Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The meaning of "bardaks" and the Telia brand

When Telia MultiCom, the cable TV and internet service provider with around 75 000 customers in Latvia was recently sold to a private investor, no one made him change the brand name immediately. Apparently Telia thought they could give the new team a little time to find a new name. No harm done.
This blogger has gotten several reports of an apparently misfired attempt by Telia MultiCom to raise its monthly analog cable TV package price. This, customers claim, was done without warning and even customers who used an option to pay in advance have been sent bills for the full, new higher monthly charge.
Needless to say, the customers have stormed the cable provider's customer service line, which is reportedly busy or never answers. One of my sources, citing an insider, said the company was swamped with complaints and that the calls were generating a situation of complete disorder and disarray, or "bardaks" in Latvian (derived from a Slavic word for a house of ill repute).
This will be checked out in detail, probably for my Latvian employer.
What do we learn from this in telecoms terms? If you are a fairly respectable Swedish telecoms company (TeliaSonera is the big parent, it's still Telia, I believe, who provides the services), don't leave your brand behind! When Kelloggs, the US-based cereal maker closed its Latvian plant in Ādaži, I don't think they left any empty Kellogg's Corn Flakes boxes behind, on the assumption that no one would fill them with mildewed oatmeal or sand.
But now, people who are upset with a poor decision by the new managing team are able to blame the Great Satan Telia Sonera, and the Satan (who's not really that at all) grows longer horns for something he didn't do.
Which brings me back to some of the screwball aspects of the whole sale. I mean, Lattelekom would have been the right buyer given the new MD Nils Melngailis interest in TV. An arms length deal could have been arranged and the brand would have, at least, been 49 % TeliaSonera owned. So now a strategic bad choice goes to worse... :).
On the positive side, Telia MultiCom has made some nice broadband offerings and it remains to be seen whether it, like Baltcom TV, its biggest rival, will go for interactive digital cable TV. A earlier decision to test digital was rescinded, apparently just as the talks on selling the company started. It would be nice if they tried.

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