Safaricom is celebrating 20 years this year, and what many people do not know, is that the giant telecom company started as a department in the now defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation.
Back then, many people did not use mobile phones. In fact, to own a mobile phone, you would need Sh54,000 to pay for the handset, Sh10,000 as a deposit and the rest of the amount was distributed for service and insurance.
At the start of the Y2K in the year 2000, Kenyans started adopting the use of mobile phones and the industry has now grown to become the largest especially with penetration of the internet.
Safaricom formally launched in October 23rd 1998 at the Carnivore with the tagline, “The Better option”. Kencell was already operating in the market after getting its licence first.
Safaricom first launched its services with four offerings retailing its simcards at Sh2,500. Users were billed per second and the lowest denomination scratch cards were Sh100. Many working class consumers were able to afford the services and by October 2004, the company had 2 million subscribers.
“All the decisions we made in the early days were made on gut feeling and instinct,” Safaricom former Chief Executive Michael Joseph told employees and shareholders at the company’s 19th anniversary celebrations last year. “Fortunately, we made more right decisions than wrong ones.”
As it celebrates 20 years, Safaricom now commands a 65 percent market share in mobile subscriptions, 99 percent in mobile money subscriptions, 68 percent in mobile data and 33 percent market share in fixed data.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa acknowledges the company’s contribution to the country’s economy. “This year in particular, more than ever, we’ve had to show Safaricom’s strength as a digital and technology service provider because we’ve become a lifeline for many Kenyans during this pandemic,” he said during the launch of the company’s 2020 Sustainability Business Report.
Safaricom has in the past month engaged its users as it celebrated its 20th birthday. Users went down memory lane remembering old adverts and sharing pictures of the various aspects of Safaricom in the early days.
Through multiple Trivia, the company rewarded its consumers with airtime as they filled the timelines with nostalgic memories. Most recently, some users have switched their AVIs to reflect the company’s colours.
Safaricom’s new tagline “Simple, Honest, For You” is more customer focused and they are already running a teaser that might see them change their logo tomorrow.