Ajay Chitkara, director & CEO, global voice and data business, Bharti Airtel on how the brand has re-imagined its complete business model with introduction of Open Network Infrastructure and digitised wholesale segment
Reimagining a company’s entire way of doing business is a strategic process and requires stitching together of all the elements - the digital strategy; the customer experiences, products, services, operating model and the requisite technology to design and implement the strategy.
“We are therefore constantly endeavouring to design the ‘businesses of tomorrow’ keeping pace with the ever evolving business scenario, changing consumer behaviour and technological trends”, Ajay Chitkara, director & CEO, global voice and data business, Bharti Airtel says. “This involves thinking ahead of time and designing a strategy for creating the digital experiences that customers will expect 3-5 years from now. In line with this, we have also been on a transformational journey to simplify business, adapt to digital ecosystem and transform the way wholesale telecom industry operates.”
Ajay explains how the wholesale carrier business is not just about buying. It is also about selling and innovating with the end-user in mind. “At Airtel we are thus constantly endeavouring to put this equation in place with innovation at the core of the transformation. We have thus enabled deeper collaborations across business units and functional boundaries with an objective to create unique and superior digital experiences with a focused goal to empower customers and deliver greater value to them”, he says. In parallel, the company has also revamped its business model and organisation structure to support the digital way of working.
While the forward-looking strategies have helped establish it as the third largest telecommunications company in the world, the team doesn’t believe in resting on its laurels and getting complacent. Ajay adds: “We are innovating to widen the market and developing solutions and utility based offerings to overcome the challenges the segment faces e.g. customer on-boarding in a matter of minutes instead of hours, assist retailers, help keep tabs on sales and performance amongst critical processes.”
The Airtel advantage
One of the key initiatives of the company to digitally transform the way wholesale telecom operators operate is ‘Airtel Advantage’. It offers an online selling and buying platform for wholesale voice, messaging and toll free voice services and provides a single window online solution to create a seamless interconnect and conduct the business transactions in a transparent and agile manner, Ajay tells CommsMEA. “At Airtel, we as a team are engineered for speed and dedicated to delivering tailored solutions which contribute in ease of doing business”, he adds.
Keeping pace with the changing trends of the telco business worldwide, Airtel’s team has successfully branched out of traditional customer segments to add more customers from new verticals segments like OTTs, CDNs and ISVs. Ajay says: “We are also partnering with OTTs to build a global infrastructure. Additionally, developing SD-WAN infrastructure, build new datacentre & cloud services to meet the increasing bandwidth requirements. Our content distribution services help OTTs to understand, locate, target and then engage relevant set of customers while trying to build a brand or create a recall in emerging markets.”
Airtel is further enabling content monetisation through a carrier billing platform where customers can pay for various services through their balance or post-paid bills. “We also offer customised peering solution which help in optimising the user experience and providing great value to the OTT segments,” Ajay adds.
Among other new services the company has revamped are Airtel’s global messaging suite, which offers a comprehensive suite of platform features including firewall protection and enables simplified and secure interconnection across worldwide mobile ecosystem, to deliver high quality one-way and two-way SMS and to monetise A2P (app to person).
Airtel has also recently launched ‘India with Airtel’ bouquet of services to assist global companies looking to set up businesses in India. “‘India with Airtel’ offers end-to-end telecom and connectivity solutions to companies under one roof, thereby eliminating the challenge of dealing with multiple vendors and integration issues associated with it. This solution is aimed at considerably improving the ease of setting up a business in India and improve company’s go- to-market speeds,” Ajay says.
In another endeavour to simplify business for its partners, Airtel has introduced the concept of ‘Global DIA’ (Direct Internet Access) for global carriers looking to provide connectivity to their customers in various locations within a country. Ajay says: “Our Global DIA is a single window solution that takes care of all these needs. With our one robust network across the globe and strategic partnerships with key regional players we can offer carriers, a readymade, single SLA for internet access across various locations across the globe. This one bill, one SLA and competitive price option is highly flexible and scalable.”
Digital transformation is incomplete unless accompanied by a complete mind set and skillset makeover. Keeping this in consideration, Ajay tells CommsMEA how Airtel has been constantly putting in a lot of time and effort in conducting strategic workshops on not just technology up gradation but also on fostering a mind-set of learning, experimentation, and discussions with customers focusing on agility, transparency and execution excellence. “We have connected with customers to gauge their requirement and understand what would delight them so we can scale up promising options faster.”
Open Network infrastructure
Open Network is yet another exciting initiative from Airtel- the company has made its entire mobile network information public to customers through an interactive online interface. “With the launch of the initiative in June 2016 we took the lead in not only establishing transparency about our mobile network but also opened ourselves to customer scrutiny and feedback with the aim of improving our network,” Ajay says. Customers can now see network coverage or signal strength in any location across India through a colour coded interface that shows if coverage is excellent, good, moderate or non-existent and easily give network feedback through Airtel’s website, the My Airtel App or call centre.
Ajay adds: “The initiative is a part of Airtel’s Project Leap, a nationwide network transformation drive under which we plan to invest INR 60,000 crores to build a future ready network.” Based on the feedback received from customers across multiple Open Network touch points, Airtel is engaging with customers to improve and optimise the network for them and their surrounding areas. Ajay says: “We believe that with this initiative, we have made a small but positive beginning towards improving our network. We are fully committed to building a world class network that is future ready and delivers a great mobile experience to our customers.”