Mr. Segun Ogunsanya is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most celebrated company CEOs as he sits atop the country’s second largest telecoms outfit, Airtel. But his influence in Airtel extends beyond Nigeria to Airtel Ghana where he also oversees the company’s business there.
Interestingly, Ogunsanya has a personality and public image which belie his status as the head of a multibillion Naira telephony network Group. He is naturally unassuming, easy going and resilient. Indeed, the Airtel chieftain is avant-garde, full of ideas, energy and passion for the work he does. He is also a man focused on making history. As a matter of fact, he has already made history having been the longest serving CEO of the organization. Not only that, Ogunsanya is equally the only Nigerian CEO of a major telecommunications multinational company in the country that has remained very profitable and value-driven.
Being in the saddle for five years also speaks volumes about his achievements as a leader with targets, sometime stretching targets. For someone who has been CEO since the age of 32, he is certainly living up to expectations. He cut his teeth at Arthur Andersen having switched easily from Engineering to Accounting and then moved to Coca-Cola International starting from Ghana, where he grew to become the CEO. He moved to Kenya as CEO of the Coca-Cola operations there and returned to Nigeria as CEO of the Nigerian Bottling Company, the bottlers of Coca-Cola. It was from there he joined Airtel bringing along his FMCG experience apparently to make Airtel the “Coca-Cola” of the telecommunications industry.
Instructively, his job at Airtel has not been less challenging than his previous sojourn in the corporate world; but it is while at Airtel that he has received some of the biggest accolades of his career.
In 2014, just two years into his job as CEO at Airtel, he was named Telecom CEO of The Year at the Nigerian Telecoms Awards. Also in 2017, he got the award for Best Telecoms CEO in Africa by the Africa Information Technology and Telecom Awards 2017. The following year, he was accorded another major recognition as the Credit Management Director of the Year by the Institute of Credit Administration (ICA) at its 2018 Nigeria Credit Industry Awards.
But Segun’s greatest recognition has come in the form of the success which he has brought to Airtel since his appointment as CEO. Under his watch, Airtel has transformed from a company struggling in the shadows of boardroom challenges and unusually high frequency of ownership tussles to one of Nigeria’s fastest growing companies. Airtel’s growth is underlined by its sharp rise in subscriber base, which at the last count had clocked 41.3 million, making undoubtedly the second most subscribed telco network in Nigeria.
The company has rebound from the shadows of its challenges to become pretty much the fastest growing teleco company in Nigeria and a large part of the transformation has been made possible by Ogunsanya’s Midas touch. Under his watch as CEO, Airtel Nigeria subscriber base which was on a wane following the crisis, quickly picked up pace; rising from less that 20million subscribers, to its present level of over 40milliom.
Marketing and advertising have undoubtedly been among the levers by which Airtel Nigeria has achieved unprecedented market penetration and growth. In the last several years, the brand has been reputed for its strong advertising, steeped in local culture and which also resonates globally. Some of its award-winning adverts includes “Data is Life” which won Gold at Epica; Prayer, one of the most talked about campaign of 2017 and of recent, Gele.
Another very successful campaign by Airtel is Airtel Touching Live – a double edged programme that delivers both as a Corporate Social Responsibility and a marketing strategy. Through this initiative, Airtel is able to address sustainability issues and also impacts directly the lives of its Nigerian consumers. But more importantly, Airtel using the programme, has successfully positioned itself as a brand that cares, not just about growth, but much more about the wellbeing of its consumers.
But while Airtel has been focused on making great campaigns, Ogunsanya has also ensured cutting edge delivery in terms of product development and spread. For example, Airtel 3G network is said to be the best in the country; and it is credited for being the first with a pan Nigeria 4G network coverage. Also in terms of customer service Airtel has been consistently rated as above its rivals.
In a citation read during the ICA award ceremony at the Lagos Business School (LBS) on Saturday, November 24, 2018, ICA said of him, “Mr. Ogunsanya, at Airtel, has ensured effective and proper credit management and administration as he recognizes the important role credit plays in developing the telecoms industry as well as connecting and creating prosperity opportunities for more Nigerians.
“He understands that in credit management, one cap does not fit all and as such has ensured that the different segments of the customers are appropriately catered for both to the delight of the customers and at the same time protecting the interests of the business,” the ICA said in a citation during the event.
The Airtel boss has also been honoured as the African CEO of the year by the Africa Information Technology & Telecom Awards 2017, a pan-African platform that recognizes customer service, innovation and excellence in Africa’s Telecoms and Information Technology industry.
According to a citation by Akin Naphtal, CEO of Instinct Wave, the event organizers: “The award is bestowed on Mr. Segun Ogunsanya in recognition of his outstanding acts, commitment, achievements and leadership that exemplify and support Airtel’s commercial success despite economic challenges and his phenomenal contributions to the community. Over the years that he has been at the helm of affairs at Airtel Nigeria, he has provided high-value programs and strategic initiatives that have supported the growth of the business and made Airtel a model telecommunications company”.