UC plan gives MoCo its mojo

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In 2008, MoCo embarked on a strategy to become a complete communications provider, while shedding all but one of its network partners. With record sales, that strategy seems to be paying off, reports Paul Withers

In 2009, Rochester-based MoCo told Mobile News its mission was to be known more as a converged mobile distributor, rather than just an airtime distributor.

Its first milestone on the road to unified comms came when it bought Sussex-based software distributor JIT Systems last September. This acquisition gave MoCo 70 new clients and three more employees.

JIT’s expertise also gave MoCo the ability to provide hosting, Cloud computing and bespoke software services. The business now operates under the title MoCo Software Solutions as a stand-alone division.

MoCo had been a client of JIT’s and the company designed MoCo’s systems and web portal for sales, ordering, stock control, connections and revenue streams, and optimised for O2’s revenue share systems.

The next fruit of the union with JIT was the NFC ‘Touch’ product. MoCo is now preparing to launch its mobile forms product ‘MoBilize’, which now positions the company as much more than pure airtime distribution.

MoCo managing director Ian Robinson (pictured) says the company is embracing unified comms to differentiate itself from other distributors and to generate loyalty from its 100 or so dealer partners.

“This is very much about reshaping the company away from the traditional distribution model. For example, Daisy Group has fixed-line pedigree and is also a mobile distributor through Daisy Distribution. Avenir Telecom specialises in mobiles and accessories and HSC has the clout of being backed by The Carphone Warehouse.

Value-added service

“MoCo needed a differentiator. I saw our niche as being on the software side. We’re not involved in accessories and handsets. We are about airtime distribution and helping our partners retain their customers with additional services and helping them increase the revenue they get from them.”

Robinson agrees dealers need to become more than box shifters. They must seek to sell value-added services.

He cites the Touch NFC product and MoBilize as offerings that can help his customers innovate.

“Some dealers won’t change. They are probably looking after their existing customers. But they aren’t bringing in much new business. We want to give them a chance to sell something new.

“There has long been the perception that airtime distributors see fixed-line offerings as rivals. The fixed-line companies think we want to put them out of business because the world is going mobile. But we’ve all learned there is plenty of space for both sectors to co-exist.”

Robinson does not want MoCo’s partners to think the move to unified comms means it is abandoning its core business of airtime distribution. Rather, the shift to selling business applications is a “natural evolution for the business”.

“Our relationship with our sole network partner O2 is as strong now as it has been for the last 26 years. We are one of four ‘Distributor Centre of Excellence’ partners for O2, along with Avenir Telecom, HSC and Daisy Distribution.

“But we’ve grown from just providing voice-based services. Now our portfolio is voice, data, email, smartphones and business applications, and we’ve moved into fixed-line and broadband connectivity. The natural progression is adding business applications.”

IT benefits

He also acknowledges the role his dealers play.

“The dealer has a relationship with local businesses. Because they know these clients, they can offer the right tariffs and product bundles. Clearly,payroll is one of the biggest costs to any business. So a mobility solution is essential to add value to that.

“The acquisition of JIT Systems has been a driving force behind this change, developing MoBilize. The business has integrated well and now our sales people understand the benefits of IT and software-based products. It now enables them to approach customers with a more complete sales pitch.

“Merging the mobile and IT sales cultures has been interesting. Our mobile sales execs are now more comfortable talking about business process solutions. In the mobile world we all have a background of giving products away to
customers who think it is their right to have free stuff. But people who use software solutions realise they have to pay for their laptops, services and solutions.”

Robinson doesn’t rule out acquiring more companies in future. For now, MoCo is looking to grow organically. It is currently recruiting more people with expertise of selling business software and developing applications.

Robinson’s plans for MoCo now seem settled. But last year was unsettling as some of its airtime distribution partnerships with networks were being terminated. MoCo once had airtime distribution agreements with four networks: O2, Vodafone, Orange and Three. In 2009, Orange left the stable as volumes dropped, leaving MoCo committed to O2 for business connections and Three for consumer business, while its direct sales operation connected to O2 and Vodafone. Three dropped out soon after as its level of connections dwindled.

Full article in Mobile News issue 487 (April 25, 2011).

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