More jobs, growth the target for Airnet


Hawke's Bay telecommunications provider Airnet recently became 100 per cent locally owned, and new chief executive Hamish White has big plans for the future of the business.

The changes to the shareholder structure is part of a new growth strategy in which he plans to take as much as 30 per cent of the residential market share from rivals such as Telecom, and more than triple staff numbers.

Hawke's Bay investors Colin and Diana Crombie, Hamish and Sarah Whyte, and Neville and Diane Smith now own a combined 35 per cent stake of the business. The remaining 65 per cent is owned by Airnet staff.

"What we represent is the new breed of retail telecommunications companies, and it is about being customer service led," Mr White said, speaking from the company's new premises in Onekawa.

"It's about servicing the needs of a really under serviced market."

A strong focus on customer service is a key part of his, and consequently the company's mantra, and being locally run, he claims Airnet will "be better served to tap into the needs of our local customers - and I don't say that lightly".

This will be done in a number of ways, including basing their call centre in Hawke's Bay, instead of places like India or the Philippines.

Previously, only servicing customers off the main grid, Airnet has snapped up a service contract with Chorus, which is currently installing fibre optic cable throughout the country to help deliver central Government's ultra fast broadband initiative.

This will give them the opportunity to service many more customers with faster speed internet.

"What we're saying is that we are actually the only locally owned telecommunications company that gives you access to these services," he said.

This is all part of a drive to control 30 per cent of residential market share, and 20 per cent of business market share within five years.

The areas Airnet will contest include Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Rotorua, Taupo and Gisborne.

They represent around 25 per cent of New Zealand's telecommunications spend and are worth $1.2 billion.

With such an ambitious goal must come an aggressive marketing campaign, and Airnet will soon undergo their official rebranding and renaming.

The new name, Mr White said, required clearance from several US-based record companies.

"We absolutely want to build something that Hawke's Bay people can be generally proud of, and we create jobs for the Hawke's Bay community."

This will require taking on well established providers but he is ready for the challenge.

"The incumbent is all about defending traditional revenue streams," he said. "The challenger has nothing to lose."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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