Tonderai Rutsito Tech Talk
The battles between Zimbabwe`s largest mobile network operators are far from over; with a new cold war at tipping point. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has been blamed for fishing directly in Telecel’s skills pond, a move which has been described by analysts as dirty tactics to beat competition.
Econet Wireless has allegedly dangled a 100 percent salary increase offer to Telecel software developers, which saw some programmers threatening to quit if Telecel did not match the offer, while a senior programmer has already left for the greener pastures.
Impeccable sources at Telecel Zimbabwe said the development could threaten the viability of mobile phone operator at the height of the process of developing its mobile money system, as some developers have allegedly submitted letters of resignation.
Sources revealed that Telecel is currently holding serious talks with its software developers in a move to try and contain the brain drain raid, which could likely paralyse the mobile phone operator should the team of software developers call it quits.
When asked to comment on the mater, communications and branding director Mr Obert Mandimika acknowledged that he was aware of the matter,but could not be drawn further into it, as he dismissed the issue as nothing but common business practice.
“I have been briefed on the matter, but as Telecel we really look at it as nothing outside of the normal for any company seeking to attract the best employees,” he said.
Efforts to contact Econet Wireless Zimbabwe for comment on the issue were fruitless as calls to communications manager Mr Ranga Mberi went unswered. The also was no response to emails sent by the time of going to print.
The Econet/Telecel tiff is currently hot as both mobile operators have released competitive complimentary swiping cards to support their mobile money transfer systems, with Econet aggressively driving Ecocash while Telecel’s Telecash gathers momentum.
The hostility resumed when Telecel introduced its gold card, a Zimswitch based swiping card, which is linked directly to Telecash and supported by CBZ Bank. A few weeks later, Econet launched its master card, a debit card a game changer for those who want to transact outside Zimbabwe and online, backed by Steward Bank.
As revenue streams from the traditional voice calls business continue to nose dive, mainly because of converged communication , mobile network operators (MNOs) have no choice but to look for other sources of revenue. Mobile money has become the new frontier for business growth opportunities, even for the banking sector.
As the competition battle escalates, reports confirmed that Econet has been specifically targeting Telecash system developers, by dangling seemingly irresistible salary offers, in a move that observers reasoned was meant to paralyse Telecel.
Although officially, the posts have been advertised to the public as available to anyone who is qualified, analysts said the most qualified candidates were already engaged.
This means, in Zimbabwe, that automatically meant the positions could be best filled in by qualified people employed by rival entities, unless employers looked beyond borders.
Telecel has less than six system developers, meaning an exodus of these few gifted programmers would automatically render Telecash system development down and out!
This would not be the first time for such an occurrence. A few years back Econet Wireless recruited the whole transmission department at Telecel, leaving only the manager at work.
This move almost brought Teleceldown, leading to service unavailability, as phone calls failed to go through even when the subscriber being called was switched on.
The Telecel optimisation department took years to return to normalcy, while millions raised their ire with the service provider, a move which greatly affected Telecel as most Zimbabweans lost confidence in it as a reliable mobile network operator.
Less than three years ago, Telecel joined the dirty game too, although they denied it saying they only sought qualified experts. Telecel went into Econet`s skills pool and scooped three strategic directors including the head of the department.
The pioneer of Ecocash, Mr Nkosinathi Ncube, packed up from Econet and landed the post of chief commercial officer with Telecel. Mr Tendai Chirokote, who was head of application development with Econet recently migrated for the IT director’s post with Telecel while Mr Isaya Clever, who was brand manager corporate, left to head Telecel services.
Sources alleged Econet usually offers fixed term contracts with no benefits, the reason skilled staff moved away. Telecel has been on record to be paying heavier salary packages. Econet has reportedly this and has responded in the same manner.
However, the company is said to be grappling with an expenditure budget forcing them to downsized even on critical projects and marketing.
It these statements are true, Econet is thus readying itself for a pyrrhic victory, no matter how much it would cost them, they would fight to see the competitor out of the game.
The battles are far from over, it seems they may have moved from the public spats and shifted to human capital battle lines, a more subtle platform to engage as competitors. In that regard, the public will be watching how this will turn out.
The writer is the editor for TechnoMag, Zimbabwe’s Premier Technology Magazine, more www.technom.ag or join us on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/technomagzw Email articles[at]technomag.co.zwtweet @TechnoMagZw