How Safaricom is using mobile to reach low-income consumers

Low Lai Chow

"Customer-centricity" is a phrase that telecoms firms around the world like to repeat as a mantra – but few have revolutionised consumers' lives like Safaricom, Kenya's largest mobile operator.

With over 21 million subscribers, the firm has to balance serving a client base from big corporations to small businesses and individuals. "Part of our mandate is to ensure that the innovation we develop or come up with will actually transform the lives of our various stakeholders," Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch, Safaricom's head of innovation, said at the Mobile East Africa 2014 conference.

"It's based on their beliefs, their requirements, their wants – both voiced and unvoiced – that we explore. We continuously invest in coming up with new services to satisfy them."

One of Safaricom's greatest successes is M-PESA, the mobile micropayments service which is now used by over 18 million consumers across Kenya, including many of those at the bottom of the pyramid, who have little access to the formal financial services industry.