the primary schools and the secondary level of school. For each level, the best student will have a tablet and one year free Internet at home. Why? We believe that if we build the competitivity amongst the young people now when they grow up their hunger for success and excellence will be part of their DNA. They will better contribute to the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
The next sector is Health. One thing we have to understand is that everybody will eventually go to the hospital. That is why investing and collaborating with the Ministry of Health is part of our priority. We observe that there are diabetes and kidney problems in Seychelles; there is also a lack of blood donation in the country.
I recently signed a MOU with the Ministry of Health, we are going to run a kidney screening campaign in the country. Basically, anybody can freely walk to any clinic in this country to get a screening of his/her kidney and find out if there is an issue to be addressed.
With regards to the blood donation, we do a massive campaign of blood donation in this country every quarter. Most of the times when Airtel calls up Seychellois to donate, the turnout is always high. Because we offer free internet and products to those that donate.
We are also thinking to create a database to get all the donors in one platform so in the case of an emergency the government can access the database and immediately send donors an SMS for them to donate. This channel of communication is faster than the word of mouth you commonly have in these situations.
And lastly about sports, Since Seychelles is a small island, we need to keep young people engaged to prevent from falling into the vicious circle of drugs. If a youngster is bored and there is nothing for him to be busy doing, he will think something negative. But if you keep him busy with a sports activity, he will have fun in a healthy way.
Therefore, we have partnered with Seychelles Football Federation to put in place The Airtel Football Cup which is the Premier League tournament in Seychelles.
As a final remark, what would your message be to international businessmen as a Chadian that has found his place amongst Seychellois?
Through a constant innovation, Airtel will keep delivering state-of-the-art telecom services in Seychelles because Seychelles deserves the best.