Handling the Challenges of Business Consolidation and Evolution

Seacom has experienced first-hand what it means to truly embrace change and navigate the discomfort and challenges that come with it.

Byron Clatterbuck,
Byron Clatterbuck, CEO of Seacom. iMAGE SOURCE: kENYAN wALLSTREET

by Byron Clatterbuck

Any good business decision-maker knows that change is inevitable and rather than fighting the unavoidable, one should lean into the discomfort of disruption. Flexibility and a willingness to embrace change are two valuable assets that will serve any business well on its transformation journey.

But, given today’s evolving nature of the business, what exactly should an organisation be prioritising to futureproof the company and set up growth? I believe digital migration and business consolidation are two of the best places to start.

Seacom has itself, over the past few years, made significant moves to transform into a new-age telco, through a relooking of business processes, acquisitions, strategic partnerships and other developments.

As with any change, of course, obstacles have emerged as Seacom has grown. These are the lessons we have learned so far during our own evolution, and in sharing them, I hope to help other businesses, across industries, to overcome the issues they may face as they too change direction.

Redirecting market perception through a refreshed brand identity

The market for Internet services (which covers everything from software and computing to cloud offerings) is very broad, competitive and fraught with consumer misunderstandings. This is particularly the case when it comes to the field of connectivity and ISPs, mainly because the technology evolves at a pace faster than consumer adoption and understanding.

In addition to this, many ISPs provide a mix of services beyond connectivity configurations, extending various services to both consumer and business clients, creating further confusion in the market.

Within this complex and murky space, Seacom comfortably sat as a legacy wholesale-only provider – credited with bringing high-quality and affordable Internet bandwidth to the continent through its launch of Africa’s first private high-speed subsea cable system along the eastern and southern coastlines in 2009. However, we wanted to position our brand as more than ‘’just another ISP’’ and rather reposition ourselves as “Africa’s leading data connectivity service provider”.

As such, we updated our corporate identity and brand to reflect our positioning in the ICT marketplace to guide customers through their digital transformation. A complete refresh of Seacom’s CI, style, website and tagline – empowering African businesses to go further –became essential to illustrate and communicate the expansion of our data services portfolio.

Through this process, we discovered that a bold new identity could truly reinvigorate business and alter consumer perceptions of a brand. Seacom today better represents a distinctive service provider that quickly and reliably links businesses to the perfect solution for their needs.

Rethinking opportunity through strategic acquisitions

This refreshed brand identity goes hand in hand with our evolving value proposition. Acquisitions are notoriously difficult to correctly execute and integrate, but they also present a unique opportunity to create a skill-enhanced team with customer-facing regional presence in line with what’s happening on the ground.

Seacom has recently made numerous strategic acquisitions, including the 100% acquisition of FibreCo Telecommunications in March 2019, which has strengthened our service offerings, geographic network reach, and in turn, broadened our market position. It has always been Seacom’s vision to increase our national footprint in South Africa – and Africa as a whole – through the consolidation of fibre assets.

By expanding our wholesale portfolio to include several national long-distance services as well as last-mile metro connectivity, our organisation is increasingly becoming the provider of choice to local and international data communications customers.

Lighting up additional fibre across South Africa also creates a platform for Seacom to deliver affordable, high-speed Internet connectivity and cloud services to traditionally underserved mid-tier cities and towns along the new routes.

Reframing business through transparent relationships

Another way to rethink the opportunity? Through collaboration, especially when it comes to different divisions of the business. The merger complicated how we did business, so we were forced to reassess the relationships within our organisation – with the aim of striking a fine balance between our direct sales team and channel partners.

We are still in the process of creating distinct spaces and markets for two very different teams within our business, but believe that there is space for both to flourish. In this challenging area, communication is key – we have learned that being open-minded and transparent with one another can prevent us standing on each other’s toes.

True partnerships and collaboration are powerful forces that assist organisations in overcoming challenges, particularly when it comes to business consolidation and evolution. Instead of staying segregated, teams and divisions that join forces and form a strong collective will promote problem-solving and stimulate innovation.

By redirecting market perception, rethinking opportunity and reframing our business, Seacom has experienced first-hand what it means to truly embrace change and navigate the discomfort and challenges that come with it. We will continue our evolution expedition, leaning into the future and learning valuable lessons along the way.

  • Byron Clatterbuck is CEO at Seacom

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