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iConnect: Calvin Collett

When VoIP was made legal in 2004, technology whiz Calvin Collett was keen to become a reseller so he did some investigating.

Monique Verduyn

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Calvin Collett

“What I saw did not impress me,” he recalls.“At the time, if you wanted to interconnect to a South African landline or cellular number you were routed via London and back again to get a cheaper rate. The quality of the calls was terrible. I knew there had to be opportunity to provide a superior service in a market that was being liberalised.”

As fate would have it, he met two guys who had sold all their business interests and were looking for something new to put their money into.  “I approached them with my idea: to build a high-quality, low-cost solution for all fixed line call types including on-net, inter-branch, local, national, international and fixed-to-mobile calls.

The theory was to make it possible for people to hear each other clearly and save money at the same time.” Thinking that he had what sounded like a good idea, his two new business partners invested R8 million, enabling Collett to build his dream solution. He was single-minded about one thing: “I was not going to launch the product until we could offer quality comparable to what people were getting from a landline.”

iConnect began selling to the corporate and SME sector at the beginning of 2008. Collett opted to build a channel of resellers rather than sell direct. He approached people who had contacts and credibility and brought them into the fold. “Clive Rice was one of our first resellers,” he says.

“Today we have more than 40 and they carry all the costs.It’s a model we’re going to build on.” iConnect keeps things simple. There are no upfront capital costs and customers are billed per second. Collett targets businesses with phone bills ranging from R10 000 to R200 000. A small business can save up to 30% a month on a R10 000 account.

The company has been growing at a rate of 30% per month since the beginning of 2009. “What’s really great is thatresellers like Nashua and Panasonic are now approaching us,” Collett says. What’s exciting him now is the furore around interconnect rates. “Soon we’ll be able to compete aggressively again stall the networks, offer even bigger savings to end-users and grow our own margins. But for now, we’re focusing on what we do best – providing an excellent voice service that capitalises on what the Internet has to offer.”          

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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