Wataniya Telecom Leading Telecom In Kuwait
|Tuesday, 13 April 2010 15:46|
Interview with Scott Gegenheimer
What is your assessment of the Kuwaiti telecom sector and what are the key opportunities and challenges?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: If you look at the telecom industry it is pretty advanced compared to the region and also the rest of the world. There is high penetration and we have 115% penetration in the country. Our service offerings offer 7.2 mb across the network for our mobile broadband and we are really trying to push for advancement. Broadband is taking over as the normal means for accessing internet in the country. There are more people generically and worldwide, and specifically Kuwait, doing Google searches on the mobile handsets than on their laptops or PCs at home. Additionally, the higher penetration rate in the country, the higher GDP growth rate because mobile facilities business and improves business in general.
What is your perception of the regulatory environment in Kuwait and what domains can be further improved to facilitate your operations?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: There is no regulatory agency in Kuwait and only a Ministry of Communication, however, we expect that by the end of the year a regulatory body will be created. I have been here two years and we have gone through three parliaments and four different Ministers of Communication but we think things will stabilize and continue to grow. One of our biggest problems is no international gateway and we are probably the only place in the GCC without it. We are hoping that number portability and deregulation of the international gateway will improve service to our customers.
What role is Wataniya going to play in the strategic four year plan?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: It is a little early to tell but whenever there is development in a country the telecom sector is usually involved in making sure it facilitates the plans. For example if there are new developments we want to make sure we have coverage there, provide services to businesses, and play a large role in society by providing communication ability that drives the business sector. The telecom sector will definitely support any additional build-out that needs to be done because it will help them to meet their requirements and it will also allow us to grow our business. Hopefully this will be the right kind of start to drive society forward.
How are you going to contribute?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: If you look at the services we offer we offer the leading edge in technology and you will also see more and more technology like this being used by the customer. We try to determine their needs and deliver the right services to them but nowadays it is pretty standard with telecommunications and mobile phones. For example, Smart phones require high speed capability and we have a lot of data traffic on our networks as a result and this is all part of us seeing what our customers and their businesses require so we can anticipate their needs. We try to look at each segment of the market in order to deliver our services as appropriately as possible. Recently we implemented a Service Level Monitor (SLM) so we can monitor lines and be more proactive with helping serve our customers and provide the best level of service possible tailored to their specifications. We don’t want to wait for customers to call and complain so we try to be very proactive and handle this ahead of time to improve the customers’ experience.
What proportion of your accounts are their in each division?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: There are 15% post-paid accounts but it is difficult to tell with our prepaid customers because the accounts are all different. We try not to differentiate based on methodology of payment because this isn’t particularly important to us. Generally, however, our post-paid customers spend more and our corporate customers are on the post-paid side too. Post-paid and B to B segments are the areas to focus on to produce more revenue. However, in a place with such high penetration in the market you don’t have a lot of options to grow your business other than capturing more business and attracting more customers.
How do you assess the effect of the 3rd mobile operator VIVA?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: STC is a very strong competitor in the region and I think they have done a pretty good job in their first year. It’s hard to comment on the penetration when a company just enters the market. We think the level of multiple sims have increased and we see a lot of this driving growth but it isn’t always indicative of real growth. One of our problems, because there is no regulator, is that when we have an interconnection with PSTN there is no payment between the networks. Thus, if you make a phone call from your fixed network into the mobile network its free of charge. Before Viva came in we charged our customers to receive a call because the government wasn’t charging people to make a call but since Viva did away with this, all three competitors dropped the fee. Everything changed in the market but this needs to be addressed once a regulatory body is put in place because this is more challenging to the market than the competition. We are comfortable with competition and we are doing a good job growing our business and with the services we are able to provide to our customers. We aren’t worried about competition stealing our customers and we have segmented our market very well on the pre-paid side: youth, high end, and regular. Our segments help address the market and we have attacked the markets differently than our competition.
Do you feel that intensified competition will bring higher value to your customers and how do you define the typical Wataniya customer?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: Any time you see competition it’s going to bring more value to your customers. I won’t say that when VIVA came in it added more competition to deliver because we were already doing a very good job doing this. When you have strong competition, however, you do need to offer strong services to your customer so you don’t lose them to your competitors and this keeps people on their toes and pushes the market further. Competition brings pricing down and expands the market’s penetration. There is still room for growth but we aren’t going after subscriber numbers because it doesn’t drive revenue or earnings.
How do you stay ahead of your customers expectation and needs?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: We are always doing focus groups and surveys to figure out how to improve. We look at our customers both internally and externally to figure out what they want and sometimes we have to anticipate their needs for them. I think that a company needs to do focus groups to figure out what customers want and also they need to anticipate their needs that the customer hasn’t even thought of yet but would benefit from.
How do you tackle competition from Zain and VIVA?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: I try to be proactive instead of reactive. I want to take measures to deliver to our customers regardless of the competition. If we do what we have to do we don’t have to worry about the competition because everything will come just by doing what we are supposed to do. There are times when you have to look at the competition but if you do this too often you will become a follower in the market. We want to be a leader in the market who drives change and we are not hung up on the competition, per se, but you still do need to look at what they are doing to cover all of your bases.
Wataniya has a 1.46 million customer base in Kuwait at the end of quarter three in 2009 an increase of 13.6% from 2008. How do you assess Wataniya performance and what are the key challenges you are facing?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: The revenue is down due to income in calls not from competition. The behavior of our customers have also changed in their calling patterns because people beep each other mobile to mobile and call from the land line because its free. This behavior has caused more problems than competition and without a regulatory body this will remain a problem. We don’t know when this is going to change but I don’t expect it to because it’s so hard to change laws in the country but it is, regardless, something that needs to be addressed.
Can you give a brief overview of Wataniya’s latest technologies and services?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: This year if your look at our portfolio we can match it against any competition in the world. With our business customers and post-paid customers our speeds and services are much more advanced. Our average downlink on HSDPA is over 2 mb per second on average and we can go up to high speeds. We need to figure out what our customers need on the post-paid side. It all depends on the customer when we look at the packages we deliver. We work with banking sectors and they use our data products on their ATMs to link back to their head offices, the restaurants’ credit card machines use our products, and wireless is becoming huge through the ITC sector and society in general. People don’t always notice it or see it but it exists everywhere and this is what’s driving the market and growth in general.
What is your main strategy for the next three years?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: We have our generic pillars we look for in our strategy which mainly comes down to our customer experience and delivering the best quality, innovative types of services. We always want to monitor our business to see how to improve. Sometimes we also have to educate our customers on how to use the technology and get the most out of it and this needs to be looked at. We try to make things simple for customers and improve usability in order to meet and exceed all of their expectation and I think this is what sets us apart from our competition. Our customers always praise our call center and we want to develop that to continue meeting the expectations of our customers.
How do you address corporate social responsibility?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: It is an interest for a lot of different reasons. The country (Kuwait) has done good by us by allowing us to grow and develop ourselves here so giving back to society is important for us. We often have people ask us for help and we have done projects with autism, the cancer society, and really we try to do whatever can be done for our customers and society. Our employees also feel this is the right thing too. Although it is easiest to write a check and donate money, we often encourage our employees to get out their and donate their time and effort to initiatives being done. For example, last week we did a blood drive to help the supply shortage in the country. Our employees really showed a special commitment level to society and this made news.
What is your main challenge?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: There are various things that need to be addressed. Primarily the lack of a regulatory body causes a lot of problems and also number portability is another big issue as well as the international gateway. Competition is also always going to be a factor because their is no regulator and you never know where prices are going to go. Once you start competing on price there is no where to go but down so we try to stay away from this. However, we have seen some very strange things on the market in terms of competition because perhaps because others are not as rational as we are at Wataniya and we don’t think price drops make a lot of sense in the market. International gateway issues are difficult to address when the international gateway is not under your control. VOIP is another issue that needs to be looked at and you are going to see more VOIP being offered later down the line.
What would you like to say about Kuwait and what is your vision for the country?
Kuwait Leading Telecom, Wataniya Telecom, Scott Gegenheimer: Kuwait is a very nice country and there is a lot of potential here. There hasn’t been much development here the past 20-30 years compared to the rest of the region. However, with the four year development plan we are going to be able to see where Kuwait can go and drive development and change. Kuwaiti people have a very strong business sense and I think there is a great opportunity to drive the infrastructure and start developing again as well as to bring more countries into Kuwait..