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Some Econet Shop franchisees tarnishing brand

Econet Zimbabwe, Joina City, Econet Shop, USD

When a company is chasing growth there comes a time when tough decisions have to be made. Do you entrust strangers with your hard-built brand in franchise deals? Or do you go it alone?

Going it alone means slower progress, higher capital requirement and higher growth risk but allows for tighter control.

Franchise deals address the drawbacks of going it alone but at the expense of control.

That loss of control sometimes comes back to bite where it hurts.

Econet’s Need To Expand Retail Network

As Econet spread it’s wings across the country, physical retail shops had to be established.

The millions of subscribers need roofs under which to renew their lost or damaged lines. And boy do Zimbos renew sim cards. We must be the best (worst?) in the world, we simply have to be. Sim card replacement remains one of the main drivers of traffic into Econet shops.

Econet is not complaining too much though. They don’t replace for free after all. Sim sales account for around 0.2% of revenues in the industry.

Why switch so frequently as to damage or lose the sim cards at this rate? Is it the constant switching of lines between kambudzis and smartphones?

Power cuts give feature phones with excellent battery life greater utility. Smartphone dies on you, no worries, kambudzi is ready to serve.

Went on a bit of a tangent there. The point was that there was need for Econet to expand their retail network.

A customer failing to deplete their airtime because of missing APN settings is a customer who is far from purchasing more airtime. That customer service coupled with device and service sales make retail units money-makers.

That’s customer service paying for itself right there.

With need and profit potential established, to franchise or not became the question

Strive and the gang decided rapid growth was the way to go. Zimbabwe being what it is, the decision was a no-brainer – franchising was on.

Raising capital here takes otherworldly mastery even for juggernauts like Econet.

So, utilising franchisees’ capital was akin to stealing zadzadamas (candy) from babies. Let them take on the debt and risk to open shops in Econet’s name.

Who said expansion comes at the expense of working capital stability. They must not have heard of the cheat code called franchising.

The fly in the franchise milk

Econet took time to lay out the business plan, deployment strategy and to formalise an airtight franchise agreement. Time was and is set aside to train franchisees and try to align their goals with the company’s.

Even with all that done, buy-in is never 100%. Bad apples are a fact of life.

For years we’ve all experienced it. There are good Econet shop branches, acceptable ones and downright terrible ones. Consequence of the lost control over these owner-managers.

My Econet shop horror story

Recently I stepped foot in an Econet shop after a years long absence and had the worst experience ever in one. By a long shot.

After being bombarded with ads for the 4G MiFi Kambudzi for months I decided to get one, see what all the fuss was about. Who says nagging doesn’t work.

Now during that time I worked out of town but passed through town before shops opened and trekked back home after they had closed. Monday to Friday.

First encounter

Weekend came and I strutted into the Kadoma Econet retail shop wielding my Zimswitch enabled debit card. Mistakenly thinking I’d be walking out with a KaiOS device.

I eyed the device in it’s glass cell and saw that the box said 3G. I asked one of the employees what kind of mischief they were up to. She actually tried to convince me that it was 4G capable despite the box. I was not amused. She then told me that they were out of the 4G ones.

I whipped out my card and told her to ring up the 3G mbudzi. Her face fell. ‘Sorry but we can’t accept card payments right now, the network is down,’ I was told. No worries, I thought, I’ll try next weekend.

Second and third tries

Second time lucky, I felt. Alas, I was wrong. Got the same reason – network down. I expressed my frustration as she tried to persuade me to pay in cash – USD. She had tried the same the first time. ‘Weekends are no good for card payments here,’ she went on. I left.

Third time was not the charm either but at least I got a definitive conclusion to the whole ordeal. Different lady employee that third visit.

‘We accept only USD for those phones,’ she said. Econet had not introduced such a policy. An ad I had received just an hour earlier quoted Zimdollars. I left for good then.

In closing

I ended up purchasing the phone in Kwekwe. The service there was good although the 4G capable one was out of stock.

That Kadoma franchisee and her employees are just trying to squeeze the USD out of Econet’s customers. All while the executives in Harare are none the wiser.

I don’t know the franchisee’s name but Econet I do know. When I vent the only names on my lips are Econet and Strive. Mr Masiyiwa’s boast is going to need editing,

I used a franchise model to open retail stores for Econet:
We did not own most of the stores, but they all looked exactly the same and they sold exactly the same products. All the staff were trained by us, and they wore the same uniforms.
Only the skilled entrepreneur could notice these were not our shops.

Taken from Strive Masiyiwa Blog – #Update on franchising

This would mean all of us are skilled entrepreneurs because we can easily tell which ones are franchisee run.

That is the price a company can pay for the loss of control of their brand.

You can share your Econet shop horror stories in the comments below. They just might push Econet to tighten the leash on it’s franchisees.


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16 thoughts on “Some Econet Shop franchisees tarnishing brand

    1. Do you know that he challenge that these guys are facing is bigger than what you are suggestion. MTN will come in such an environment and it will not survive. Netowrk issues, caused by load shedding and high costs etc etc will MTN survive?

        1. People see SA companies and want to compare them with ZIM companies whilst the playing ground is different. Alot of issues must be considered, ZIM is operating under a very volatile environment. Expecting neat service delivery in all sectors is a fiasco

      1. I get what Big Sam is saying, it feels like at times we get taken for granted because we have limited options. I agree with Leo that Zimbabwe is an uniquely difficult beast to tame. However, we can say Econet dropped the ball on the monitoring of the retail shops. There are so many bad apples in the basket and complaints are lodged but nothing happens to our knowledge.

  1. I also went to to the Kadoma branch n I wanted bulk airtime using a debit card . They told me that the swipe machine was offline n the second time they told me they d run out of stock kkkk. I v stopped going to that shop . And here comes the Steward Bank ! I wanted to get the chip card to replace the magnetic strip card eeeeish . Travelled to Hre thrice failed to get the card coz looked like was going to spend 3 hours in a queue what with lockdown regulations in place kkkk. And along comes their agent ! Charged me US$5 for the chip card . M very sure the charge is less than a $1

    1. It’s frustrating, I find it hard to believe that the decision makers don’t know that this is the state we are in. So it’s either they don’t care, are not prepared to spend the necessary money and time to fix it or maybe they are just clueless on how to go about fixing the problem

    1. I would give them that but they are not the only ones using Steward Bank POS machines. How come other retailers are getting signal. It’s suspicious.

  2. Well econet wireless Zimbabwe denied affiliation/ existence of one of thier promotions they were running, still running i suppose. Its part of Yomix, one representative admitted. I won a phone, smartphone kambudzi zte and they said they would contact me in 72 hours and it 4 months now, i dd try to reach them my self and 72 percent of the staff kept saying there is no such promotion. YoGamification is the promotion in question.

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