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Kwesé iflix CEO: Localized strategy key to rivaling Netflix, Amazon in Africa

➤ Kwesé iflix to debut original comedy productions, short-form series and lifestyle documentaries this year.

➤ Strong rise in short-form production formats creates new content opportunities.

➤ Payment options linked to mobile wallets and direct carrier billing schemes, instead of credit cards, offer access to new audiences.

Emerging markets-focused subscription streaming video service iflix may have sold its remaining stake in Kwesé iflix, its African business venture with Econet's satellite TV service Kwesé, but executives at the helm of the platform said the strong uptake in local content signals a market brimming with opportunity.

S&P Global Market Intelligence spoke with Mayur Patel, CEO of Kwesé iflix about the group's original content roadmap and its growth strategy for the coming year.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: What is the platform's target audience?

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Mayur Patel, CEO of Kwesé iflix

Source: Kwesé iflix

Mayur Patel: The real focus for us is a broad base of consumers looking for entertainment on-the-go. While we don't specifically target the younger demographic, the bulk of our users are between the ages of 24 and 35. We plan to target our audience by ramping up local content. People want to see themselves represented in the stories we tell. As a result, following our recent launches of "Nganya," a 13-part Kenyan drama series, and "Nyavu," a Tanzanian telenovela, we'll be introducing some original comedy productions, short-form series and lifestyle documentaries this year.

The bulk of our users consume our content primarily on their mobile phone ... we are seeing a rise in a range of short-form production formats, including short-form movies and short-form dramas. This makes it an exciting time for producers and consumers.

Are you looking to create shows that could have international appeal?

Our primary focus is telling local stories that resonate with the local market. In some instances, there is a deep country focus. In other cases, we take a regional approach as we increasingly look to push out content that travels across the continent, as well. If you take, "Nganya," for example, that has appeal across East Africa, and beyond. So we are seeing storylines that can travel and are relevant to more than just their home market audiences.

How do you contend with the much larger budgets of players such as Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc.?

The larger global players are starting to make broader steps toward becoming full, international services. We certainly welcome their entry as their investment will likely enrich the broader video ecosystem. That said, companies such as Netflix and Amazon will always be global entities first, so we do not see them as major competitors to our service. Unlike them, Kwesé iflix is an African company at our core and that enables us to tell different stories at a local level and to invest directly in our markets in ways that Netflix cannot. For example, we have invested in a significant localization and subtitling team in East Africa, and we will continue to find ways to localize our service.

Secondly, the global players are often serving a different audience to ours. In order to access Netflix and Amazon, for example, you need an international credit card. In our markets, those with access to credit cards are part of a very different audience. Instead, our service is connected to a vast number of mobile wallets and direct carrier billing schemes so that people can buy our service as easily as possible without the need for a credit card.

What is your strategy for standing out from regional competitors?

We really see Kwesé iflix as a comprehensive mobile entertainment solution. We are one of the few services out there combining the very best of on-demand content, live sport including English Premier League soccer matches each week linear entertainment, local free-to-air TV and news. So the service is unique in that sense. If you look at where the future of TV is going globally and this is no different in Africa the internet is a big part of that. And in our markets, that internet base is dominated by mobile. This means that our platform often complements other services, rather than competes with them. With local, free-to-air channels, for instance, we are providing them with a digital channel and the ability to offer catch up and on-demand services that they would otherwise not provide for consumers.