Seek­ing new hori­zons

Mark Tay­lor leaves for Vo­da­com. Who’s the new man in charge?

Finweek English Edition - - News -

IN A SUR­PRISE AN­NOUNCE­MENT, Nashua Mo­bile MD Mark Tay­lor has left South Africa’s sec­ond big­gest in­de­pen­dent mo­bile ser­vice provider – a sub­sidiary of JSE-listed in­dus­trial group Re­unert – for Vo­da­com. But he seems to have left the so­called ship in ca­pa­ble hands.

Tay­lor’s re­place­ment – Chris Scoble – was one of the orig­i­nal founders of Nashua’s cel­lu­lar busi­ness in 1993 and al­though he stepped back when it was merged with Plessey and Ned­tel Cel­lu­lar in 2000 to form Nashua Mo­bile, he’s has been on its board from day one.

The for­mer MD of Nashua Of­fice Au­to­ma­tion, Scoble sounds ex­cited about the chal­lenge of tak­ing Nashua Mo­bile for­ward from a po­si­tion of strength.

Tay­lor says he is happy with what he and his team achieved over the last few years, shift­ing from a cor­po­rate model to in­clude a strong re­tail model that now has 150 out­lets coun­try­wide, and es­tab­lish­ing it­self as a strong player in the least cost rout­ing (LCR) sec­tor. LCR in­volves rout­ing switch­board calls via the cheapest avail­able path at a given time.

Scoble says SA’s mo­bile in­dus­try has shifted from be­ing a growth in­dus­try to one where ser­vice de­liv­ery will be key. Whereas over the past 10 years it was “all about” hav­ing the best hand­set, ser­vice providers will now have to de­liver su­pe­rior ser­vice lev­els, in ad­di­tion to be­ing the low­est cost sup­plier. “We must pro­vide a so­lu­tion to cus­tomers, not just a hand­set,” Scoble says.

At end-March this year, Re­unert’s in­terim re­port­ing pe­riod, Nashua Mo­bile claimed 671 579 cus­tomers, 74 505 be­ing con­tract clients, the rest pre-paid. Cus­tomers spend on av­er­age R456/month on their cell­phone bill (called the av­er­age rev­enue per user, or ARPU in tele­coms-speak).

Scoble de­scribes its sub­scriber base as “very solid”, with “in­dus­try-lead­ing ARPUs” and a top po­si­tion in LCR con­nec­tions (which are easy to ser­vice and at­trac­tive to ser­vice providers).

Nashua Mo­bile’s big­gest ri­val and mar­ket leader – Au­topage Cel­lu­lar – re­cently an­nounced its re­sults as part of those of listed par­ent Al­tech. It had 941 000 sub­scrib- ers (pre- and post-paid), with 57 000 data sub­scribers.

Al­though the Re­unert group is in a closed pe­riod ahead of re­port­ing its full-year re­sults to Septem­ber, Scoble says Nashua Mo­bile’s sub­scriber num­bers would be roughly the same as at the half-year, given it had cleaned up the base.

As with the rest of SA’s econ­omy, providers of credit have seen bad debts rise as con­sumers come un­der pres­sure and Nashua Mo­bile is no dif­fer­ent, Scoble says. With re­gard to the global credit cri­sis he says the world is in the sec­ond wave of a three-phase fall­out, with more pain to come as delever­ag­ing takes place. The third wave would im­pact small busi­nesses re­liant on larger com­pa­nies in par­tic­u­lar, says Scoble.

Scoble joined Nashua af­ter UCT – where he took a Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness Sci­ence de­gree, ma­jor­ing in eco­nomics and mar­ket­ing – in 1985 as a prod­uct man­ager in its fax divi­sion. He be­came mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor in 1992 and in 1993 joined the then MD in launch­ing its cel­lu­lar op­er­a­tions.

Asked to de­scribe his man­age­ment style, Scoble says he likes peo­ple to think and act rather than come to meet­ings and write things down. He says peo­ple can be di­vided into thinkers and do­ers and it’s im­por­tant for any com­pany to have the right mix of both. He’s very happy with the team at Nashua Mo­bile, which he says has been “fan­tas­tic”, “in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful” and “very ca­pa­ble”.

Scoble de­scribes him­self as a typ­i­cal South African in his mid-40s, with a love of lo­cal sports, who plays golf, is mar­ried with two chil­dren and likes to read. But whereas most ex­ec­u­tives will tell you what they en­joy do­ing in their spare time, most con­cede that’s a rare com­mod­ity. “When you’re grow­ing busi­nesses… you al­ways come back from leave a week early.”

Re­unert also an­nounced that Gra­ham Rhodes, Nashua’s fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor, would as­sume the po­si­tion of MD at Nashua Of­fice Au­to­ma­tion, Scoble’s pre­vi­ous role.

At Nashua Mo­bile Tay­lor quickly es­tab­lished him­self as an ef­fec­tive op­er­a­tor and out­spo­ken on in­dus­try is­sues. Tay­lor says he wasn’t tired of the role but wanted to look at his ca­reer on a grander scale, in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of mov­ing around within the Vo­da­com Group and con­firmed Vo­da­com had made him the prover­bial “of­fer you can’t refuse”. He’ll head sup­ply chain man­age­ment at Vo­da­com South Africa, re­port­ing to com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Romeo Ku­malo.

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