All along we thought Multi-level marketing (MLM) was just for nutritional supplements and skin care products like those from Forever Living. How wrong we were! There’s a whole industry of telecoms MLM out there and a new company, Money Tel, has brought it to Zim. We were introduced to Money Tel co-founder and managing director, Takwana Hove, a couple of weeks ago and had a long chat about what they do and how exactly it works.
The concept in general works like so: you pay Money Tel a joining fee or business license ($10, $20 or $40 depending on the package you choose) to become a virtual airtime reseller. You then get commissions for getting friends and family to join as well as for the airtime that you, and all the people that you get to join (and the people that they in turn refer going 4 levels deep) buy. So, like other MLM, the more people you convince to join, the more money you supposedly make. The actual breakdown of bonus figures is in a pdf document available on their site.
Discussing the joining fees with Hove, we had an issue with what we see as an emphasis on joining fees as opposed to actual airtime selling. We kept querying why resellers have to pay money to join when they are going to work to sell the airtime anyway. But that may just be that we are slightly disinclined to (or maybe just not informed enough) this type of selling. Hove says the revenue is needed to oil the network marketing machine (marketing material meetings etc…) as well as software customisation and other things.
He also told us the whole concept works out to the benefit of the resellers and that this is a proven model. “Our business model is a working model; we took after companies like ATN in the USA, Utility Warehouse UK and V Mobile in the Philippines. Another company that has done well with this business model in African is PTL, they operate in Kenya, have an exclusive relationship with Orange mobile,” he explained.
Locally, the Money Tel service is available via a ‘Call to Service’ number where a customer calls a certain ordinary long mobile number and they receive a USSD menu. Such methods are usually used when short codes from operators are not forthcoming. On this, Hove says it has not been easy getting one but that they are still pushing.