PARTNER CONTENT: Describing 2021 as a watershed year, MTN Cameroon CEO Stephen Blewett discussed the fundamental changes made by the operator regarding its vision and strategy as part of attempts to turnaround its business, and how it plans to expand on this ethos going forward.

In an interview on Huawei’s Extended Reality studio at MWC Barcelona 2022, Blewett opened up about why the previous year was so pivotal in changing the way the company operates.

Blewett said, setting its theme for the year, ‘Execution Excellence’, Cameroon’s largest mobile operator was focused “on doing the right things in the right way”, which essentially meant getting the basics correct, while uniting staff around one distinct idea and goal.

A key facet of the Execution Excellence mantra is MTN Cameroon’s definition of the high value customer.

Blewett explained that while the company had retained value with the masses, it had an ongoing issue of losing its impact among its more profitable customers, which were naturally “significant value generators” and this had to be addressed.

“(This segment) is often leaders to other people because they set examples, they influence other people such as families in rural and urban areas. We realised that those customers were not getting the focus and the treatment they needed,” he reflected.

To address this, Blewett again said the company had to focus on the basics. Firstly, they created “cross-functional teams”, including expertise from areas such as marketing and technology, as well as using partners such as Huawei. By doing this, partners and internal executives alike were able to have a single view of these customers.

“It’s not just one thing that will improve that relationship. And it’s also not just an on/off switch. It takes time. You have to build that and you have to work together. It cannot happen instantly.”

Huawei partnership

Coming to Huawei, Blewett opened up on some of the key areas the vendor was providing its expertise, particularly around boosting its relationship with high value customers.

Analytics is naturally a crucial area, particularly in getting to know their customers better.

He said that the vendor made contributions by providing some very good analytics tools, “which allowed us to drill down to specific areas to see behaviours of customers, see how they are being impacted by both network changes and product changes.”

Providing a bit more detail on its work, Blewett explained the vendor provided overlay maps, allowing MTN Cameroon to see exactly where its high value customers were concentrated. Through this, they were able to gain access to behavioural trends and use that information, share it with internal teams and allow marketing and distribution functions within the company to build tailor-made services around such customers and tailor-make an experience.

“We now have so much greater visibility and it is absolutely important. If you don’t have visibility, you don’t know what you’re managing,” he said.

Future ambitions

From Execution Excellence, MTN Cameroon is now looking to build on that foundation in 2022 with “Bold Moves”.

By putting the focus on high value customers in 2021 and pushing the business back into double digit profitability again, attention naturally turned to making the next big steps.

And one major focus for MTN Cameroon in 2022, as it is for some many of its peers, is its work in Environmental, Social Governance (ESG).

Specifically, Blewett said it was working to improve rural coverage in its home market, but this tied into ESG, and it wanted to boost connectivity in harder-to-reach areas in the right way.

“We want to work on using solar farms out there and we’re working with the Ministry of Energy to use these farms to provide connectivity,” he said.

Blewett continued to state that rural coverage was key for the operator to provide much-needed access, and it actually complemented its high value customer play because this part of its customer base would have families and friends in rural areas which they needed to communicate with. Its work in rural areas, Blewett believes, is changing lives.

5G push

From rural to the complete other end of the spectrum: 5G. MTN Cameroon’s second bold move revolves around boosting its play in the next-generation of mobile technology.

The MTN Cameroon chief is keen to at least conduct some proof of concepts around 5G, which, again, is essential for its high value customers and indeed any customer that is seeking connectivity in high density urban areas.

To achieve its 2022 goals, a partner like Huawei is key. In fact, it has already worked with the vendor in terms of charting the way forward for its strategy. “What we do with a key supplier, a partner like Huawei, is we explain that this is our strategy for 2022. This is what we want to achieve. And they work with us to achieve Execution Excellence.”

Watch the full video interview here.