One year after Mobile Magazine featured the digital transformation of 9mobile in Nigeria we hear from Ibikunle Jimo, Chief Information Officer, how the telco provider is overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in this frontier market.
The five-year plan of 9mobile is to drive major fibre deployments throughout this geographically and politically diverse country which is four times the size of the UK - serving a population of 206 million people.
“We are now focused on a massive network modernisation, having more reach across the country and focusing on the customer experience,” said Jimo from his office in Lagos who pointed out they had successfully operated through the pandemic as they had been ‘prepared’ so their service had not been disrupted.
My role as CIO means I am responsible for technology and positioning the organisation to deliver on BSS and ESS applications that we use in supporting our customers,” said Jimo who has worked in telco for 17 years.
Currently, the country’s telecom market only has a mobile broadband data penetration rate of around 45 per cent, but 9mobile already has an operational network consisting of close to 6,000km of fibre and aims to nurture an ecosystem of Nigerian companies in order to build a sustainable home-grown MNO.
Following the fallout of the pandemic it is now more important than ever that Nigerians are connected in order to work remotely and, according to Jimo, 9mobile was well prepared to serve their customers when COVID-19 hit the West African country.
“We were more or less prepared for an event like the pandemic where we experienced lockdown and shops closed across Nigeria. Our customers were able to access our digital channels to buy our products and top up their lines. We were prepared to defend the platform that we have, but in terms of our rollout plans the actual implementation is now on course again so watch this space,” he said.
‘9ja-centricity’ is the spirit of Nigeria
Formerly trading as Etisalat Nigeria, the official first call on 9mobile was made in March 2008. The brand commenced commercial operations in October 2008, with an innovative offering – '0809uchoose'. The offer allowed Nigerians to choose and own their preferred unique mobile phone numbers for the first time.
In July 2017, the company transitioned to the current brand identity – 9mobile, to reflect the dynamic and creative attributes that it shares with the people of Nigeria - especially the vibrant youth segment.
“9mobile ties into the authentic Nigerian heritage of ‘9ja-centricity’, and the remarkable journey of keeping true to the promise to always be 9mobile which is ‘here for you, here for 9ja,’ commented Jimo.
9mobile is in the process of acting on their five-year digital journey to be a leading competitor in the Nigerian telecom market. In order to realise the company’s full potential, Jimo explains how new technologies are playing a key role in serving its customers and its internal operations.
“We are currently in a transition with a lot of modernisation on our network to spread across the nation so we can continue to provide an excellent customer experience. We are leveraging our big data platform to improve our customer-centricity via analytics. We are modernising our contact center solution with the adoption of the Avaya One X subscription, while we are also creating an omni-channel for customer interactions.”
Lockdown launch of service platform
Commenting on how 9mobile has moved forward during the past year, Jimo said: “We recently launched a new digital platform called ‘ig9ite’, which gives our customers access to not just network subscription services, but access to a whole new world of digital lifestyle services. We actually launched this during the lockdown,” said Jimo who pointed out he was very proud of this development as it was achieved during the challenging times of the pandemic.
Addressing how 9mobile is redefining the telco industry in Nigeria as a solution provider, Jimo said the company was evolving beyond the traditional telco.
“We are in a digital age right now so we are trying to evolve and provide more services as we are playing in the digital space. We have a strategic collaboration with some partners to extend our footprints in the B2B and B2B2C market. Without divulging too much, some of these strategic alliances will help position 9mobile beyond traditional telco services provider into a full-fledged digital services provider,” he said.
4G and 5G rollout
Jimo said the focus is to continue to expand 9mobile’s 4G/LTE footprint across the country to satisfy the ever growing demand for data coverage from their customers. “We are lining up trials of 5G in Nigeria,” he said.
Ambassador’s of 9mobile
At the heart of every digital transformation, is the passion of the people within a company and 9mobile is no exception. Jimo praised his ‘passionate workforce’ who worked seamlessly through the pandemic. “With technology at home there is no me-time as we had people working around the clock to provide the service for our customers.”
Reflecting on the fact Nigeria has a population of 206 million, Jimo admitted the future business opportunity for 9mobile was “huge as we serve a big market”.
Conviva focuses on value-added services and has been working with us for a number of years and has a solid solution set that they provide to us.
Huawei is one of our core network vendors. They help us expand our technical capabilities.
Microsoft is one of our biggest partners for the B2B and B2C market where they love to be partners with Microsoft, that's quite important to us. Microsoft has CSR programs so we work closely with them to ensure we make the most of the products and services they offer so we can offer the best to our customers.
Quick fire questions:
What technology can your customers expect to see from you in the next four years and how will this benefit them?
“I'm pretty excited about moving from 4G to 5G as data is part of our life now and we almost can’t do without it. I'm proud to work for 9mobile who will provide this service for our customers as it's going to be quite interesting. As a network provider it’s exciting to think we have the chance to evolve new businesses opportunities in Nigeria today as a result of their ability to have access to data.”
Could you explain what 9ja means in your branding?
“9Ja sums up the spirit of Nigeria - which is all about passion. The nine simply comes from our ninth anniversary of Etisalat Nigeria when we became the new brand 9mobile.”
9mobile - Intelligent portal for instant NIN verification
9mobile launched its intelligent portal for instant verification to help its customers link their SIM cards with their National Identification Number (NIN). The Online Self-Service NIN update portal enables subscribers to verify and update their NINs instantly.
This unique platform provides 9mobile subscribers an opportunity to submit and verify their NIN without physically visiting any of the experience centers in Nigeria.
This step is one of the several proactive initiatives taken by 9mobile to make the NIN linking exercise directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) seamless and stress-free for its subscribers.
Commenting on the exercise, the Chief Information Officer, 9mobile, Ibikunle Jimo, said that, as a customer-centric telecoms company, 9mobile always looks out for the convenience of its subscribers by leveraging innovation.
“Immediately, we received the NCC directive to link all SIMs with the respective subscribers’ NIN, we challenged our IT and network teams to develop a seamless and stress-free solution for our customers. Here is the result. This solution is the differentiator for us since our customers do not need to wait endlessly for the NIN to link up with their SIM cards. This is what it means to use innovation to solve societal challenges for our customers. This solution is the power of the innovation etched in our DNA.
We urge our customers to enjoy what we are known for by riding on the back of our innovative solution to verify their NIN without any stress whatsoever,” Jimo said.