Today, I opened an email from Econet titled “Econet Wireless has launched yet another revolutionary product, the Econet Connected Car.” I had just heard from people that attended the launch that it had been one of the best product launches they have ever attended. That the company was on point about what it was fixing. I wished I had attended too. I’m thinking maybe I’d have understood the big “revolution” they are introducing to car tracking. I don’t get it.
I asked for for the fact sheet. Here is what i got. And this. And all the time reading those specs I was thinking, where is the “revolution” here? How is this a revolution? Have they re-thought what car tracking can be in some novel way? How is this another “EcoCash” for the car tracking industry as they claim?
As far as I can see in the specs, everything this vehicle tracking service offers is standard in vehicle tracking services around the world. Local companies like TracKing have been doing this exact thing for years. We wrote about Tramigo doing something more novel & interesting locally more than 3 years ago. And even these 2 companies have other competition locally. But it’s not just vehicle tracking companies; NetOne have this too, they just don’t market it as well as they could. In fact, mobile operators around the world, and vehicle tracking companies working with mobile operators, offer this standard service already.
Is it that Econet is going to pour millions into marketing this service, the ordinary car owner will want to buy it.
As a consumer though, I know I’m not going to buy this. I don’t have a vehicle tracking problem. My car is with me all the time or its with someone I trust. Vehicle theft is so not a problem locally, I actually don’t know anyone who’s been a victim to it. Seriously, of the scores of people with ex-Japanese cars you know, how many have had it stolen? A bigger problem is people that smash the car and loot whatever they find inside. But I digress.
As someone that once worked in the fleet department of a large organisation, I see reason for the larger organisations to consider buying this so they can manage their fleet better. Who’s driving which car, where are they, are they driving recklessly, are they stealing fuel etc… But I doubt even they are seeing any “revolution” here. Vehicle tracking in this same form has been pitched to them for years, and doesn’t look like Econet is bringing anything new to the table except a slightly lower price.
And so yes the price, Econet has an opportunity to aggressively price this. At $100 for installation and $20 monthly subscriptions, it’s slight cheaper than other options. A quick comparison to TracKing’s similar service shows that after a year of use you’d have paid $340 to Econet, compared to TracKing’s $360 (12 x $30 a month). But this $40 saving will only be felt in the 11th month, as Econet is charging a $100 installation fee (then $20 subscription each month) where TracKing is not. For a country struggling with liquidity, paying less upfront is actually more attractive, so I’m not sure Econet’s pricing is better at all.
If Econet could reduce that price further to, say, $2 a month, then I’d be thinking revolution. But even then, asking me to pay $50 installation fee just so I can track my car, know how much fuel it’s consuming, and when to take it for service – solutions I don’t have a problem for – is still a deal breaker.
Even with their financial muscle, I don’t think Econet could afford to reduce the monthly subscriptions to a revolutionary price, or to scrap that un-revolutionary installation fee. Shareholders would likely not be amused. Stubborn economics.
But Econet has access to car owners’ phone numbers, so maybe they can spam us until we sign up for this. I know I still wouldn’t but that’s just me. Even by Econet’s own standards, I still can’t see the revolution here. Maybe it’ll appear on the horizon in time.
And just to be clear: No, I’m not expecting Econet to introduce a self driving car. A revolutionary step in ‘service’ doesn’t require a revolutionary advancement in technology. Just new thinking. And I’m not sure we’re thinking anew yet on this.