2015 will be our third year in the Colombian market. We spent the first year building the company and explaining to people new to the Virgin brand that we were a mobile company that doesn't sell condoms or dairy products (they really thought we did!)...
During the second year we focused on gaining size and momentum, in order to run away from the statistics that say eight out of 10 mobile virtual operators die before year three. Now, in this third year, we'll focus on keeping our customers happy to run away from the statistic that says virtual operators usually die from retention, not acquisition. So our first challenge this year is to keep the growth pace by acquiring customers, while keeping competitors away from our customer base.
How do you achieve that in a neighborhood controlled by three big guys? Hit and run. We'll use innovation to shake the market and then run for our next hit before competitors catch us. While they opt for cowardice, we go for ‘smart agility’ - we are literally running for our lives. It’s like a videogame where you bet your life as part of each level, you don't even have time to celebrate reaching the next level because your life is again in danger. However you have lots of fun by cruising through the game and avoiding any obstacles.
And that's our second challenge for this year: keeping the fun in everyday activities, with everyday difficulties, despite our growth. It's easier to cheer up a bunch of guys that fit into a minivan than hundreds of people spread over many facilities and cities.
We will have some help in the form of a real milestone, when we move from our miniscule start-up offices to our brand new location, a real business headquarter.
After looking for months for the right place, the right location and the right landlord (not all of them are ok with the idea of having a horde of people with tattoos, piercings, long hair and weird outfits hanging out in their buildings), we finally found our place. Now everybody wants to participate in designing the offices, the decor and furniture, so you can imagine the hard time our architect is having dealing with such a diversity of ideas.
In terms of the market we are dealing with this year, we expect a newborn trend to develop further: The Virgin Mobile effect. Virgin Mobile Colombia became the biggest virtual mobile operator in Latin America in just two years of operation, calling the attention from existent and newcomers that want to follow the same simple recipe for success (a secret here: it's not that simple!).
The market is witnessing old dogs trying to play new tricks, rigid companies trying to pose as rockers and a sudden interest in younger customers. And Virgin Mobile has shown that it's possible to have a regional alternative to dominant global operators, so we are seeing an increased interest from regulators to issue new rules allowing virtual mobile operators to bloom. Recent rules issued by Peru and Ecuador, along with the intention from Brazil and Colombia to do something similar this year, all support this trend.
This also means more competition, regional retailers are entering the mobile market. And other companies from other industries (like insurance, for instance) are considering mobile services as an add-on for their customer base. Another reason to stick to our ‘smart agility’ tactic: keep running.
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