George Mlaghui is the Chief Corporate Communications Officer at Orange Telkom Kenya. The experienced communicator gave us an exclusive interview here at Nairobiliving.com.
NL.com: What schools did you go to?
GM: Let’s start with primary schooling; completed that level at the Loreto Convent Mombasa, proceeded to complete my high schooling at the Aga Khan School Mombasa, thereafter went to Daystar University to pursue Communications with a bias in Public Relations and Electronic Media.
NL.com: When did you decide that you wanted to be in communication?
GM: I loved the arts while at the Aga Khan; not to mean I did not love my Sciences and Math – I liked those too! Nonetheless, one could say it was a case of the inherent gene; the apple not falling too far from the tree… my parents are into very ‘verbal and expressive’ professions. My father has been in the Insurance industry for slightly over three decades while my mother has been teaching, with a specialty on languages, for a similar period; they talk a lot, on a daily and I guess the same bug bit me. That ‘bug’ saw me remain loyal to Creative writing, debating and music clubs while at high school. It was while participating in the Public Speaking category at one of the Academic Olympiads that the Aga Khan Schools in East Africa held, from time to time, that one of my teachers told me that I had a career in Communications; the specific path would be for me to choose. That began the roller coaster ride that has led me to where I am; twelve years later.
NL.com: How did you end up working with Orange?
GM: My first comprehensive internship which turned into my first paying job was for an ICT firm, while still in campus. I was intrigued with what I saw; a fast growing business with lots of potential that most definitely demonstrated the future of communications and commerce – data; going ‘e’. I was hooked there-on-out and immediately knew that ICT was my niche as far as being in the PR field was concerned. I moved to agency thereafter but the ICT bug still clung to me. Therefore when the opportunity came to move to Orange, I did not hesitate to leave agency life and head on back to corporate, back to my first love – ICT.
NL.com: Orange was the only company that lost market share in last year’s mobile industry statistics. What could have happened?
GM: Some background information; these are quarterly reports that are released, a few months after the data is collated. The last report was released in October 2013, reflecting the state of affairs for the last quarter of 2012/2013. We are now in the third quarter of 2013/2014, waiting for this financial year’s first and second quarter statistics to be released. The figures you refer to were compiled at a time when regulatory requirements put in place compelled the operators to switch off all unregistered lines as well as counterfeit mobile handsets from their networks. This affected all operators at the time. Nonetheless, we remain focused on our growth strategy, with the long-term focus being to increase market share; this will be reflected in the next statistics report(s).
NL.com: Where is the mobile industry headed locally vis-a-vis international trends? Or are we the ones leading the pack? Where is Orange likely to leverage where these trends are concerned?
GM: I would prefer to pan this out a bit. Mobile phones account for close to 90 per cent of all telecommunications on the continent. Two key drivers of access to mobile telephony are prepaid services and lower tariffs, which make it more affordable to the lower-income brackets. Internet enabled devices have now ushered in the era of Internet-on-the-go and we now see the uptake of Internet in the country increasing year on year. With this uptake, e-platforms are gaining popularity with more consumers making online transactions and accessing services online, presenting opportunities for start-ups and established businesses alike.
Globally, this growth in mobile technology has been galvanised by superior platforms: third generation mobile technology (3G) and now the advent of Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G. Kenya is not far behind as the country is already looking into the roll out of 4G. Futuristically speaking, mobile network connectivity has paved the way for the convergence of telecommunication services, becoming the proverbial highway that allows for access to a wide range of opportunities that can be accessed through the Internet and associated applications.
NL.com: Away from work, how do you unwind?
GM: I am lover of music; most kinds bar a few genres. You will catch me listening to my own selection on most evenings with a book or magazine in hand. Other days will see me take long drives just to clear my head; that usually finds me in unfamiliar territory but hey – that is how I get to discover new places.
NL.com: This month sees what is called Nairobi restaurant week. What do you consider the best food in Nairobi? Quail perhaps?
GM: This will sound biased but I have never really loved food from the city. However, I recently discovered Cresta Barbeque (on one of the drives to clear my head) that serves my favourite dish; cassava ugali served with fried cassava leaves in ground nut sauce; one word – divine.