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Meza quits Airtel Kenya as restructuring gathers pace

By | September 6th 2011

By Macharia Kamau and Morris Aron

Airtel Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza has left the company amid mounting tension among staff over an on-going restructuring.

After months of speculation that Meza was on his way out following the acquisition of the mobile operator by India’s Bharti Airtel, which were strongly denied by the company, it is now official after three years he has thrown in the towel.

Airtel Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza moves to Tanzania to head Vodacom Tanzania. [PHOTO: FILE]

Meza moves to Tanzania to head Vodacom Tanzania – a subsidiary of the Vodacom Group, the South African subsidiary of Vodafone Group of UK.

Yesterday, Airtel Kenya appointed Shivan Bhargava as the chief operating officer.

Meza leaves Airtel’s operation in Kenya at a time when the company is implementing a restructuring programme that is causing discontent among the staff. The programme aims to increase the operator’s efficiency and give it an edge in the competitive mobile telephony sector.

According to insiders, more than 200 employees are set to lose their jobs as Airtel goes for a lean operating model that is expected to reduce overheads.

The firm is looking at retaining a lean workforce to undertake core functions in its new model of operations, where most of the non-core work is outsourced.

Already 50 employees have been retrenched in the first phase of the restructuring.

First phase

The initial phase also saw the company adopt a new product and service distribution model, whereby the company will franchise all its retail outlets as opposed to a previous model where it used to run the outlets. Those who were retrenched were mostly working at the outlets.

A second phase is scheduled to start in two months. According to insiders, the firm is targeting at trimming its workforce to about 100 people when the restructuring is complete by early next year.

Airtel Kenya currently employs 325 people directly mainly in management, human resource and marketing after outsourcing most of its operations, including the customer care service and management of its entire network platform.

The company’s head of public relations and communication Dick Omondi, however, denied there were plans for further lay offs outside those that took place a week ago.

"We have not planned staff reductions in November," he said in an e-mail response last week.

"The objective of our re-organisation is to increase our efficiencies in order to deliver more to our customers through the Airtel ecosystem," said Mr Omondi.

The firm was reported to have been planning the restructuring as far back as July, which had been prompted by concerns over loss making from its Indian parent company – Bharti Airtel.

Earlier last week, Managing Director Rene Meza said the outsourcing model would enable the company concentrate on its core services while the outlets would be run by franchise holders, who have experience and understand the retail business.

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