BRLP: Happy to be back from Spain?
Joosub: Very much so, coming back home to South Africa and coming back home to Vodacom is always good.
I’ve always felt that when you’ve played such a big role in the success that you have created in Vodacom, it’s like coming home. That’s always exciting, you know everybody, you know the people, you know the culture, so it’s great. And my family is here, so it’s always nice to come home.
BRLP: Leadership is about creating movement, that’s how a leader is judged. Over the last year, what has positively moved in Vodacom?
Joosub: Quite a few things. Firstly from an international perspective, we have now cracked the international model into Africa, and we’re doing exceptionally well. Growth is coming from Africa where South Africa started to slow down a bit, that has created some great movement. It’s also made us more confident as a team. In coming back one of the things that I have been pushing is a growth agenda. Why? Part of my role is to ensure the future success of the company, not just the current success.
Some of the other things that I think have evolved are our approach to what we are doing with the technology in the different countries. Also our approach to enterprise and the business, and what we started three years ago and how that has evolved.
And then trends have changed, and that has forced us to make some evolutions. The other thing is that there has been some movement in people as well, making sure that we have the right skills to be able to deliver. That also plays a big role.
BRLP: You have changed your strategy, or the execution thereof. Tell us more.
Joosub: We are focusing on three broad pillars. One is making sure we give our customers the best competitive value, as we like to call it. The second is making sure that the network is a clear differentiator for us, making sure we continue to improve our coverage and the quality of our network, but at the same time to lead in terms of new technologies. Third, what we’re trying to do is make sure we can provide our customers with an unmatched customer experience: to improve the customer experience at all touch points.
Obviously that does not happen overnight but I am confident that we’ve set the ball rolling. I mean, when I benchmark it against international standards I think we’re doing very well, but there’s more to be done. One needs to constantly evolve and create those “wow” experiences.
BRLP: If I asked you to describe Shameel the leader, how does he lead, how does he think about leadership, what would you say?
Joosub: First and foremost it’s about the team: you need to have the right people around you to be able to deliver and that was one of the things that was as glaring in Spain as it was here. If you have the wrong people, things aren’t going to happen.
So yes, more emphasis on the quality of the team, and making sure we have the right people one level down, two levels down, our ability to execute really comes down to the quality of the people as far down as possible.
And then removing oneself from the detail and rather playing the role of coaching, guiding. You actually don’t have the time to get into the detail even if you wanted to. Also, a big change in the role now is the whole investor relations, so on one side you’re operationally involved, guiding, and so on and then on the other side it is the investor relations, the government relations, all the different stakeholder relations. You need to find a happy balance.
BRLP: Looking at Vodacom from the chief executive chair, what has changed? What are you seeing now?
Joosub: Firstly and obviously, the environment has changed, the competitive environment. I would say that South Africa lags by about 18 months, so it was very good to see what the trends were, what to do and what not to do. So, I have come back in and said that these are some of the areas we will want to improve on. To give you an example one would be customer value management.
South Africa was quite advanced in what we would call customer relationship management but the world has moved on into customer value management, which is all the systems and processes that ensure you are managing the value of a customer.
One is the loyalty part: how you manage your most valuable customers, all those type of programmes. But there’s another part to that, for instance as you go through a pricing transformation, which is what we’re doing at the moment, then how you manage that, the kind of process, the kind of expertise, the kind of systems that you have to manage that become extremely important.
BRLP: How do you keep your mind and awareness sharp and remain leadership fit as the chief executive?
Joosub: I can think of a couple of things. First the exposure to Vodafone and the different development programmes that we run. They don’t allow you to become non-leadership fit, so they run leadership development programmes a couple of times a year to help keep you abreast of trends and so on. Then things like being part of the strategy, being part of the bigger decisions, and playing a role. So, constantly you’re getting feedback and seeing where the world is going and so on.
Then I think one needs to stay abreast of technological advancements, what’s happening, feedback from your own teams, reading extensively. All of these things I think help you to evolve yourself in terms of making sure you stay leadership fit.
BRLP: How do you see Vodacom’s role in making a difference in South Africa?
Joosub: I think, and this is part of my strategy I have implemented when I came back, is to clearly align ourselves with the government in every country in which we operate and help the government to achieve its objectives.
There is a strong association between access to mobile telecommunications and gross domestic product growth and I think Vodacom has a key role to play in helping deliver those objectives. From a telecoms perspective in South Africa there is a policy that says we want to have mobile access in every home by 2020. So, the discussions I have been having with the president (Jacob Zuma), the deputy president, the ministers and so on, is to say we can help you to deliver that strategy. We can and we will help you to deliver that strategy.
BRLP: You have been around for a long time. What has kept you here? Is it the exciting environment? Give us the bigger picture regarding technology.
Joosub: Yes it is, I am moving into my 20th year. The beauty of it is it’s constantly evolving, constantly changing, there’s always a new trend, there’s always something new you’re busy with.
And that keeps it exciting. The nature of the industry provides so many opportunities as you go forward, and ones we have not even thought of yet. Just to give you an example: Oxford University reckons that the average person will have 16 SIM cards by 2020, all the technology, everything that we need to develop to evolve to create the different eco-systems and everything necessary for that to happen, it’s going to be the world of connected devices.
This puts you into a world where you walk into a store and you swipe your phone to pay for your purchases: all your loyalty cards, everything is in your phone. The reality is the technology is there now, now we have to create the eco-systems to take it to its full potential.
To put it in perspective, we have almost 14 million people accessing the internet via their cellphones, just in South Africa.
When we look at fixed-line penetration to access the internet you have via your desktop computer, this is what’s happening on the mobile, it’s huge. And every quarter when we look at the numbers, the amount of growth, and how much people are using data, it grew by 40 percent in terms of usage per customer – we’re starting to see more and more of that.