was disappointed to hear the announcement that GIV Mobile shut down
operations on January 31, 2016. They didn't provide any
details regarding what exactly happened. I suspect that it
was due to tough competition, and unfortunately, donating a proprotion
of their revenue really didn't help contribute to a
sustainable business model.
In addition, PTel, its parent company is also shutting down operations, so it's probably fair to conclude that it simply couldn't maintain profitable operations. The prepaid wireless industry is super competitive, and the value proposition of these smaller MVNOs really is questionable.
That said, I relaly did like the premise of GIV's charity angle, and unlike many MVNOs before them, it's disappointing to see them go.
GIV Mobile is a no contract wireless MVNO that's taking a different twist on wireless. GIV donates a portion of each customers monthly payment to a customer-selected charity. Omar Abhari, GIV's Senior Vice President of Operations, was kind enough to answer some detailed questions; thank you for your time Omar!
Interview Date: August 26, 2013
a new wireless company is not a trivial exercise; can you share some
background regarding the company history, and startup inspiration?
Our parent company, PlatinumTel Communications (Ptel Mobile), started back in 2001 and is one of the pioneers in this industry. Since the beginning, the founding partners of PlatinumTel always wanted a unique company culture. They really believed they could create one that was generous and charitable and that they could express this in significant ways outside of the office. It began with the company participating in volunteer events and food drives, amongst other things, and expanded from there. GIV Mobile was a natural part of this progression. After about six years in business and having the success they did, the partners at Ptel Mobile decided it was time to take the culture they had fostered and turn it into a company all its own. It was time to let generosity be the driving force. So they combined the two things they were most passionate about—affordable wireless and giving back—and the result was GIV Mobile in 2013.
charity element of GIV Mobile is fantastic, and certainly refreshing
within an industry that is better known for greed than altruism. That
said, wireless has become a highly commoditized business where
maintaining healthy margins is difficult. Even with the tax benefits,
with the competitive plans you’re offering, and the OIBIDA
from donations, can you describe how GIV is positioned for long term
profitability so that you may continue the valuable charitable work of
Well no-contract wireless has always worked within small margins. So while other companies may have to adjust for this, our history with PlatinumTel Communications gives us a lot of experience to draw from. We’re used to small margins. As such, our strategy has always been to profit by adding volume, not by depending on high margins. Remember, our parent company started back in 2001. Since then, over twenty no-contract providers have come and gone. GIV Mobile may be new to philanthropy, but we’re veterans at thriving in this industry.
MVNO market has proven to be extremely challenging. The past decade has
seen a myriad of MVNOs come and go, including continued consolidation
of smaller providers in general (ex. Simple Mobile, Page Plus,
Cricket). Do you see GIV targeting a specific niche, or are you seeking
to compete on a national basis and ultimately becoming an acquisition
GIV Mobile’s target demographic is simple: people who want to give back. At this point, everyone either owns a cell phone or they’re in the market for one. So as long as we can get in front of people who believe in helping the less fortunate and the underserved, we’re confident we’ll have a new customer. We’re well acquainted with the challenge of getting people to switch from their contract phone company to a no contract provider. But each year we also see that challenge grow smaller and smaller.
think BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is the wave of the future, which is
largely how wireless has been operating in Europe for decades. Is GIV
expecting the majority of activation to be with BYOD phones? If
customers purchase phones from GIV at what appears to be unsubsidized
prices, do they come unlocked so customers can use them on any
While I agree BYOD is the future in mobile, that’s not something we’re pinning our hopes on. Giving back is what takes front and center in our pitch. We believe customers will come to GIV Mobile because of our social responsibility; BYOD is just a way to clear their path. It’s an important program in wireless because of all the different devices now available and the rate at which they’re released. When a customer purchases a device from GIV Mobile, it will show up programmed to operate on our service from the moment they take it out of the box. Obviously we cannot assist them in making the device usable on another carrier, but we respect that it is their device.
see that you only list a couple of phones on your main website, and use
givphones.com for a complete listing of available handsets; can you
explain the strategy behind that approach?
GIV Mobile is dedicated not only to providing an excellent no-contract wireless experience, but a new level of wireless service through effortless giving. We don’t expect people to visit our website and decide on joining us because they saw some phones they liked. Obviously, devices are important and that’s why we teamed with a 3rd party; it guarantees we have people dedicated to giving that aspect the attention it deserves. It also allows our company to put our focus on what’s most important to us: our members and giving back to our communities.
GIV have any retail or wireless dealer distribution? Do you have plans
to expand your retail presence in the near future? With the great
charity positioning, are you working with charities to help promote
GIV? How are you getting the word out to prospective customers?
GIV Mobile is only available online at this time with no immediate plans to expand to brick and mortar stores. The non-profits we support aren’t obligated to do anything by us. We created GIV Mobile to make their lives easier; the last thing we want is to distract them from all the good they’re doing. We have very high hopes for our website and really see it as a place our subscribers can go to learn more about the non-profits we support, their events, goals and accomplishments.
Our website is going to play a vital role in the community of like-minded people we’re looking to foster. Subscribers will be able to see the very real results of their donations; they’ll see that GIV Mobile’s commitment to charity isn’t just lip service. Up to this point, we have gone light on advertising and marketing so we can concentrate on making GIV Mobile the best company possible. We’re almost there, though, and our fans can expect to see more of GIV Mobile in different advertising mediums by Q4, 2013.
is a subset of the wireless industry that is growing rapidly. Do your
plans allow users to use their smartphone’s mobile hotspot
capability to access their data plan allowance? If not, can customers
add this feature, including purchasing additional data bundles?
GIV Mobile’s rate plans are meant for use on our customers’ primary device and not for tethering. Of course, with so many devices now having hotspot capability, we understand some customers may use this feature in certain situations.
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