By Kayode Amolegbe
Bharti Airtel Nigeria (BHARTI) is targeting an 18 percent increase in its customer base over the final nine months in 2014 after regulator pressure hampered growth early in the year.
According to the head of the unit in Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, said in an interview that India’s largest mobile-phone operator plans to increase subscribers in Africa’s biggest economy to 30 million by the end of the year.
“I’m very very optimistic that there are no encumbrances against growth so I’m sure we’re going to reach the 30-million mark,” he said. He added that, “Despite the environment and the issues we face, I think we’re still giving relatively good service to our customers.”
New Delhi-based Airtel had 25.5 million subscribers at the end of March, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC. NCC added that Nigeria is the company’s biggest market outside India.
According to the NCC, Airtel unseated Nigeria’s Globacom Ltd., as the second largest operator in the country during the three months through March, behind Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd. All three companies were fined by the regulator for not meeting quality service standards in January and banned from selling new SIM cards during March.
Nigeria which is Africa’s most populous nation with about 170 million people, is a target for mobile-phone companies despite epileptic power supply and frequent bomb attacks posing challenges to doing business. The total number of connected lines increased to 177 million as of the end of April, compared with 170 million at the start of the year, according to NCC data.
Despites the challenges faced in Nigeria, Ogunsanya said the company is making N48.3 billion ($300 mln) plans to expand the company’s network and services in the country. He said, “We’re very bullish about Nigeria.” “We plan to spend about $300 million expanding Airtel’s network and services in the country this year.” “We have invested so much in marketing research to see what the customers want and we are delivering on those expectations.”