Exclusive interview with Airtel Seychelles’ new chief executive, Eddy Kapuku |10 August 2023
‘We drive for innovation in reducing cost of living and great customer experience’
Customer satisfaction and lowering the cost of living is at the epicentre of what Airtel stands for, and its devotion towards creating that in the country is all the more enhanced with the appointment of the new chief executive, Eddy Kapuku, who has picked up the torch and assumed office on June 1, 2023, with an iron will and clear mindset.
After having had an impressive 15 years in Airtel Africa and has recently completed four years as CEO in Airtel Madagascar, Mr Kapuku is determined to continue the goodwill of Airtel through partnerships and corporate social responsibility, which is just the tip of the iceberg on topics that were discussed in an exclusive interview with Seychelles NATION.
Seychelles NATION: Now that you have taken office as the new CEO, what is the first thing that you feel should be tackled?
CEO Kapuku: The first thing for me will be customer experience, because we are working for customer satisfaction and want to deliver great value to our customers. When we are talking about customer satisfaction, we start with the network. The network quality is very important and we should ensure that everywhere we have Seychellois, when we deliver our network, it should have availability and high quality. We will be focusing on this first thing but we have to always think about the future. Things such as driving innovation for the customer as well as contributing to the reduction of cost of living for the Seychellois people.
Seychelles NATION: Airtel is currently celebrating 25 years and it has gone through a recent thematic change, can you talk to us a little bit about what this means moving forward for you and for the company?
CEO Kapuku: When we talk about 25 years, let me first set up the picture of who we are as a company. Airtel Seychelles is part of a bigger company, which is Airtel Africa and part of the biggest one which is Bharti Airtel. On the worldwide stage we have half a billion customers who trust us and who believe in us and who stick and bond with Airtel as a brand because of the great value we are delivering to them. So we have had a good experience for more than 24-25 years because in India we started as Airtel in the year of 1995 and since then we have had an amazing journey.
So with that number of customers we are the second largest mobile company in the world and in Africa we have 140 million customers and in Seychelles we are growing as well at the size of the country. This 25th year anniversary means that we are showing that we are now a bigger brand and we are a bigger company in Seychelles. We wish to continue that journey with the Seychellois to deliver great value to them.
We have changed the theme as well because we want to sell that dream to the customer, ‘A Reason to Imagine’. People have their dreams, they have their beliefs and aspirations and we want to support them in meeting and delivering those aspirations that they have. We are there not only as a company selling a product but we are adding value to the lives of people based on the need that they are expressing and the dreams that they have. We are there to help them to achieve that via technology with the digital products we can sell to them but also by giving back to the community.
As a company, we are not only here to buy and sell, but we need to participate in the lives of Seychellois by giving back through corporate social responsibility activities (CSR). For example, today we are partnering up with some schools, such as Perseverance, giving free internet to support their environmental project they have. Apart from education we want to give back in sport as well.
Today we have the Indian Ocean Games so we are partnering with some associations and clubs and figuring out how we can support the Ministry of Sports in this programme so that we accompany them to bring medals back in Seychelles. We are delivering free internet to an environmental club, SeyBlue. We are giving some uniforms to a few teams in the Indian Ocean games.
Another partnership that we have is with the media because they are supporting us to inform the country on what Airtel can deliver, so they are not blind when making a choice.
Seychelles NATION: Can you take us through your professional career, how it led to where you are today and what this job means to you personally?
CEO Kapuku: I have been in Airtel for the last 15 years in some big leadership roles across Africa. I have worked in commercial, marketing, sales but the background I have is mainly in engineering. I did some polytechnic studies so I know very well how these things work. I have seen a lot of progress and evolution in the last 15 years in technology. What this role means to me is not only about technology but for me it is about considering what Airtel means for Seychelles. Airtel for Seychelles is not only about being a telecommunications company, it is an asset for the country.
Airtel supports the companies, the country and the government in their development as well and is bringing Seychelles to a healthier level. We know that today we are not doing too bad in terms of wealth but the government is still seeking to bring Seychelles to that next level. When a company like Airtel grows, this brings even more wealth to the country and makes the life of the population much easier.
For me, it is about participating in changing Seychellois lives not only talking about selling the product but what is the impact on their personal lives and how we contribute to make people in Seychelles independent.
With the internet, we can have some self-entrepreneurs, which we can help make even more independent financially, because of the digital world so we want to facilitate this kind of thing.
When we make someone happier, this is the role that we have as Airtel and this is the role I want to play as CEO of Airtel, changing people’s lives.
Seychelles NATION: Internet is becoming something more essential rather than a luxury, so what is your strategic vision to make sure that Airtel remains at the forefront of being an ISP and a telecommunications company?
CEO Kapuku: I can compare internet to water; we feel very bad when we do not have it. To remain at the forefront, we are upgrading our system, this is the first thing on the technological part. Recently, we have built a very big data centre so that we can support the growth in this country.
What we have cannot just handle the need we have locally but whatever can come internationally. This means that we can keep a handle on all the demand that can come from overseas like we do with some bigger companies on the cloud, we can also host things locally.
This is preparing us for the next growth.
We started with the previous generations of internet (1G 2G 3G 4G) and now we are preparing our network to support the next generation of technology (5G 6G) whatever comes next. Very soon we will be moving to this new generation of technology.
However, technology is only the pipe, we should work also on the content. People use internet today for a variety of reasons – gaming, streaming and entertainment. All these things are data consuming and very demanding. To support this demand and tackle the needs of customers, we have launched some bundles such as the unlimited one on home broadband and unlimited SME bundle.
We are also deploying fiber so that we know people at home can have very high speed internet while dealing with all this entertainment.
We should not just consider the entertainment side; we should also consider the education part of it. That is why when discussing content, it is important to build education in the youth segments because the youth is the future of the country. That is why when it comes to education, the internet is free because we support that. It is an investment for this country.
Seychelles NATION: What jumps out to you in terms of the data analytics regarding the market?
CEO Kapuku: Today people are demanding more data, more internet. The demand for unlimited package and also big volume package is there. There is also a high demand on streaming and we are not talking only about the platforms that exist today such as Netflix and YouTube, but if we can bring some big value TV content, this is also very important for us.
We already have an Airtel TV Hub where people can go and stream. We are trying to bring some local content on the TV. We will make it happen very soon. Apart from that, on the entertainment side, people are very talented in Seychelles. I know that music is doing very well, people want to sing.
Based on this insight, we have partnered with The Voice. We are proud because we have Clive (Camille), who is one of the Seychellois that is in the contest, so for me it is an opportunity for all the Seychellois to vote for him because he is very talented and he can go to the next level and why not win this season?
Also I have noticed that family is very important in Seychelles. I like that and this is something I am proud of. That is why we have our promos where people buy the 271 bundle, we give them a chance in the raffle to win a package for family time, 10,000 rupees where they can enjoy with the family. So each week we have winners and we already have our first winner. We give them the power to decide how they want to deal with the 10,000 cheque.
Seychelles NATION: What is your opinion on cybersecurity and are there any plans to improve it in the country?
As Airtel we are confident in our cyber security because we have partnerships with some big players in cyber security like CISCO. Our systems are very secure because we have authentication at each level, which protect us from cyber attacks and protects the data of our customers. They are secured when they put information in our data centre. We have invested a lot in that so that our data is secure.
CEO Kapuku: It starts with delivering the value to the customer. First thing you do is smile to the customer and make the customer smile as well. We are driving customer satisfaction. Not only with the service but with the experience and availability. By availability, I mean proximity. That is why we have put proximity shops across the districts in Seychelles. We have 22 shops so wherever you live, you have a shop that is there so we are available for you and so is the network.
Or you can use one of our kiosks when the shop is closed. We are available to the customer 24/7 and we are reliable.
Seychelles NATION: Are you more of a hands on person or do you trust that you have a reliable team at your back?
CEO Kapuku: One thing I am proud of in Seychelles is the colleagues I have. I can really rely on them. I trust them and I am very proud of the way they are doing things; they are very proactive in the work they do. I feel that I am not alone in trying to deliver this service to the customer and together we will make a great story bringing Airtel Seychelles to the next level.
Seychelles NATION: Talent development is essential for sustained success, could you elaborate on your plans to nurture and empower the Airtel workforce to achieve their full potential?
CEO Kapuku: To achieve their full potential, education is very important as we say, so in Airtel we have some internal plans for training and learning where people can learn every day and every week. The challenge we have given ourselves inside is to assign courses to our staff so that they achieve one course per week. These help them upgrade their skills to be more talented. With the challenges we are currently getting in the world, these are good to make them informed and how to deal with the challenges.
The other thing is we expose people to other countries, we have these short term assignment programmes we send our staff on. This is one advantage we have being in 14 countries. We can send them to learn how people do in other countries so that they can come back and replicate it here.
Seychelles NATION: Compared to other countries, Seychelles is very limited in terms of resources, how exactly are you able to achieve what you have achieved now and continue to make big leaps?
CEO Kapuku: With internet we have almost unlimited opportunity to grow because with internet, the market is not only Seychelles market, but the worldwide market. People today as a startup can have their data package and serve people overseas but this brings money to Seychelles. Our growth is to diversify what we are proposing as value to the country.
Seychelles NATION: Are there any plans to bring Airtel a cable TV network similar to Intelvision?
CEO Kapuku: Yes, there is a plan for this, we are working with some content providers. I am happy that this sort of thing already exists in Seychelles and we will step in so that there is more competition, more value to the customer because in the end, customer is good for me, it helps to improve our service while keeping it fair.
Seychelles NATION: Do you believe it is fair right now?
CEO Kapuku: I think the government has done a phenomenal job of keeping things fair in the country.
Seychelles NATION: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what message would you like to send to the youth who want to follow in your footsteps?
CEO Kapuku: Nothing is impossible just be positive. Have a positive mindset, know what you want and what you need in life and what is really important to you in life. How do you want to contribute in the change of the world around you? I had this dream since I was very young to change people’s lives. I have been a role model all my life and even my parent’s neighbour said ‘be like Eddy’ because I was mature at a young age. I was a problem solver, I was always part of the solution. We should fight to succeed.
I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; I know the delegation was there for the Francophonie games. I have been in secondary school doing mathematics and I was very good in it so it leads back to the engineer scholarship. I am passionate about technology. But we should also have a balanced life. Not only working but also have time to have fun. My motto is always ‘work hard and play hard’. Have fun in life, we only live once.
Seychelles NATION: Throughout your 15 years in Airtel I would like to ask if someone were to approach you and ask you why I should go with Airtel instead of the other competitors, what would you say?
CEO Kapuku: Airtel is a company which launches products, designs offer and solutions and has a dialogue with the needs of the customers. We listen to the customer, we do not impose the product on them, we do not impose the solution but we listen to them first and from there we build or design the solution which tackles and fit their needs.
The customer for Airtel is the king.
Interview by Sunny Esparon
Photos by Yann Dinan