Safaricom last week launched BLAZE, billed as “a communication and empowerment platform designed by, and for, Kenya’s youth.”
According to the telco’s statement, BLAZE cost 25 per cent of Safaricom’s marketing budget to conceptualize, develop and launch and is a sub-brand of Safaricom. It has been created to give youth aged 26 years and below a wide range of products, services and benefits tailored specifically to meet their everyday needs, including mobile communication.
“A first of its kind platform in Kenya, East and Central Africa, BLAZE is founded on what Kenyan youth say is most important to them: freedom, empowerment and success,” Safariocm notes in the statement.
(TOP: Safaricom Director of Consumer Business Unit, Sylvia Mulinge (L), Kenyan YouTuber and social media personality, Shatheyungin and Senior Manager Youth Segment, Marion Njeri unveil the BLAZE-enabled starter phone kit during the launch of Safaricom’s new sub-brand at the Michael Joseph Centre. BELOW: A screenshot of Airtel Hadithi portal).
“BLAZE will not just change the future of communication in Kenya; it’ll change how we as a company relate with Kenyan youth,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore at the launch of BLAZE.
He added: “BLAZE is a platform created to empower youth, enable and celebrate their unconventional journeys to success and give them the freedom to choose how they want to communicate. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before.”
Subscribers to BLAZE will benefit from the most innovative communication products and services, including Create Your Plan, a service that allows users to control how much they spend on voice, data and SMS each time they purchase airtime.
“If, for example, you buy 100 bob worth of credit, you have the freedom to choose how much of that should go into data, voice or SMS, depending on your preferred usage. To do this, all you have to do is go to the BLAZE website and, using a simple slider, swipe left or right to select how much goes to each service,” said Sylvia Mulinge, Safaricom’s Director for Consumer Business.
“Those who prefer not to do this online can do so by dialing *555# and follow the prompts. Whichever way you choose to do it, you have the freedom to control what your airtime goes to,” she added.
The platform has been a year in the making, and will also see subscribers have access to branded 3G and 4G-enabled devices such as the Blaze Flame, which will retail for Kshs 10,000 plus a free selfie stick and phone cover, exclusively from Safaricom shops.
With BLAZE, Safaricom is banking on the youth to deliver 25 per cent of its future growth, in terms of both customer numbers and revenue, by offering more relevant products and services to this segment.
Besides targeted mobile services, BLAZE subscribers will also get mentorship opportunities, with a lucky few also getting the chance to win funding for their businesses through Be Your Own Boss (BYOB). BYOB, a brand asset under BLAZE, will consist of a series of countrywide youth empowerment summits and boot camps. During these, young people will have the opportunity to tell their stories, share their ambitions and interact with mentors who will inspire them and guide them on their journeys to chasing their passions.
These mentors have been drawn from various fields including the arts (music, fashion, photography, graffiti, film), technology, entrepreneurship and agriculture. The BYOB Summits will also give young people a chance to audition for the BLAZE TV show, also called Be Your Own Boss.
This show will offer a select few the chance to compete for funding that will enable them chase their dreams and build careers out of them.
“With B.Y.O.B, we’re progressing beyond focusing purely on enabling communication. We’re investing in youth empowerment; in giving them a platform to express themselves in the most authentic way and supporting them on their unconventional journeys to success,” said Sylvia, adding: “BLAZE is not about conforming. It’s about encouraging you to ignite your spark, find your passion and chase your dream.”
Different elements of the platform will be rolled out over the coming months. These include a music app that will allow subscribers to stream and download music, and share their playlists with friends.
BLAZE subscribers will also have access to innovative new M-PESA-based services that will encourage the youth to take control of their finances, as well as BLAZE Bonga, which is a loyalty programme with rewards that appeal specifically to the youth.
“BLAZE will be unlike anything any mobile service provider has done in this region. We look forward to revealing more in the coming days,” closed Sylvia.
After going through Safaricom’s BLAZE launch statement, several things stand out, key one being this bit: “The platform has been a year in the making, and will also see subscribers have access to branded 3G and 4G-enabled devices such as the Blaze Flame…”
If the platform has been a year in the making it means that the Safaricom team has been working on the platform from May 2015.
Now, in August 2015, Safaricom’s rival Airtel Kenya unveiled a similar platform called Airtel Hadithi, a central portal where the company would share entertainment content, exciting ideas and stories on innovative people and out-of-the-box concepts.
The telco stated that its Airtel Hadithi portal was aimed to bring alive the “Airtel spirit that is all about recognizing the great moments in society” and further invited people to develop and send in content proposals that it could review and later invest in going forward.
As part of Airtel Hadithi, the firm also launched two new digital products – Airtel Jam Sessions (a music show) and Airtel Future Shapers (a written feature on innovative young Kenyans in a move aimed at providing great local multimedia content online for consumers as well as in support of people doing great work in the arts, culture and technology).
“Airtel Jam Sessions is an intimately shot show that invites awesome upcoming stars to jam and talk about their hustle. The company has worked with Amos and Josh, Kiu, S.O.C and Dandora Music amongst other artists on this project and will continuously develop more content and opportunities to showcase budding and exciting young talent,” stated Airtel Kenya in a statement.
“Airtel Future Shapers is a set of written photojournalistic features that profiles young, fresh and ambitious trendsetters in technology, the arts and culture. Covering young and dynamic talent such as Top 40 under 40s youngest awardee Esther Kinuthia and fashion trendsetters such as Sylvia Njoki and many more on their work and lessons that they share for those wishing to join their path.”
The two platforms – Airtel’s Hadithi and Safaricom’s BLAZE – are similar even though Safaricom seems to have borrowed a lot from Airtel’s Hadithi to make BLAZE broader in features and activities.