Back­room op­er­a­tor

At­tract­ing ‘sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to our net­work’

Finweek English Edition - - Business Strategy - CHIMWEMWE MWANZA

MUZI DLAMINI, head of MTN’s pub­lic sec­tor ac­count, doesn’t give much away with re­gard to the cel­lu­lar group’s strat­egy. De­spite the trac­tion MTN gained in its bid to notch up high value con­tracts in South Africa’s pub­lic sec­tor, Dlamini is guarded about the ex­act value of deals he has snatched from un­der the noses of its com­peti­tors. And he’s not pre­pared to dis­close po­ten­tial deals in the pipe­line.

Dlamini’s cagi­ness is pre­cisely why he’s been in the shad­ows dur­ing MTN’s spec­tac­u­lar rise. He’s an as­tute back­room player who un­der­stands that keep­ing a lid on strat­egy gives the com­pany a vi­tal edge over its com­peti­tors. “For ex­am­ple, when you talk about Gov­ern­ment con­tracts, it helps to be clan­des­tine, be­cause those are high value con­tracts your com­pe­ti­tion also wants to lay its hands on. If our clients want to make fi­nan­cial de­tails pub­lic then I have no prob­lem. But we pre­fer to keep such de­tails un­der lock and key.”

What he is pre­pared to dis­close are broad gen­er­al­i­ties. Says Dlamini: “One of the most im­por­tant strate­gies I’ve come to pick up from MTN’s man­age­ment is that of scale. In this dy­namic ICT in­dus­try you can’t bet your for­tunes on one bas­ket.”

So it’s sen­si­ble that as growth ta­pers off in the tra­di­tional cell­phone voice mar­ket and av­er­age rev­enue per user ebbs, Dlamini stresses the need for MTN to di­ver­sify its rev­enue stream. And no bet­ter client than Gov­ern­ment seems ca­pa­ble of sus­tain­ing MTN’s rev­enue mo­men­tum. In­deed, the rate at which it’s amass­ing high value Gov­ern­ment ten­ders is sug­ges­tive of Dlamini’s handy work.

Nat­u­rally, the de­tails are hard to ex­tract from the man. It’s a man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy and cagi­ness that seems akin to that of his equally guarded boss, CE Phuthuma Nh­leko. In­ter­est­ingly, both are grad­u­ates of Swazi­land’s pres­ti­gious St Marks High School and

Al­though he de­clines to give a pre­cise fig­ure about the en­tire value of the deals he’s struck to date, the cash flow to MTN’s cof­fers is pro­jected to sur­pass the R1bn mark over the next three years.

count that coun­try’s de­part­ment of pub­lic works as their first em­ployer. “It’s just a co­in­ci­dence we both went to St Marks,” says Dlamini. “But of course I need to point out the fact that Nh­leko’s man­age­ment style is an in­spi­ra­tion to most se­nior MTN per­son­nel.”

While Nh­leko’s deal-mak­ing abil­ity has cat­a­pulted the pan-African and Mid­dle East cel­lu­lar op­er­a­tor into the in­ter­na­tional tele­coms spot­light, Dlamini’s acu­men has seen him es­tab­lish a for­mi­da­ble di­vi­sion within MTN that’s gone on to win high value con­tracts from Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.

Poached from Or­a­cle in 2006 (where he headed its pub­lic sec­tor ac­count) the 34-yearold Wits Busi­ness Man­age­ment School grad­u­ate has built MTN’s pub­lic sec­tor di­vi­sion from scratch. “I started with four peo­ple and in just over two years the staff com­ple­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor di­vi­sion has grown to al­most 30. I’m look­ing to grow that to more than 60 over the next year.”

Not only has Dlamini been able to swell the di­vi­sion’s staff com­ple­ment, the deal flow to MTN’s pub­lic sec­tor ac­count has been equally im­pres­sive. Over 20 months he’s con­cluded more than 12 high value con­tracts with var­i­ous Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, the most re­cent be­ing a R168m deal for MTN to pro­vide cor­po­rate voice and data so­lu­tions to the South African So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency.

Al­though he de­clines to give a pre­cise fig­ure on the en­tire value of the deals he’s struck to date, the cash flow to MTN’s cof­fers is pro­jected to sur­pass the R1bn mark over the next three years. One of the land­mark con­tracts that saw MTN bag the ten­der to pro­vide a uni­fied cel­lu­lar man­age­ment sys­tem for the City of Jo­han­nes­burg ranks as the largest mo­bile num­ber porta­bil­ity (MNP) project since its in­cep­tion in SA.

In an­other deal that should add R60m to MTN’s bot­tom line over the next three years it ported 2 600 num­bers for De­part­ment of Land Af­fairs staff. “Any­one in doubt about the suc­cess of MNP need not look be­yond MTN’s suc­cess. We’ve been able to at­tract quite a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to our net­work. We may lag our com­pe­ti­tion in terms of cel­lu­lar mar­ket share in SA but the fact is that MTN’s pres­ence in the ser­vices as­pect of the ICT busi­ness is un­ri­valled,” says Dlamini.

With the re­cently ac­quired Ver­i­zon Busi­ness SA (bar­ring ob­jec­tions from the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion) set to be bed­ded down in the MTN stable, things can only get bet­ter for the group. De­spite his achieve­ments Dlamini es­chews ac­co­lades heaped on him for steer­ing MTN’s pub­lic sec­tor di­vi­sion to such heights. “At MTN we don’t at­tribute suc­cess to an in­di­vid­ual. It’s just that sim­ple. I have a hard-work­ing team that ap­pre­ci­ates the value of the brand and shares in the vi­sion of the com­pany. But most im­por­tantly I’m lucky to have a wife and two chil­dren sup­port­ive of my ca­reer.”

MTN’s new se­rial deal maker. Muzi Dlamini

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