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Econet launches new Connected Lifestyle product, prepares for financial reporting season

Beyond The Phone Expo 2015

Earlier today we received an invitation from Econet Wireless to an event scheduled for tonight where the operator will be launching something that has only been referred to as “another great innovation”.

According to sources, it’s the unveiling of a new Econet Connected Lifestyles product. The Connected Lifestyles name probably rings a bell because it’s the division that deals with products like the Connected Car and Connected Home – Econet’s “next generation” IoT services.

Though part of the Econet Services lineup, these products are actually churned out by an outfit called Cumii which is an affiliate of the Econet Wireless Group. It’s also the company that helped Econet with the development of the Technites online freelancing platform.

While official information on tonight’s launch is scant at this point, a perusal of the Cumii website shows the same products that we’ve already seen from Econet (Connected Health, Connected Home, Connected Car and Technites), as well as Cumii Energy which is a power consumption monitoring service for residential and business clients.

Our guess is that the Cumii Energy service is what will be unveiled tonight. The service fits closely Econet’s interest in energy services as well as its focus on IoT services that look “beyond the phone”.

While that may be pretty easy to deduce, the real mystery lies in whether or not there has been some success with all these Connected Services. Econet first jumped into this line in October 2014 with the Connected Cars service, which was followed by an introduction to Connected Homes and Connected Health a year later.

There hasn’t been any specific information shared on how well these services are doing. As part of the broader Econet Services line, they are shoved in the same basket that carries EcoCash and every other value added service that the operator invests in.

This makes it hard to tell if tonight’s launch is another attempt at gaining traction for a product suite that is a hard sell in a 2016 Zimbabwe, but still has the allure of investments beyond the phone.

What is more likely, though, is that Econet is out to fluff up its service outlook and justify any withering revenue line with an investment in another, no matter how much of Zimbabwean moonshot it is. Besides the impression of a future beyond voice that can placate shareholders who feel exposed, it provides a glimmer of hope for anyone who wants to view Econet as a tech company.

Considering the state of telecoms and the Zimbabwean economy, this familiar trope (remember the Connected Services launch and Expo before a depressed set of figures) is wily, some would even call it smart.

Revenues are in decline and this descent has been led by factors like a shift from voice communication (which is the leading revenue contributor), controls from the regulator like reduced tariffs, and an uncomfortable macroeconomic environment.

As a result Econet, a listed company is also faced with a depressed share price. A new product that can act as an alternative source of revenue is the way to go. Annual financial results are around the corner, so impressions created by a new service or product line cannot be underestimated.

It’s just the sort of new product/future revenue earner glaze that a listed company needs just before it presents a set of lukewarm results to shareholders.

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