Why Safarciom Blaze May Not Be All That Blazing

By now you should be aware of what Safaricom Blaze is? During it's much hyped debut last year, I will admit to be one of those people who could care less. After all, my Safaricom line up until this time had been dismissed to "lighter duties" - those of M-PESA only - reason being that Safaricom was rather unfriendly for a jobless youth's pockets. Later on when I realized that this Blaze thing was actually a Tariff, and not the run of the mill type but one tailored for my generation, I decided why not give it a try. Just the idea that I could create my plan sounded fantastic being that I was a regular Airtel Unliminet user and hated the fact that I was being given hundreds of useless SMS'es that I never got to use. Little did I know the situation was no different here.

Empower the Youth - Cash on the Millennials

The Blaze Tariff is age-restricted, and so not everyone can subscribe to it. The age group targeted is that of between 10 - 26 years, and since it launched in 2016, that means only those born in the year 1990 and later are eligible to join. This tariff is however still available to them even if they get older than 26.

Now, what's so special about this age group that Safaricom found it necessary to create a whole tariff just for them? Well, here's what I’ve been speculating:

a. Spending Habits

Having the age stats of their subscribers at their disposal thanks to SIM registration, Safaricom must have analysed their data and found something "special" about the spending habits of this age group. If I were to make a guess, I would say that the age group doesn't spend nearly as much on talk time as they do on bundles and SMS'es - that is to mean, they spend on average less compared to other age groups since talk time is what's more expensive; and that’s essentially Safaricom’s cash cow thanks in part to them having the highest call rates to the extent they can afford to "compensate" you for getting your calls dropped.

b. Data Heavy

When compared to other generations, millennials stand out as very heavy internet users, utilizing the bulk of it on a variety of social networks and mobile messaging apps. All these platforms are loaded with rich media, which means plenty of data is needed and Blaze taps into that with its data only plans and data offers. What's more, the SMS platform is clearly on its deathbed thanks to mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp and now with the provision of 4G speeds, traditional calls are the next in line with the adoption of Voice over Internet. I mean, WhatsApp already rolled out theirs and people are getting quite comfortable with it, young people especially.

c. Dependency

One universal thing about this age group regardless of their generation, is that they are more likely to be dependent on a parent/guardian for their needs than any other group i.e. including the money for airtime. So what does that mean? Their usage is almost guaranteed and will likely follow a particular pattern due to constant allocations. So in a way it's easier to meet and approximate their usage needs compared to independent adults with varying needs, incomes and disposable incomes.

d. Big Numbers

To follow up with the previous point, this same age group constitutes the bulk of the population (being under 35 and all). Couple this with the endemic joblessness and you get subscribers with limited spending ability but who fortunately are big enough to offset losses that may be incurred by offering "cheap" plans (i.e by Safaricom standards).

e. Tech-savvy

The age group is tech-savvy enough to accommodate the complex delivery system that is needed to fulfil a custom usage plan since USSD may not be ideal for that. What I'm talking about is the personalized web dashboard where the "blazers" create their plans; it would nothing but short of a loss-making nightmare had this been given to the older generation, some of who struggle using USSD itself.

f. Nocturnals

One very special thing about millennials is that they tend to have a very skewed “concept of time”. Chatting or working over the Internet in ungodly hours is hardly a problem for them, and to the networks, that means an opportunity to offer cheap "goodies" during offpeak hours when the system is not overloaded.

g. CSR

The last piece of the puzzle is the corporate social responsibility (CSR). Blaze wouldn't be as big as it has become without the noble CSR arm holding it up high, namely BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) or simply, the mentorship and empowerment of those aforementioned jobless youths. For this to be successful, one key ingredient is needed due to the nature of the targeted group. That thing is hype, and it's needed in generous amounts in flavours such as cool and persistent adverts, hip events, TV shows, celebrities etc; add this and more to the mix and just leave the rest to the mechanics of identity. Still, just the mere fact that millions are being locked out of this "big thing" makes it too special not to join - even if it's to test the waters. I should know, I eventually caught fire from the constant barrage of flaming SMS'es coming from this blazing firestorm.

Create Your Plan - Out of Our Plans

The whole Blaze "Create Your Plan" thing as I came to find out was just a smoke screen. Safaricom's idea of you creating your own plan is them making several plans from which you can choose from. It's no different from Airtel's Unliminet, is just that this time you get to move some sliders on your browser, hence giving the illusion of you creating a plan.
blaze cyp
Blaze CYP: Create your "plan" from our plans

What's more, the same problem with Airtel's Unliminet is still here. This networks are fully aware that nobody uses SMS'es that much nowadays, and that's why they're happy to give you hundreds of them while disproportionately giving you what you actually use (minutes and bundles). Between the two, Safaricom's Blaze as expected is indisputably the more expensive however it offers more flexibility in the plans.

Don't quite believe me? Let me break it down for you.

Let's look at their cheapest offering here, which might be the most attractive.
Main Plan
Blaze Daily @ 10
Sub Plans
Data (MB)

A quick look at that table gives the impression that it's cheap but truth of the matter it's no different from the standard tariffs. The only exception is SMS'es but the rest is business as usual. The "master rates" from which all the plans are computed are as follows:
  • 1.5mb @ Ksh1
  • 36sec @ Ksh2.0
  • SMS @ Ksh0.20

The minutes rate is typical of Safaricom and offers no discount whatsoever to the money tight blazer. The data rate themselves are typical of all networks if not a little bit expensive. To those who Safaricom has seemingly cast a spell it's times like this you should be most grateful for the existence of "Mwitu Bundles".

Now that's just the rate for the Ksh.10 daily plan. The "master rates" change the more money is involved, but things don't get as cheap as you would've expected. As a matter of fact, the minute rate goes up, higher than the standard rate of Ksh.3 per min.

For Ksh.20 daily the "master rate" is as follows:
  • 2mb @ Ksh1
  • 1min @ Ksh4.0
  • SMS @ Ksh0.20

Now let's compare one "sub-plan" from Blaze that is comparable to Airtel's offering in Unliminet 20 Daily:
Unliminet Daily @ 20
Blaze Daily @ 20
Data (MB)
8 (4 to Airtel, 4 to other networks)

As you can see, Safaricom is still by far the more pocket unfriendly. Airtel actually just recently revised the Unliminet Packages by reducing the Data and splitting the minutes across networks. Had I used the original rates, you'd be surprised. What's more, in Airtel you still get 100MB data for use on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter once your plan's data bundles get exhausted. Just what a Blazer needs.

Without even looking into the weekly and monthly Blaze plans I think this enough proof that Blaze Tariff is far from being cheap plan despite its exclusivity. If you have your doubts, be my guest and do the calculations.

Data Only Plans

Being the heavy internet users, Blaze does tap into this by offering data only plans and some data offers. These data only plans are cheap by Safaricom standards but there are far cheaper rates out there, and I'm not referring to 'Mwitu Bundles'.

As I write this, the data bundle plans at my disposal are as follows:
Power Hour Bundle 150MB @ KSh19 (8MB at KSh1)
Daily 75MB @ KSh30 (2.5MB at KSh1)
Daily 175MB @ KSh50 (3.5MB at KSh1)
Weekly 375MB @ KSh150 (2.5MB at KSh1)
Blaze Bundles
Blaze Bundles Page Two

The Power Hour Bundle, which I should mention I can't help but think this is a euphemism for something here is a clear winner here, but its only ideal for time constrained use - like when you need to download something large (no pun intended). If you however don't mind the time of the hour, you can get a better deal with Airtel's Club Bundle for almost the same price:
250MB Night Data @ KSh20 (valid between Midnight to 6am)
With regards to the other bundles, the prices are comparable though the competition does have some great offers which are almost similarly priced:
Orange XCELL Daily @ KSh50 - 400MB Data (8MB at KSh1)
Unliminet Modem Daily @ KSh50 - 200MB (+"Unlimited" Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter)
Unliminet Modem Weekly @ KSh250 - 1GB (+"Unlimited" Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter)
The Airtel Unliminet Modem Bundles do work on Phones and not just modems. Also, you can subscribe to this plan while on the usual Unlminet plan. The speeds are throttled down to 256Kbps once the data gets exhausted, so in real sense you are getting way more data since 256Kbps is not that bad a speed. You can actually easily use upwards of 500MB and between 2-4GBs in the weekly plan if you're patient and do employ the services of a download manager. Just make sure you've good reception and 3G/4G capable phone or modem.

Now, I haven't included all the available plans out there but I feel this is enough proof that the Blaze bundles are not necessarily the cheapest option out there. Another proof is that Mwitu Bundles are still alive and kicking despite Safaricoms efforts and you'll have to agree, they are especially popular with the age group Blaze is busy trying to target.


Beyond business as usual, I actually commend Safaricom for their noble efforts. Truth of the matter is that as much as Blaze stands to rake in huge profits, at least it's empowering some youths out there. I may never use blaze plans seeing I can get better deals from their competition, but I'm willing to stick around if just for Blaze BYOB. The potential benefits of that I can't downplay, even with the thinly veiled consumerism, though I’ll admit not getting involved or being excited for that matter. Sometimes this makes me wonder how BYOB would’ve have fared if it had stood on its own; if it only were spared of the of the inevitable CPR (corporate profiteering responsibility).

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