3rd August, 2010
The company started as Econet Wireless Nigeria in 2001 then changed to Vodacom Nigeria in 2004.Â The same year it changed again to V-Mobile Nigeria. In 2006 it changed to Celtel NigeriaÂ and again 2008 it becameÂ Zain Nigeria. Not many Nigerians know that the new name is now Bharti Airtel Nigeria. Even the subscribers of the network are confused with the changes. While some still refer to their network as Econet, those who are accustomed to Zain are in for another change
The question on the lips of many is: When will the network’s name stop changing?
The mobile phone company that started trading as Econet in 2001 and the first to be licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) became Bharti Airtel Nigeria on Tuesday, following the sale of Zain Africa to Bharti Airtel India.
At a press conference in Lagos, the management staff of Bharti Airtel Group reaffirmed that the new management and brand are committed to doing business in Nigeria, its turbulent history notwithstanding.
Broad Communications, a major shareholder of Zain Nigeria, had accused the majority shareholders, Zain Group, Kuwait, of mismanagement, fraud, and capital flight to the tune of N16.6 billion. Broad further accused Zain Kuwait of not paying its shareholders dividends since the Kuwait group started managing the firm.
In June, Broad again filed a suit against the directors of Zain Nigeria over the five-year lease of the companyâ€™s head office at Ikoyi for $27 million.
Oba Otudeko, the company chairman said recently, â€œYou do not require any education on the history of our company through all the twists and turns over the years. One thing I must say, however, is that our resilience and the grace of God have left us stronger and more resolved to serve you better.
â€œIndeed we have come a long way and achieved a number of remarkable milestones, as reflected in numbers of firsts that we have recorded in the Nigerian telecom industry. On behalf of the board and management, I want to assure Nigerians that our best is yet to come.â€
Also speaking, Rajan Swaroop, the new chief executive officer said, â€œLet me also reaffirm our commitment as a business to continue to go the extra mile to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers. With Bharti Airtel, we can only do better. Bharti Airtel would build on the momentum of activities to ensure we provide quality services to all Nigerians, irrespective of their economic power and social status.â€
Subscribers are, however, concerned about the quality of service following another name change. Deolu Ogunbanjo, the president of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) said via phone, â€œSomehow, I do not expect that the new change in name would affect them because of their subscriberâ€™s volume but may affect them if their quality of service becomes bad.
â€œOnce they zero their mind on the quality of service and cheaper tariffs, then they would be able to survive the change. Considering the volume of subscribers Bharti Airtel has around the world and its history, it would be able to bring down Nigerian tariff.â€
Frank Okafor, a subscriber said, â€œI am not concerned about their change of name but about the quality of their service which I hope improves soon or they will lose subscribers.â€
Following the acquisition of Zain Africa in 15 countries, Bharti Airtel becomes the fifth largest mobile company in the world with over 180 million customers across its business units.