Star Times is one of the key players in the pay TV industry. Simon Arinaitwe, the company’s country sales manager, spoke to The Independent’s Julius Businge about their operations. Excerpts
StarTimes is one of the pioneers of digital TV broadcasting in Uganda. What have been the company’s experiences so far?
StarTimes launched its operations in China way back in 1988. In Africa, we are operating in eight countries including Uganda. We have managed to increase our customer base to over 100, 000 in Uganda after starting our pilot markets in urban areas in Kampala, Masaka and Jinja among others. We have realised that different customers have unique needs so we are innovating all the time. We have focused on customer interests by offering the most affordable rates on the market. We realised that most Ugandans cannot afford expensive products, hence the need to lower the rates and offer good discounts to have as many customers as possible on board. Before StarTimes came to Uganda, we were told that customers were not getting enough customer service. Currently, we are looking at that as a priority. We started offering a door to door service where one can call on our technicians to help there and then. We are happy with our customers’ response to this.
The competition in the pay TV segment has kept increasing in the Ugandan market in recent times. How is this going to affect you?
We have a competitive advantage in the market and we are the clear market leader. Our prices are affordable, we ensure that customer service is at its best and we keep our customers happy. We have gone ahead to offer subscription for 15 days in some places like Jinja and Masaka and we will be extending to other regions to offer these discounts. So, we will not be affected by competition because we will maintain affordable and flexible services.
There were press reports that the UCC had issues with your decoders/set top boxes. How true were those reports and what are you doing about it?
That report did not come from the UCC. That must have been an individual’s imagination.
How do you compare the Uganda market to the other markets where StarTimes operates?
First, we are happy with the market. Essentially we are doing very well. We have over 100, 000 customers just like I told you and we hope many more will join us along the way. However, our expansion process was delayed by the UCC, which delayed to announce that DVB-T2 digital set top boxes would be used in the digitalisation process. So we never wanted to expand our services before we knew that since it would probably lead us into losses.
How then are you helping Uganda to beat the digital migration deadline?
StarTimes has a network distribution that crosses over to the remote areas and that means we are engaging a huge number of people in the digitalisation process. We are also selling out the decoders cheaply to ensure that most people can access the service and go digital. Recently, we cut the price of decoders from Shs 100,000 to Shs 60, 000 compared to the other players in the market.
The government has now removed taxes on decoders for a year, how is this move likely to affect access to digital broadcasting in Uganda?
I must say that was a good move. It will enable us to modify on the already existing infrastructure because, once the [technology] is good and affordable, many people will jump on it. Uganda has over two million television sets and we are sure that the users can afford power. We also think that the pay TV service providers have so far connected very few television sets. We think there are many more that can be connected across the country. We want to ensure that anyone with a television set can be connected.
Where do you see StarTimes in the next few years?
Since we are the market leader in the industry, we shall continue to maintain our status on the market. We are implementing an expansion programme and I am sure before the year closes our service will be available in all areas across the country.
Where do you see the broadcasting industry in the next five years?
It has been very creative and innovative. It is increasingly facing competition from other media but it has remained strong. If it has to remain the way it is now more innovations have to be thought about.
What are some of the skills to apply while marketing a company similar to StarTimes?
First, you have to be customer focused and ensure quality management. Also, you have to be cheap but profitable and above all you have to be ready to reach a big population.
written by stilbonsatyam, August 06, 2012
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