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The way forward for telecom industry in Pakistan for FY 2018-19

The past few years have been difficult for telecom companies across the world and Pakistan is no exception. Overall revenues and cash flows have dipped despite the fact that consumption of mobile data has increased. This has been mainly because telecom companies have invested heavily in their wireless 3G and 4G networks. Fiscal Year 2018-19 will continue to be a critical time for Pakistani telecom industry as companies will compete intensely for market share in already saturated market. The consumers have become more tech-savvy and companies need to innovate in order to come up to their expectations.

As Pakistan moves towards digital financial inclusion, telecoms will have to introduce initiatives like E-Customer Care, end-to-end digital channel for customer service to reduce costs and increased customer satisfaction, introduction of digital processes that track customer footprints and assist in customer management and usage of 360-degree data analytics on individual customers to personalize promotions and campaigns. Telecom companies must also shake hands with allied businesses, such as financial services, IT services, and media. Most importantly, to fully leverage the digital revolution, telecom companies must revamp their IT by getting rid of redundant legacy systems and reducing costs with state-of-the-art technology that use analytics to streamline processes.

The telecoms of 2018 must focus on data marketing, as it is abundantly clear that it will become the core revenue driver. Telecom companies must come up with smart distribution systems, which enhance data sales and provide businesses with robust communications infrastructure, further increasing data market share. There will be a greater focus on the delivery of 4G networks. In the last year, the industry has seen some consolidation initiatives. FY 2018-19 will demonstrate the real success of these initiatives as these companies try to align their technologies, networks, customer services, and sales and distribution. However, the dividends of these initiatives could evaporate if strategic clarity and a special emphasis on core business along with disruptive revenue streams are not brought into focus.

Pakistani telecoms must work towards creating new value chains based on a demanding user whose expectations are increasing with each passing day. To make performance breakthroughs, over-ambitious goals need to be set for the teams.

 

Innovation will be the key strategic pillar; this has been lacking in previous years and will continue to make a vital difference in 2018. Robust and innovative solutions for customers can serve as new areas of growth for telco giants. The uptake of e-commerce and the rapid development of new incubators in Pakistan are harnessing entrepreneurial initiatives in our economy, with more and more youth concentrating on this. The mobile industry can play a key role in these areas and should focus on creating innovative solutions for this market segment. Solving customer needs and the creation of this new cultural mind-set should become a key focus for telecoms in FY 2018-19.

As long as the Pakistani telecom industry does not free itself from the shackles of orthodox conventional mind-set, players like Amazon, Google, WhatsApp and new emerging platforms will continue to eat away their businesses. There is need for unified and well-rounded effort in integrating platforms with the existing technology/telecoms landscape, along with a creative business model, customer services and effective marketing that will help telecom companies create a new source of revenue.

Telecoms must have an efficient and effective business model with their partners as well to gain substantial benefits from China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as greater reliance on technology will be a key parameter. Technological advances in the mobile business have brought operators to a critical juncture. Now, as never before, they have access to sophisticated network equipment, rich data on customers and operations, analytical power, and organizational prowess. As a result, mobile operators have an unprecedented opportunity to improve many measures of performance, from cash-flow conversion to customer satisfaction. Hence, in FY 2018-19, those that move boldly to transform themselves with these new capabilities stand to cut their costs and increase their revenues significantly, while building decisive advantage over their less ambitious competitors.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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