‘Awesome’ is the adjective used by the Managing Director of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) to describe the historic Initial public Offering (IPO) of the company which closed on Friday afternoon. The company saw an average of 1000 people making enquiries about the company shares every working day since the IPO launched in January. The interest was expected to spike even higher on the last day. Taylor’s experience over the last eight weeks of the IPO has been of joy as he saw the overwhelming response of locals. Now, what remains are the final steps of making the company the first telecommunications organisation to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). Taylor exudes nothing but happiness, mainly because the company managed to cover a lot ground during the IPO period, educating and sharing with the laymen all important information that needed to be known before a decision on whether to buy or not could be taken. These, he said, has been achieved due to the amount of ground covered in space of a month and half, and the number of offers received during the period support his claim.
30 000 offers
By Thursday over 30 000 offers had been received from Barclays branches alone from individuals without including those received at the brokers, and Taylor believes the number could well be way more than if this is put into consideration. “In terms of preparation, we put together a team of 40 IPO Champions trained specifically to help in BTCL and Barclays branches,” said Taylor. According to Taylor, the objective was ensure than no one was left behind, hence the IPO ran for 45 days which he said was the longest period for an IPO, at least by local standards. “We have done roadshows across 33 locations, 67 activations the last one which was in Old Naledi on the 2nd of March,” Taylor said. He said they added five locations for activations to the original of 62. The roadshows conducted by BTCL are said to have covered more than 6000 km, covering the length and breadth of the country, reaching even the remote areas where knowledge about buying of shares has been almost non-existent. The idea of such roadshows was to preach to the unconverted - those who knew little or nothing at all about owning shares.
Taylor said the roadshows never failed to attract a considerable number of people, but points out the one conducted in Serowe as the most attended one with around 3000 people in attendance that day. Surely conducting such an IPO which is the first of its kind will always come with its own challenges. The ones that BTCL had to deal with was meeting demand. “If you look at the IPO’s that have been held previously, there has not been a level of participation that matches this. We had printed 15,000 prospectuses to begin with and they had gone in three days,” he said. As the company has received more than 30,000 offers, Taylor and his organisation are looking forward to welcoming between 20, 000 to 30,000 new private shareholders. Taylor could not say how much has been raised during the IPO as he said he did not have that information, but says even if he knew he would still not tell as that is part of the unfolding process.
Through the IPO, the company was looking to raise P462 million which was to be shared between the government and BTCL. From the money raised, P250 million will be invested in mobile broadband and infrastructure to further drive the company’s capability throughout the country. The remainder of that, he said, will then go to the government. Listing on the BSE now means BTCL is taking a new direction and opening a new page, the company will now have to contend with satisfying all the requirements of a public company. But what can one expect from BTCL from now onwards? “What we tried to do over the last seven years was to focus on our customers, focus on our products and focus on our quality service and that we will continue to do,” he said. The listing of the BTCL, Taylor said, will result in the change in complexion of the board and the tone of the new board will be the one that will influence the way the company goes about its business.
“But I think the fundamentals of customer service and quality would not change. There may be a slight shift but those core areas I believe would remain,” he said. Taylor also explained the separation of assets between BTCL and Botswana Fibre Networks (BOFINET) would not cripple or affect the former in any negative way. He said not much has changed in so far as doing business is concerned. “In terms of what we do things have altered slightly in so far as the backbone is now owned and operated by BOFINET, but fundamentally this company is around the same shape and size it was previously in terms of staff and the job they are doing,” Taylor said. He said there will be a need to keep improving on the aspect of customer service which he said come tops of their agenda. As a company he said they have adopted the “customer first, customer last” approach as way of improving on quality customer service delivery. “We need to improve our customer centricity as an organisation. We need to think more about customer first and customer last. We need to continue on our journey for automation. We need to continue on our journey of driving high quality mobile broadband and fixed products,” he said.
Taylor is optimistic about the opportunity offered by their Vodafone partnership which was signed in March 2015 to run for three years. He said the deal will offer a lot to BTCL in many areas. The agreement offers BTCL an opportunity to benefit in a number ways, including access to the Vodafone network and access to products and services. The deal also allows to BTCL access to Vodafone people should they need to develop the organisation staff here or send the people oversees for development in countries where Vodafone operates. Going forward, the agreement between BTCL and Vodafone, Taylor said will give them competitive advantage.
Taylor, whose experience in the telecommunications industry spans over three decades, joined BTCL in the winter of 2011 on July 11. Having started his career in the UK as an Electrical and Electronics engineer, he went on to work all over the world and counts countries and places such as Hong Kong, Bahrain, Jamaica, Switzerland, Miami, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as places he has worked in before arriving in Botswana. His stay here, he said, has been a thrill. Before taking over at BTCL, Taylor’s last long term job was in Turkey where he held the position of Deputy Chief Commercial Officer for Turk Telekom. “My job there was about transformation, about turning the commercial areas of the business into something fit for a purpose,” he said. In addition, he said he also took part as the commercial and operations lead in the IPO of Turk Telekom with 15 percent listed on the stock exchange in 2008.
When he took over the position five years ago, there were a number of things that Taylor was mandated to carry out. “My conversation with the chairperson when I arrived was bout key three things; the first was improving the level of the organisation and its level of customer centricity, the second was about the assets separation and the third was about privatisation,” he recalled. While the last two - separation of assets and privatisation - have been accomplished, customer centricity will be an ongoing focus, Taylor said. “The customer centricity you would never finish. You should never be satisfied. I think we still have a long way to go in terms of the way we treat our customers and the way we think about those people who effectively pay our salaries,” he said.
He said when he leaves the organisation he wants to be remembered for having improved the fortunes of the company and the way people view it. “I want people to say it is better placed now than when he came, as I said the journey to service excellence is the one that never ends, but I would like people to feel that I have taken the company somewhere along that route,” he said.