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Richard Hechle: Why we dropped Access Kenya name after take over

By Patrick Alushula | Jan 31st 2018 | 4 min read
By Patrick Alushula | January 31st 2018

NAIROBI, KENYA: Richard Hechle took over as Chief Executive for Internet Solutions (IS) Kenya (formerly Access Kenya Group) in October 2015 after the company’s buyout by Dimension Data and subsequent delisting from the Nairobi Securities Exchange. He spoke to Financial Standard about his task of transforming the company to a division of a multinational while preserving its corporate culture amidst change in ownership.

Why was it important to drop ‘Access Kenya’ and pick on a new name?

Actually, the business had been co-existing as Access Kenya and Internet Solutions. We are officially adopting the new Internet Solutions (IS-Kenya) brand on February 1, 2018. The decision to use the IS name and logo was purely driven by its brand equity across Africa and globally.  Upon acquisition, the new business was looking at a stronger African presence and expertise that Internet Solutions had built over 21 years. It, therefore, made sense to leverage this equity and adopt the IS brand.

How possible has it been for you to transition customers from Access Kenya to Internet Solutions Kenya?

As a new CEO who took over fromwhat was a family run business, I made a decision to avoid making dramatic changes and focused on listening and learning before making any change. I settled on three key areas- People, Product and Process - that would help preserve the strengths but also drive the consolidated business. After the buyout, we combined expertise from both businesses and we continue to upskill our people to match industry developments and business growth. Our focus in the last three years has been to provide growth in all facets related to the provision of ICT by layering value added services on connectivity. We are now a full - ICT service provider as opposed to just being an ISP.

You took over a local company whose fortunes rose, helping it list on the NSE but later on delisted. What changed in terms of strategy and market positioning?

First was to ensure clarity on where we were going, what we were doing, and what our plans were, communicating across the business and to our clients, and understanding the vision of the new investors.Both businesses had unmatched history and potential, so we reviewed what value both were bringing to our clients, and worked towards consolidated growth in revenue, talent growth and a differentiated product offering. With this, the business shifted its strategy from being a connectivity provider into a full ICT service provider, tapping into non-connectivity revenue and partnerships with a regional presence. We have made a lot of investment in network upgrades to ensure that we have the right infrastructure to deliver these solutions while exploring partnerships that meet the demand for ICT services by other client segments.

Transitioning a business from family owned into a fully integrated subsidiary of an international business is never easy. What was your secret?

To successfully lead an organisation, you need to have the right people constantly communicating and working together.    I dedicated my first 60 days to listening, learning and understanding the business while the next 40 were dedicated to the new strategy implementation. I have had to learn and I am still learning how to drive the business based on the expertise and insights of my team. 

Demand for internet in Kenya continues to soar, with users jumping above 31.1 million. What does this mean for IS?   Rather than simply look at the provision of connectivity, we’re looking at value addition; what more possibilities lie on the internet and what more can be done using the internet as an enabler. We have partnered with Facebook and Surf to focus on providing Kenyan consumers with affordable high-speed internet via public Wi-Fi hotspots and home services.  Relying on IS Kenya Infrastructure, Surf is offering public Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Nairobi neighbourhoods and universities. Increased demand for bandwidth means more data, more devices and therefore security. We’re well positioned with our Cloud solutions, Data Back Up and recovery, security advisory and training as well as business continuity – will assist businesses to reduce the impact of disruption in the event of an incident.

Which opportunities do you see in suite of security solutions you unveiled recently?

As global threats take a different form, so does the risk profile of a business. We realised that a lot of businesses had a single vision and reactionary approach to cyber threats. Rarely do organisations dedicate staff training and education to cybersecurity.

What is in store for internet users from IS this year?

The focus is on national and regional expansion and investing in people and to drive the transformation of the business into an ICT Service provider.

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