DR Felice Leonardo 'Leo' Buscaglia, also known as 'Dr Love,' an American author and motivational speaker and a professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California once said that," Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
Noting this down, Tigo Tanzania last year changed their long cherished tagline from 'Express Yourself' to "Smile, you're with Tigo" marking its initiatives that the cellular network believes have made customers smile. This new slogan represents products that are on the market which "are reasons for a customer to smile."
These include Tigo Pesa, a country wide money transfer service, Tigo Telco Solutions that caters for SMEs. Others are the recently launched Tigo solar panels that use an eco-friendly energy source for convenient phone charging in areas with no access to electricity and its major Corporate Social Responsibility initiative "Reach for Change" which is a social entrepreneurship programme aimed at supporting children and youth.
"These initiatives and the list is by no means exhaustive, have undoubtedly put a smile on our customer's faces. In addition, our top position in the global social media customer care rankings, shows that we are being noticed and acknowledged for the satisfaction we strive to give our consumers," Tigo General Manager, Diego Gutierrez was quoted to have said.
In 2013 Tigo Tanzania, the telecommunications company that boasts for being the leader in innovations came up with a number of services, products, plans and promotions that helped change people's lives but also managed to put a smile on their faces.
Last year saw the launching of Tigo Kilimo product for farmers, a product which gives weather information, market prices and agronomy tips. A pilot project was launched in April 2012 in Morogoro Region and it is a SMS-based application which presents small-scale farmers in Tanzania to run their operations more productively and the farmers get real-time information.
Tigo Special Programme Manager, Mr Yaya N'Djore said that they already had over 40,000 subscribers of the service and that though the service has yet to reach the interior of the country, there are plans already underway to do so. "Farmers' biggest complaint revolves around market prices, they are demanding for this to be timely and readily available.
We are currently working on modalities with the Ministry of Industry and Trade such that we sort this out," he was quoted to have said. Tigo Kilimo may be new to the ears of many people and was only promoted in the Tigo Smile Tour, which was an activation caravan that travelled in over 10 regions where Tigo planned to widen its reach and strengthen its presence, there is a village in Shinyanga called Ukiriguru where there is no Tigo network coverage, but there are 200 people with Tigo SIM cards.
Ms Nyamizi Mirembe, a sweet potato grower in the village said that she has had the SIM card for a couple of months now and had obtained it specifically for the mobile farming product because she hoped that she would get some insight of new ways of growing sweet potatoes.
She, however, said that because there is no Tigo coverage in her village, she is forced to travel a few hundred kilometres heading to Shinyanga where there is a reception and she has been benefiting from the service but admitted that it was proving costly for her.
In 2013, Tigo Tanzania partnered with the government in the launching of a new national birth registration system which is set to massively accelerate the number of children under 5 with birth certificates. According to the UNICEF, in Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia, less than 20 per cent of all births are registered.
In Ethiopia and Tanzania, more than five times as many children are registered in urban areas than in rural areas. While many countries have introduced legal provisions to make birth registration mandatory, only nine have policies that ensure birth certificates are free.
In countries like Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda, UNICEF is supporting the governments to strengthen and expand birth registration services. "We are bringing the service to the people rather than them having to travel far to access it," Phillip Saliboko, the Chief Executive Officer of the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) said.
The new birth registration system would not have been possible were it not for TIGO's innovative mobile technology. The mobile application simplifies the process of birth registration by entering the registration information into a mobile phone which sends the data to a central database at RITA in real time.
Probably the most celebrated initiative that won the hearts of scores of people and put everlasting smiles on their faces is when the telecommunications company brought the 'Start your own business' where 60 auto rickshaws commonly known as Bajaj were at stake.
Tigo Tanzania wanted to change the lives of Tanzanians bearing in mind that Bajaj transportation was a lucrative business, where the owner makes a conservative figure of 25,000/- to 30,000/- per day earning him around 900,000/- a month and roughly 10.8m/- a year.
Tigo customers stood a chance to win one Bajaj every day by recharging with 1000/- on a daily basis and it didn't have to be in lump sum as long as by the end of the day, the credit totals 1000/-. "My Bajaj was brand new. It was so new that even the oil was so light. It smelt of newness. I couldn't believe that. It was at that moment that I believed I won it.
Thanks to Tigo!" Elias Hamisi Mbamo (47), a resident of Tabora and civil servant, was quoted. That was the day when his life changed. After Tigo gave him the Bajaj, Mbamo is now a different man. He said he has not decided to do business with it because he fears whoever will be driving it, will not take a good care of it.
"What I do now is do business during wedding ceremonies. I get brides or grooms who want to use my Bajaj during their weddings. In a very short time, I can get 10,000/-. After wedding, I can also take some people to their homes. So apart from the daily routine of earning 15,000/- per day it means more money. Tigo has made me an entrepreneur," he said.
The telecom company rounded off the year by launching automated machines that will enable its customers to receive and dispose cash, pay bills, recharge their accounts and purchase or replace lost SIM cards at any time of night or day.
Tigo General Manager, Mr Diego Gutierrez, said the machines called 'Tigo Matic,' will give customers, both holders of prepaid and postpaid accounts, a round-the-clock access to services provided by the mobile phone company.
It is a bitter norm in Tanzania for many good and well thought of programmes, projects and initiatives to start and fail to remain sustainable. While on one side of the coin, the telecom company has put smiles on thousands of Tanzanians, evidence on social media shows there are some frowns. The ball lies in the court of the company to change these into smiles.