Attracting ‘significant number of Government employees to our network’
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