Econet denies stealing savings idea

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has dismissed allegations by businessman Sacha Robinson that it stole his savings club concept.

As reported in this paper last week, Robinson, who heads the non-profit Money Book Capital Trust (MBCT), is planning to sue Econet for launching its Ecocash Saving Club which he says is based on an idea he shared with company several years ago.

Volumes of documents availed to The Zimbabwean showed that MBCT, jointly run with Paul Hopley, shared its mobile savings idea with staff from Econet and Ernst and Young years before the mobile services provider launched the scheme.

Econet’s head of communications, Rangarirai Mberi, this week denied hijacking the idea. “It is not true that this product was an idea “stolen” by Econet. The mobile-based savings club is not a unique concept, but has been launched in several markets across the globe,” said Mberi. “Econet is an innovative, entrepreneurial company that is constantly exploring new products and value-added services. It therefore does not see any need to “steal” ideas from anyone.”

He did not dismiss the claim that MBCT approached Econet with the savings club concept, saying that “some of the proposals it has been offered would have either been considered or rejected by Econet’s own product and research development teams.”

There are striking similarities between the recently launched scheme and the concept that MBCT shared with staff from Ecobank—a subsidiary of Econet—and Ernst and Young.

The documents show that MBCT, right from the start, intended to use Econet facilities, among them the Ecocash mobile money transfer platform and Ecobank to roll out the savings initiative to a million low income beneficiaries by 2015.

Robinson alleged that middle managers at Econet were the ones who stole the idea in order to get company rewards. He also suspects that some employees at Ernst and Young connived with Econet to hijack their idea.

The EcoCash Savings Club was launched on May 6 and is a new mobile product supporting informal savings groups in Zimbabwe. The initiative is meant to benefit subscribers registered on Ecocash, the mobile money transfer platform. Informal savings clubs earn varying amounts of interest over a 30 day period, depending on the amount deposited.

Post published in: Business

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