BIG5D.TV Episode Four: Lunga Siyo, Telkom

Telkom SMB CEO Describes New Ecosystem to Help SMMEs Take on Enterprise Companies in New BIG5D.TV Interview

Episode Four of BIG5D.TV features an in-depth discussion with Lunga Siyo, CEO, of Telkom SMB. Lunga explains Telkom’s vision for the SMME market.

Lunga also shares his views on the prospects for economic recovery and what is needed to support the recovery. And he even opines on which market is poised for a faster recovery, Johannesburg or Cape Town.

Lunga has spent the past year folding three of Telkom’s SME facing entities (including the Yellow Pages publishing division that Lunga had previously led) into a single unit that helps South Africa small businesses, in Lunga’s words, “compete against large enterprises.”

The unit has a measure of autonomy within Telkom to attack the SMB challenge and opportunity. The SMB group has its own management team and governing board, Lunga tells us.

Below are some highlights from our BIG5D.TV interview with Lunga, with timestamps that direct you to relevant segments of the interview.

Reorganizing to Support SMBs

Watch Video (segment begins at 1:18) The conversation began with Lunga’s explanation of the new Telkom operation, which combines separate businesses covering connectivity, IT, and marketing services.

“We wanted to create something that is unique to the market,” Lunga said.

One example of the innovations emerging from the new consolidated SMB unit is Freed. This is a new free portal that uses a unique currency called “T-Coins” to reward consumers for engaging with SMB content on the portal.

Another is Telkom’s newly rebranded Yellow Pages mobile app, called “Yep” which is currently in beta. Listen to Lunga describe the new app and the status of the overall rebranding effort here.

Creating an SMME Ecosystem

Watch Video (segment begins at 4:17) In the interview, Lunga describes an “ecosystem” vision for Telkom SMB. This ecosystem would let small businesses access the services they need to launch and operate a business, including connectivity, productivity tools, marketing solutions, even trade finance.

The advantage to SMEs, according to Lunga, is leveraging the economies of scale created by aggregating the purchasing power of Telcom’s small business customer base.

Lunga compares the platform to a marketplace where SMMEs “can go online and buy anything they want.”

This platform, in which SMMEs aggregate into a single entity with purchasing power, can help small business customers access services that were once unavailable or priced out of reach.

One example is financial services. Noting the current high cost of banking for South African SMMEs, Lunga said the new entity can “aggregate the supply side for them form a banking perspective.”

This can extend into lending, he said, with Telkom negotiating better terms on behalf of its small business customers, in aggregate.

Similarly, Lunga says Telkom can offer favorable rates on productivity applications like Xero, Microsoft365, and more. The ecosystem can give its customers access to marketing technology solutions at favorable rates as well, Lunga said.

Our interview with Lunga is comprehensive and wide-ranging. The following convenient Interview Outline allows you to skip to the segments of the conversation that are most relevant or interesting to you. We also encourage you to watch the interview is its slightly edited entirety below.

Episode Four: Interview Outline

Click on timestamps at left to jump directly to the relevant segment of our interview with Telkom executive Lunga Siyo.

(1:18) Telkom’s new SMB organization explained

(4:17) Telkom’s vision of a comprehensive digital ecosystem for small businesses

(9:42) How the platform is specialized for specific industries

(12:10) How Telkom adapted its product roadmap to the COVID-19 crisis

(15:30) The outlook for SMME survival post lockdown

(18:21) Lunga’s views on the economic recovery

(18:53) Recovery prospects for Johannesburg vs Cape Town

(20:35) Influence of digital readiness pre-crisis on SMME survival

(22:30) Structural changes needed to support small-business growth

(25:54) Final thoughts and new Yellow Pages branding

Watch the full interview with Lunga Siyo

BIG5D.TV is an online news magazine from BigFive Digital featuring interviews with thought leaders in the Africa/Middle East local digital ecosystem. Each episode is a concise 15-20 minute package. 

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