CASE STUDY: BEMOBILE
Initially a wholly owned subsidiary of Telikom PNG, mobile phone operator Bemobile was put on a new footing in 2008 when half the company was acquired by Capital Way, a private sector consortium consisting of Hong-Kong-based private equity fund General Enterprise Management Services, telecommunications company Trilogy International Partners, and PNG investors NASFUND, Nambawan Super and PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd capital.
While this level of private sector investment in a state-owned enterprise was a first in PNG, the capital injection that came with it was essential to enable Bemobile to compete with Digicel, the Caribbean–based mobile phone company which entered the PNG market in 2007 with all guns blazing and rapidly acquired market share.
After a rebranding and the appointment of new management team with a strong experience in developing markets, Bemobile is starting to make some inroads.
‘We were always perceived as a cheap alternative, to be perfectly honest,’ says Chief Executive Officer Stuart Kelly. ‘Over the last year we’ve changed that dramatically. We’re now seen as the best value offering and there’s a big difference between best value and being cheap.’
Better handsets, more data services, better availability of top-up cards in the marketplace and competitive pricing have all helped
Bemobile expands its customer base.
‘We’ve grown our active subscriber base by roughly 50% in the last ten months and they’re pretty impressive numbers for anyone working in a market like this,’ says Kelly.
Kelly adds that the company has also had particular success offering closed user groups to business, where perhaps 500 employees can be provided with centrally-managed handsets on a single bill and with free internal calls.
Bemobile is expanding outside PNG too. In late 2009, it was granted the second mobile operator licence in the neighbouring Solomon Islands and, after a slow start, is now the market leader there.
Finally, Kelly is bullish about the newly deregulated environment in telecommunications:
‘The future long term plan of this company is to expand beyond traditional mobile telephone services and see what else we can do.’
Bemobile's Stuart Kelly
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