The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

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This case study video on Amazon shows why it’s where companies like Econet wish they could be.

There’s actually quite a few similarities between the retail giant and our own local behemoth too…


So we would bet pretty safely that you’ve all heard of Amazon, the world’s largest retail giant which started as nothing but an online book store and grew into a tech company that keeps Google, Microsoft and Apple up at night. The company is often an interesting case study for many a business analyst and it’s less than predictable rise to dominance as well as how it maintains such dominance are a testament to Jeff Bezos and his capability as a business leader. And the video above not only talks about just how dominant Amazon has become as far as it’s deals with suppliers, relationships with competitors and especially ability to swallow up the markets of startups that it sometimes even funds. And we couldn’t help but notice that a some local big companies would obviously want the Amazon effect too, especially a blue and red colored conglomerate known for it’s telecomms company and their high tarrifs: Econet.


Master and student?
Now to be fair this of course is not a direct comparison. In fact I’m sure some self appointed business or economics guru will bring up much better companies to compare our local Econet group to and perhaps even show me how Econet emulates their business models. But to say that every company on this earth doen’t want to coppy a bit of Amazon’s secret sauce would be a lie, and the company’s similarities with Econet are actually quite uncanny. Of course this begins in the form of how both companies started off as not directly tech-focused companies to tech based conglomerates that essentially want their hand in every cookie jar, but I prefer to focus on the similarities mentioned in the video instead. The first one would be the title focus of the video: Econet, like Amazon , has been known in the past to shut down smaller, competitive startups (or allegedly straight up steal their ideas). Amazon’s strategy is different, preferring to let these startups test the waters of the market before it essentially cannonballs into them and takes over, drowning out the smaller start-up in the process. Vaya came into a market that had apps like Hwindi and G-Taxi in it, Ruzivo has existed in a seemingly less successful , but still pretty populated e-learning startup space and there was a whole controversy of sorts around where Sasai’s original idea came from. Simply put, Econet is pretty similar to Amazon in this regard, and depending on who you ask they’ll often beat young entrepreneurs to the punch when it comes to launching a product and thus causing all the “stolen idea” accusations. Our current economical crises notwithstanding, Econet has also largely had the second advantage Amazon was mentioned to have: cash, and lots of it. The reason why Econet can seemingly continue to spend endless amounts on projects and products that we likely don’t need is because well, they have the cash to keep throwing at them, long after most competitors can as well. Some have gone on to criticize this approach and talk about how Econet tends to lack any expertise or passion for these projects, we all can’t deny they have a staying power due to their finances that most startups will never have.
So now that I’ve mentioned where the two companies are similar, where exactly does Econet wish it was like Amazon? Well for starters, alternate, reliable business that actually start producing lots of revenue. This is why the push for Sasai adoption has been so large (and has gotten a little out of hand too). Another area where Econet would likely want more strength is advantageous relationships with partners and competitors. To be fair, Econet Wireless alone actually has pretty large advantages and beneficial agreements with it’s contemporaries , but of course the Amazon situation is the dream, and every company on earth including Econet wants that too. And last but not least would be the Amazon technological ecosystem. This is how all of Amazon’s devices and services keep encouraging you to use other amazon Devices and services until your whole life is essentially run within Amazon’s ecosystem. Other companies have these as well, Apple especially is the prime example and in a way, Econet is building their own Ecosystem as well. Ecocash is already a must for most people in this country prompting the need for an Econet line, Steward bank accounts work much better if you have an Econet account (trust me, my Telecel line and I suffered until I switched) and all of Econet/Cassava’s apps work better with an Econet line as well . There have even been device efforts made in past like programs such as the Ecoschool initiatives and civil servant contracts as well. Econet wants you to be totally reliant on it for your whole digital life, (which I would say everyone must be careful of) and if not for our economic drawbacks, they might be closer to that goal.
So do Econet’s aspirations to be something more like Amazon mean anything for us or should we be scared of it? Well, in all honesty yes. Tech companies in the USA and other developed countries are continually facing problems with their governments these days because they simply have too much power which their governments simply never thought they could have, and now that is causing multiple unforeseen problems in multiple facets of life. Letting Econet or any other company in Zim get to that point would be a huge mistake, and hopefully perhaps being backward in such cycles will allow us time to decide what we  want in the future of our own tech industry, and the give and take that involves.

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