The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card is something you probably don’t think about very much, except when you get a new phone and the card needs to be transferred from the old device to the new one, along with the phone’s stored information.
But SIM cards serve an important purpose in telecommunications. They link a physical device with the owner’s account, making it possible to route calls for individuals to the right device and allowing phone companies to accurately measure utilization and charge subscribers for their service.
Here in Ethiopia, a pioneer facility was set up by the Lootah Industries PLC for the production of Smartcards. As the Telecommunication industry opens up with a new entrant Safaricom-Ethiopia, the local smart card solutions will be of great benefit to the economy.
In order to better understand the smart card solution and technology market that includes GSM SIM Business, Banking Cards and the like, Capital drew link with Prateek Dayal, who is a visionary with deep understanding of the Telecommunications and IT industry. Prateek leads Lootah Industries as the Executive Director and has a career that spans over 25 years.
Prateek has also held key roles in leading global organizations like Hewlett-Packard and Xerox at Director level positions. He has further managed global organizations in the areas of Telecommunications, Information Technology, IT strategy, Development, IT Infrastructure Management, Channel Management (1st and 2nd Tier), Distribution Management, End User sales, ERP implementations, Marketing, Finance, Operations and Human Resources. The following were the insights provided by Prateek. Excerpts;
Capital: Can you please tell us about Lootah Industries PLC, a brief history?
Prateek Dayal: Lootah Industries PLC was incorporated in 2012 and has diversified business interests spanning Information Technology, Telecommunications, Agriculture, Steel and water.
Lootah Industries PLC started construction of the Smartcard manufacturing facility in October 2019 at the invitation of Ethio Telecom as such a facility did not exist in Ethiopia and would be a strong asset to the economy.
It took only 2 years to build this world class facility despite the challenges and delays caused by the Coronavirus. The factory is fully operational and will start live production in November 2021.
Capital: Do you operate in other African countries? If yes where?
Prateek Dayal: The Lootah Group of Companies was established in 1973 and is headquartered in Dubai (U.A.E). The Lootah Group has a presence across Africa and the Middle East. The countries where they operate in are UAE, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Tanzania. We plan to invest US$ 250 million over the next 3 years in Ethiopia, Vietnam and Germany.
Capital: When did you start the construction of your facility in Ethiopia?
Prateek Dayal: The planning for the Smartcard manufacturing unit started in October 2019.
Capital: How much money did you invest in the facility?
Prateek Dayal: The investment in the GSM SIM manufacturing facility is US$ 4 million. We plan to invest another US$ 6 million into the Banking and ID card operations.
Capital: Who will be your major customers in East Africa and beyond?
Prateek Dayal: The priority is to serve the people of Ethiopia, so the focus is Ethio Telecom, Safaricom and any other operator in the country. We also have plans to start exports to other African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Somalia.
Capital: How do you describe the SIM card business in Ethiopia and East Africa?
Prateek Dayal: Ethiopia has a strong and growing smartcard market which is supported by the government policy to attract new Telecom Operators to the country and expand the telecom reach to every citizen in the country. The East African market is equally strong and growing.
Capital: You are also vying to make bank cards, who are you targeting, and did you approach any banks operating in Ethiopia and the region?
Prateek Dayal: We will start the banking cards operation in 2021. The priority is the Ethiopian banks requirements of debit and credit cards as all these cards are imported at the moment. After this we will start exporting the banking cards. Our partnership with Thales is important in this regard as they have a strong banking cards presence in Ethiopia and Africa.
Capital: Are you planning to do cards for electric power meters?
Prateek Dayal: This is not planned at the moment.
Capital: How would you describe your facility here in Ethiopia?
Prateek Dayal: It is a High End Technology, world class facility built to international standards. The factory was designed by a highly experienced team which planned a smooth workflow between the different manufacturing processes.
The equipment used is brand new and the best in class. For the card personalization process, we have used equipment from Muehlbauer (Germany).
When you are inside the facility you will not know whether you are in Germany, Singapore or Ethiopia.