30th September 2020

New Chief of Commercial Comes to Airtel Zambia…Our Questions

Alok Verma, New Airtel Zambia CCO

Airtel Zambia has appointed Alok Verma as the Chief Commercial Officer, according to highly-placed sources within the company. Alok, previously at Airtel Group, as per his LinkedIn profile suggests, is a highly analytical and creative expert in usage and retention as well as customer development.  His experience was in advising country leaders and team managers in creating and managing usage and retention activity for their customer base. He’s therefore not new to Zambia and has been seen within the country on many an occasion even in the recent past. He’s basically a revered figure in the region in customer base management.

Our inside sources say he will now oversee the Marketing and Sales and Distribution teams for both Airtel Zambia and Airtel Money, led by Navdeep Kapur and Denish Thampi, respectively.

With the appointment of the new Zambian MD, many top ‘behind-the-scenes’ people have left the operator for competition or other sectors. One is left to wonder whether the Airtel model for Africa has failed or not, as even the top leadership at group level have been replaced in somewhat very quiet circumstances.

There’s little wonder as to how the once market leaders of Zambia, who attracted top talent from graduate level up to Chief Executive level have lost mass appeal and clout in terms of brand visibility in the market, marketing industry awards, customer favourite brands, distribution, and customer satisfaction.

Even with massive network upgrades, strategic partnerships with the likes of Zoona and Zanaco, and constant promotions, one is left to declare that the ‘Market Leader’ is going through doldrums in innovation and creativity in how to approach the Zambian market.

When we compare to the likes of the Zamtel management, a stable Team of Leaders and team players, we see a more consistent approach to the Zambian market, which is seen from all the marketing activity the operator has carried out to yield results in brand equity, publicity and market visibility. On the other hand, MTN Zambia benefits from the spillover of talent from Airtel with a commercial team filled mostly by Airtel Zambia alumni.

Though the mass exodus of employees seems to have ended, we are yet to see Airtel settle with a clear and strategic vision for the coming future, and such changes would most likely unsettle investors, but in a way customers suffer too as their operator simply has not done anything new in a long while.

Question is, is this Airtel Africa’s attempt to reinvigorate the once vibrant Zambia operation? Or are we seeing a placement of a real champion for change to head both Marketing and Sales in order to change the tides and fortunes of the revenue and market share ailing operator? What will these changes in management and leadership entail for the short-term and long-term growth of the industry as a whole with reference to competition? Are the other operators re-thinking their strategies and vision to ensure they retain the competitive gains thus far?

Image Credits: The Post, Zamtel Website, UKZambians and LinkedIn

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