UshaComm, which provides billing related Business Support Systems (BSS) for fixed, mobile, broadband/IP primarily in Africa, is entering the mobile Value Added Services space by setting up a VAS division based in Delhi. The company, which is a part of Kolkata (India) based Usha Martin Group, has hired Anagat Pareek, former Head of Operations for One97 Communications as Business Head for VAS.
Pareek told MediaNama that the launch of a VAS unit is a natural progression for the company, and they will launch services that leverage Ushacomm’s access to billing information and analytics, targeting existing Ushacomm telco customers. After establishing VAS services in Africa, they’ll target India, looking to launch their own products, as well as bringing products from international partnerships.
“Services could involve marketing, profiling, and increasing ARPU of the customers, based on users behaviour on the network. The other area is to look at data services, which are big in South Africa. For the rest of Africa, there is a plan to explore the voice market. Voice is not a dominant service in Africa, and services are mostly over SMS, and some on USSD,” Pareek said.
According to Pareek, since growing organically throughout Africa will be a challenge, they are seriously looking at acquisitions. He declined to comment on deal sizes or the corpus for acquisitions. Ushacomm has a presence in South Africa (MTN, Vodacom), Algeria (ATM Mobilis), Libya (Al Madar), Senegal (Sonatel), Congo, Togo, Mauritania, Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius (Cellplus/Orange) and Ethiopia . In South Africa, they have an office with 70-80 people, which will serve as a hub: the company will be hiring sales people for VAS in South Africa, to service the entire Africal region. Pareek doesn’t see much of an overlap with Comviva, saying that they focus more on platforms – USSD and SMSC – and not really services.
Already, Indian telecom operators are eying the African market, which should serve as a channel for Indian VAS companies to enter the space. Bharti Airtel is in talks for a merger with MTN, while BSNL and MTNL may end up investing in Zain Telecom. Apart from this, Essar also has operations in Kenya.