Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to fall in love



I have not written a mushy piece for a while so I thought, why not. Its not been an easy task to play two demanding roles, one as a shrewd businessman and the other, a loving boyfriend (who knew about the latter). But for the most of this and last year, I have been working on growing in this area of my life.

I will admit that it has been quit a hectic learning curve which has forced me to painfully re-write the plays out of my playbook. By extension I am giving away a good chunk of my freedom to settle down with one woman that I love and that is a pretty scary thought. (%#*@, I'm actually doing it).

In earnest truth, falling in love is by no means an easy ordeal. Much like the other things we aspire for in life like happiness and wealth, it can be equally as illusive and unpredictable.

So, when you do reach the point where you feel like you are ready to fall in love, this is what you should do to get the most out of the experience.

Bet big or go home

Speaking from a guys perspective, sometimes we think that it is better to "settle down" with a woman who is of average inclination because we some how think that they are easier to maintain. Here is what I have found, if you are to settle down, you might as well get the girl of your dreams because when you think about it, expensive though it might be to maintain a Benz, somehow when you own one, you will find a way to look after it.

Temperamental, sensitive and demanding though it might be, the driving experience will always make up for the frustrations it costs to look after something as delicate as a flower.

A happy and mutually respectful relationship starts with two individuals who both believe that by being together, they are by extension admitting that they are much better people with their partners. You have to fall in love with someone who will always inspire the best in you and encourage you to reach for the best because they too believe the same for themselves and in turn want the same for you. Don't settle "down."
Settle "up."

Get your head in the game or get off the court

Many people fall in love with caution, often afraid that the current relationship they are settling into might just as well end with a broken heart like the previous ones. And because life is lived forward and understood backwards, its easy to constantly see a relationship or partner through the eyes of previous experiences. If there is an express ticket to unhappy-ville, this is your best bet.

If you still have thoughts about your ex, then clearly you should not be in a relationship, doing so will always come at the cost of your partner who might not be pleased to learn that the reason you are not fully committed is because you might have feelings for your ex.

To enjoy the full experience of falling in love, you have to embrace it whole hardheartedly, holding nothing back. Basically you have to love until it possibly cannot hurt any further. The more you put into a relationship, the more you will get out. Same laws of investment.

If patience killed the cow, then hesitation surely shares the same predicament.

Grow up

You will realize that when you meet someone worth spending your time with, things are going to start to change (real fast). At some point of getting to know each other, two adults have to conscientiously decide where they see the prospective relationship heading which makes it imperative to constantly communicate expectations to each other to ensure that they both see the relationship the same way. You definitely do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are all in for someone but the other person does not see you the same way.

The thing with a relationship is that it is constant work and both partners should never slack off otherwise the partnership will cease to be as romantic and exciting as it was when the two initially madly fell in love. It is very important to keep your partner engaged and excited about you and about life.

Doing so might mean having to grow in certain respects like financially to be able to give more into the relationship. You do not want to be the couple that plans vacations but never goes because the "money" is quit never there for it. If your happiness and that of your partner is important, you will find away to put in extra effort to deliver on your end of the partnership.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why MTN can afford not to give a hoot (*if it wanted to)

Promoting MTN marathon 2013 with former CMO Ernst Fonternel


Every now and then, customers of MTN Uganda take to social media their complaints of the bad service that the company provides. The last social media field day happened towards the end of last year under the hash tag #occupyMTN. The complaints touched a wide spectrum of short comings in its service delivery like customers being charged double for transactions and of course slow internet. 

As usual, the company issued a statement in which it claimed to have fixed the problem and reimbursed customers who had erroneously been double charged while processing a transaction. Believable though it seemed, I suspected it was nothing more than a PR stunt intended to calm people down.

Indeed in the weeks that followed, customers were at it again. I personally was neither able to withdraw mobile money nor purchase data bundles or get through to customer care for that matter(I am sure you can relate with my frustration). 

I made a funny tweet about it and that's about all I could do about the situation. If it was in the cards for me, I would gladly go with the other guys but I need my phone number and the other telecos are probably just as bad or even worse to a certain degree. 

But despite the ‘questionable’ service and negative publicity, figures indicated strong numbers for MTN last year. Which begs the question of why people are still so loyal to a network they claim to hate so much, in turn has given the network a competitive edge over its customers and competition.

Hopefully this article will paint a picture of why, 'big business' can afford to sit back, relax and provide a shitty service (*if it really wanted to).


Uganda Telecom's costly fumble

In 1977, Uganda moved away from the regional shared services model in which Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania collectively provided communication services, to establishing the Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (UPTC), a state-owned monopoly providing telecommunications.

After the passage of the communications act in 1997, UPTCL was divided into four entities among them; Uganda Telecom. By this time Celtel was the only other telecommunications operator that had received an operating license by 1993 and started operations in 1995. At the time, Celtel had already attracted close to 5,000 customers in the urban corridors of Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja.

The minister of Works, Housing and Communications at the time went further to sign a 15-year long none competitive close for the fixed line business to protect Uganda telecom’s monopoly. But that was the fumble itself.
Uganda Telecom did not realize that the future of communication was not in fixed lines but rather mobile. It was not until after MTN set up shop to give Celtel a run for it’s money that Uganda Telelcom finally realized its mistake but, it was already too  late, the two foreign companies had already dominated the mobile market and the rest is history.

it is arguable that, had Uganda Telecom moved fast enough to introduce mobile services to attract an initial critical mass, it is possible that a widely used state telecom service would translate into more value for money for customers and a wider tax base for government coffers.
But because Uganda Telecom failed to capture a sizable market share, customers prefer to stay on MTN to avoid the exorbitant inter-network connection tariffs. Which explains why, despite recent out rage over the 

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Ugandans cannot afford to boycott South African 

products because our home grown brands do not have the skill and financial muscle to go 

go against foreign 'big business'

The MTN brand is in a good position

MTN is leading in subscriber base with 10 million customers. A search through my phone book will reveal that 90% of my local contacts are on the network, which makes calls in the long run cheaper. Switching networks will not only cost me my phone number that I have had for the past 10 years, but my mobile expenditure will increase as well as a result of inter-network tariffs.

MTN interim financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2014, revealed that the company's year-on-year revenue growth stood at 6.8% and data revenue grew by 54.7%! In Telecommunication revenue mathematics, one data user is equivalent to 8 voice subscribers. Which means contrary to what peeps on Twitter think, MTN is growing it's data uptake.
MTN also recorded 28.5 million Mobile Money transactions per month.

Airtel is disadvantaged financially due to the acquisition of Warid last year and I suspect it spent a good chuck of ad revenue promoting Trace Music star which I imagine did not yield much in return of investment . Acquisitions can be messy business.

Orange was acquired by Africel, indicating its operations were not as profitable.

Lap Green, Uganda telecom’s holding company has been going through major restructuring to make up for the lost time incurred during the Libyan civil war in 2012, which saw temporary seizure of their 69% stake by the government of Uganda as part of sanctions against the regime of former leader, Muammar al-Qadhafi.

New kids on the block, Smart telecom and now Vodacom do not stand a chance against MTN’s total investment over the past 16 years into infrastructure, people and marketing.

In the end, it becomes apparent that even though we hate to admit it, that MTN did its home work. Touche.

The Celtel Paradox and the two of the less evils

When Celtel had a monopoly in the mobile cellular business, the service was considered a luxury and for the affluent class because of the exorbitant initial costs of buying a phone and the monthly service fee. It was considered elitist.

I remember watching an old MTN ad when the company had just launched, where an office man stopped by his usual shoe shiner station. As the shoe shiner worked to make the boss’ shoes spotless, the boss was busy bragging about his conquests in the corporate world. When all of a sudden a phone rung. Delighted as ever, the boss reached into his brief case to take the call. To his surprise, it wasn't his phone ringing. The shoe shiner, almost as though having forgotten he owned a phone, opened his equipment box to pick up his call. Which stunned the boss, seeing that his shoe shiner owned a phone.

Through lucrative advertising, MTN was able to position itself as the people’s network of choice, as opposed to Celtel that was perceived as oppressive. MTN was the first network to drop the service fee charge, which made the maintenance of a phone line on their network possible for many people who were not able to afford owning a phone line prior to this due to the monthly service charges.

Many years later, it’s ironic that now MTN is seen as the oppressive and elitist network that Celtel once was. It further does not help the situation that Celtel was later acquired by Zain which sold out to Airtel who in turn bought out Warid telecom.

Airtel’s inconsistent brand history has had serious implications on the network’s reputation and brand image which has translated into more leverage of brand equity for MTN. As proof every year MTN attracts 20,000 runners to its Kampala marathon that it has been running for the past decade, indicating its popularity, thus giving it an upper hand in the Telco business.

So in the end you can see why I am stuck on the MTN network. Thanks UTL.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How to be profoundly sad (or happy) - A users guide



Growing up, I had a wonderful childhood. Loving family, cool friends and a reasonably good 
standard of living. However over the years, different things have happened in my life that naturally left me feeling sad and sometimes down right depressed.

Looking at my life, I can say with a certain level of certainty that I understand what it means to be profoundly sad, which in turn has made me a happier person because I am now more aware of what to and not to do or think about, in order to avoid the viscous cycle of unhappiness that can become a plague.

Placing a higher focus on family and friends over work

The older I grow, the more I realize the harsh reality that people really like us for what we can offer. So, contrary to common belief, family and friends do not come first, our work does. You see, our work sets us apart from every body else and the change that we are able to bring into this world is what we will ultimately be remembered for.

I have noticed that during the low points in my life when I have either lost someone in the family or a friend, work has consistently been the consoling factor for my existence, because after all is said and done, no one can take away what you have achieved and the lives you have touched.

Family and friends are of intangible value but their role is limited to providing context to our existence but the rest of what we get out life essentially depends on our endless dedication in pursuing a higher purpose of existence than merely living life itself.

Holding a grudge

In this TED talk, a Buddhist monk had this to say about inner peace, "very often while looking for happiness, we look outside, we think that if we can gather all the conditions that would constitute happiness (we are good). That very sentence bares the very doom of happiness; to have everything. If we miss something, it all collapses. And when things go wrong (like they often do), we try very hard to fix whats outside so much but our control in the outer world is limited, temporary and often illusive. But looking inside, isn't it the mind that translates the outer conditions into happiness or suffering and isn't that stronger?"

I have realized that we often do not have control over what other people do and in turn what happens to us, but our inner state of mind will determine how we handle it. I have fallen victim of harboring anger, rage, envy and grudges and I can say that nothing good comes of it. When I find myself deeply unhappy, I like to examine my inner feelings to determine if I am harboring any hate towards someone or something and the moment I let it go, I often feel much better like a load has been taken off my back.

Working at a job you hate

If you find yourself having drinks with co-workers after work and you are complaining about your jobs, its a clear sign that you should purse something else. Around this time last year, I was working in advertising at a top agency and I remember this one instance, as I walked home from work at 4:00 am after a fourteen hour brain storm to image the brand identity for a new product, I was struck with the fact that I was no longer enjoying what I was doing. And it had made my life very sad, because I thought of all the things I could have been doing but couldn't and the predicament of living life like that seemed stifle.

A month later, when my documentary film came in second at a film festival in Washington D.C, as I shared the exciting news with my immediate supervisor, she could tell how lit up I was about it. She then bluntly advised me to ditch advertising to purse my passion because she could clearly notice that advertising was sucking the life out of me.

A year later, I realize that she was very right and even though at the beginning of this journey it was difficult, primarily because I did not have a plan, I now see that waking up every morning to work on exactly what I want to work on beats a corporate job, ten fold.


Having a poor self image of yourself

How we treat others is really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and when you have a poor  image of yourself, you will find settling for less in all aspects of life natural. From the jobs you apply for, to the friends you make and even how you treat your children. 
This is one of the surest ways to find yourself constantly under a dark cloud.
You might wake up one day and wonder why good things are happening to everybody else but you.  and the answer might be that you hold yourself in low regard. You cant attract good things your way until you start holding yourself in higher regard. 

Staying in an unhappy relationship

"Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage(relationship), teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce." -Jennifer Weiner (That pretty much sums it up)