Building on the success of its youth focused product, Club 10, Airtel Nigeria launched in the last week of January an exciting new product aimed at enabling the Small and Medium Enterprise segment with value-added telecommunication solutions.
Airtel Club Business is specially packaged for the needs of small businesses. According to the World Bank and the Federal Government, SMEs are veritable growth engines for the economy. Statistics show over 1.2million of such firms. Indeed, SMEs are so important that a specialised agency of government, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, looks into matters concerning them.
Before SMEDAN, government through the Central Bank of Nigeria had opened a special funding window for SMEs. Known as the Small & Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme, the special window sought to overcome identified problems of dearth of long-term funds and lack of access to capital and services afflicting SMEs. The World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria are currently collaborating on the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Scheme also to provide sector-specific funding for small and medium enterprises. Nigeria aims to achieve increased private sector investment for MSME development by demonstrating how a combination of investment climate reforms, improved access to finance and business development services can transform the rate of growth of MSMEs in Nigeria.
Airtel Club Business offers relevant and affordable telecommunication solutions to this segment. A characteristic of SMEs is their small manpower size; the advent of technology is enabling even more SMEs to restrain growth in human resource yet be able to carry out their functions.
There are over 1.2million SMEs officially registered in Nigeria. They are defined as small corporate entities with five to 20 employees. They are mostly owner-driven, and do not have elaborate IT or administrative infrastructure.
For telecommunication services, most are either on retail pre-paid products or on customised post-paid plans. The pre-paid products are not suited to the needs and requirements of the segment. On the other hand, existing post-paid plans present issues for SMEs including limited payment options; billing errors, defaults in payments; issues in activation of Value Added Services as well as faulty provisioning and wrong barring.
Airtel Club Business is exactly what the physician prescribed for SMEs in this respect. It provides business development service of appropriate technology and tariffs to ensure that those small firms are enabled to enjoy the benefits accruing from their size while keeping costs low.
According to Airtel, the Club Business offering enables owners of Small and Medium Businesses to form a club of 20 members with their employees and thereby benefit from specialized discounts including free calls for the first 100 minutes and subsequent charge of 20k/sec for Airtel to Airtel calls, while SMS to club members will be at N1.
The Airtel Club Business allows a minimum of five users and a maximum of twenty Airtel customers. In addition to the free calls for first 100 minutes and N1 per SMS for Club members, calls to Airtel numbers are billed at 20k/sec, while calls to other network will be at 30k/sec after the first minute at 60k/sec. International call charges remain at the prevailing rates.
The subscribing Club Business members would nominate a Master Line, usually that of the CEO or the head of administration, that would be the nucleus for the relationship among members and their interface with Airtel as service provider. It is mandatory for the Master Line to run a minimum monthly recharge of N500. His recharge each month confirms participation of the club and their availability to partake of the benefits of Club Business.
All subscribers pay a monthly access fee of N500 in addition to the minimum monthly recharge on the Master Line. They send SMS to other Airtel lines outside the Club at N5 each while SMS to other networks cost N9 and N15 to international lines.
Under the offer, the Master Line would be responsible for paying access fees and monthly commitment for all other lines in the Club. The first 20 number additions that make up a club would be free while subsequent reviews would be charged at N50.
To activate the Airtel Club Business, customers are required to simply dial *590# from an old or existing Airtel line. The line automatically becomes the Master Line. To add other numbers to the master line to form the Club Business, customers are expected to dial *590*1*Airtel number#.
Information on the Airtel Club Business can be accessed by dialling the My Airtel My Offer toll free line 141. Customers can also visit Airtel Shops spread across the country to get more information on the offerings.
The Airtel Club Business is available to both new and existing prepaid SME customers.
It is significant that the Club Business SME package from Airtel is a unique product and the outcome of research and strategic planning to address identified needs of the segment. Airtel underlined this focus on providing specific, relevant and tailored communications solutions to empower Small and Medium Enterprises when in August 2011 it announced the appointment of Raji Seghal as Vice President, Enterprise, SME and Post Paid business.
Mr. Seghal was the Vice President and National Head, Voice and Solutions, for Bharti Airtel Ltd in India, and has primary responsibility for developing innovative mobile solutions for SMEs and Post-paid consumers across the country. According to Chief Executive Rajan Swaroop, Airtel is continuously working on how to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed and maximise profits. The Airtel Enterprise, SME and Post Paid team will roll-out specific telecoms packages that will address the need of the SME segment and also create value offerings that will make life more enjoyable for entrepreneurs and high net worth individuals.
Club Business, though new, draws on tested and proven marketing solutions of the Bharti Airtel group with SMEs which are known to be drivers of the economies of India and South East Asia. It will support the growth ambitions of Nigerian SMEs.