MTN SA’s turnaround strategist Larry Annetts makes waves
Larry Annetts has been somewhat media shy – well that was until he moved from Nigeria to head up MTN South Africa’s marketing division.
But now, with the task of reshaping the operator’s products and services to be more sexy and appealing to customers, Annetts is becoming more visible.
When Annetts was appointed as a chief marketing off icer (CMO) in June, MTN SA was losing market share to smaller operator Cell C, while the country’s biggest mobile phone operator Vodacom stood its ground with better products.
Even MTN Group’s boss Si fis o Dabeng wa diplomatically lambasted MTN SA for the delayed reaction to the price war initiated by Cell C, something which cost Africa’s cellular giant dearly on the home front.
As a result Dabengwa ‘redeployed’ his trusted executives in MTN SA. MTN SA’s CEO Zunaid Bulbulia and CMO Brian Gouldie were moved to less prominent jobs even though their departure was couched as a promotion of
Bulbulia was appointed a s MTN Group c hief operating executive, with the incumbent, Ahmad Farroukh replacing Bulbulia as CEO of MTN SA. Gouldie was named as CEO of the Uganda operation.
The jury is still out on their performances.
Gouldie’s predecessor, ‘ Mr Ayoba’ Serame Taukubong, who was appointed as MTN Ghana’s CEO, has made the operation one of the best performers in MTN Group’s division since arriving in Accra. Annetts has also been quietly making progress.
Last week, MTN SA, which has been hard hit by the price war in the cellular industry, showed signs it was turning the corner.
In the third quarter to end September 2014, MTN SA – the country’s secondbiggest mobile phone operator – recorded a 5.7% rise in subscribers to 26.7m, adding 1.4m net additions for the quarter, mainly attributable to competitive offers such as ‘rush hour’ and ‘talk free’ in the prepaid segment MTN SA’s prepaid subscriber base rose by 7.1% to 21.2m, as customers spent more on calls. Contract c ustomers del i v ered a “satisfactory performance”. According to the company’s note to the JSE, it marginally increased its customers by 0.3% to 5.5m – 2m of which were telemetry SIMs.
Clearly, MTN SA’s fortunes cannot be attributed to Lady Luck.
When Annetts took over MTN SA’s fortunes turned for the better. Marketing is very central to the sur- vival of an organisation and a CMO acts as a deputy chief f inancial officer of a business.
An industry insider said Annetts is not a normal CMO. “You have to understand that this a global marketer and a strategist who has delivered value to MTN Group for years.”
Annetts has added immense value in helping MTN SA arrest declining market share.
He is no pushover. He could be a very shy person, but is incredibly competitive. A month after he took over his present job, Annetts said that he was confident of helping MTN SA turn the corner, because he was “one of those marketers who don’t sleep”.
“I’m an insomniac, when I go into bed at night its customers that I think of and am obsessed with making sure they use our new products. I am kind of neurotic when it comes to making my proposition perfect. I put it out there,” said Annetts.
So far he hasn’t disappointed. He has positioned the operator as a company that speaks to ordinary customers. Annetts have managed to move the debate in the industry from higher prices to better services.
“For me it’s about making ourselves attractive to consumers and about their needs, rather than looking around and say, ‘Okay, what are our competitors are offering their customers; let’s copy and paste,’” he explained back in July.
Since then Annetts has been very instrumental in making MTN SA more relevant to its main customers. Annetts has roped in Mafikizolo, the multiple- award-winning Afro-pop music group, as an ambassador of the brand – a move that has obviously attracted new customers.
Lately, a clever advert to give away a R1.5m plane or cash to one lucky South African has helped MTN SA attract even more customers.
Annetts’ t i me at MTN SA has put smiles back on the faces of its customers.