They were the kings of the Kenyan web. They were a trend on Twitter, and a possible juggernaut on Facebook. They even made an impact on Google chances and became a true bother to one of the biggest companies in Kenya, Safaricom. They are the data resellers, loosely referred to as bundles mwitu sellers.
The bundles mwitu business was a hit. However, Safaricom seems to be using all possible tact to thwart the unwelcome competition. Most Safaricom data resellers made a kill by purchasing their data in bulk and breaking it down into smaller but profitable resell chunks. Safaricom agreed that such a business, though risky, wasn’t illegal (Check this for a detailed explanation of how the bundles mwitu business works.)
Safaricom’s new plan is in offering a couple of cheap off-peak hour bundles. The packages come in daily, weekly or monthly plans. However cheaper these plans might be, you still have to hope and pray that someone would be awake at 3am to see your status updates or retweet you. This is quite a gamble.
Purchasing your data from the third party peddler would have been the only option for the anti-insomnia internet users – or perhaps it was before Safaricom technically froze the business by lowering the MBs sambaza cap to a mere 10MBs.
“that was the end of us”
The new limit, which went live on Saturday 28th, February came without a notice. It was unexpected. With some of the most prolific sellers holding close to half a million worth of bundles and airtime and bundles in assorted SIM cards, this was the ultimate killer.
According to Safaricom’s terms and conditions, these resellers are subject to no refund. Safaricom will treat them as customers. No customer will ever call their customer care desk and demand for an airtime or bundles refund. ‘Goods once sold cannot be refunded.’
An investment gone sour
To the resellers, this is just but an investment gone sour. Loosing such an amount of money is disarming. While some of the Safaricom bundles resellers will hate and vent for a while, those who found the business lucrative enough might be willing to carry on given the chance. Running such a business and transacting cash to the tune of 250K in a day is not something you will easily forget.
Safaricom is undoubtedly the best broadband carrier in Kenya. The network is strong, and their internet connection is impressive. However, many Kenyans would readily endorse the fact that Safaricom data plans are very expensive, or perhaps were before the most recent Safaricom data bundle pricing edit.
It was lucrative, we can still try it given chance
What do the resellers think of the price edit? Well, of cause they did not take it fondly. However, the expert believe that Safaricom’s toned down costs will just usher their loyal customers back to the mainstream bundles shop before disbanding the offers. They did this once with an unlimited monthly offer when competing against other carriers. Nothing will hinder them from pulling this sly but effective card again.
While Safaricom just discouraged customers from buying bundles mwitu, their current move to shutting off the business shows what they actually felt about it. Even though they never labelled it illegal, there is nothing these resellers can do to Safaricom. Even though their existence might have pushed for lower data rates, their loses are proof of what happens when you take up against a dominant, when you take up on Safaricom with its own assets.
They are small fish in the ocean. Their business was unconventional and based on no actual by-laws. Some even fear on the legality of the business. They technically cannot coerce Safaricom into remitting their investments.