Interview

We are committed to bring new technologies to Africa- Essa Al Haddad, Group Chief Commercial Officer Etisalat Group

Essa Al Haddad, Group Chief Commercial Officer Etisalat Group

The dynamic Group Chief Commercial Officer for the Etisalat Group (GCCO),Essa Al Haddad  has worked with Etisalat for over 25 years, beginning his career in the network planning section of the engineering department. He moved through project implementation, technical strategy development until finally heading the engineering department as Executive Vice President Engineering. His recent appointment as Chief Marketing Officer will see him develop Etisalat’s marketing strategy and aid the corporation in its efforts to be positioned as a customer-centric organisation.

He previously held the position of Chief Marketing Officer for Etisalat UAE and now brings the experience that he gained in this role to support the Etisalat Group’s 18 international operations across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Al Haddad who also chairs the Emerging Markets Telecommunications Company (EMTS) also known as Etisalat Nigeria is a member of the Board of Directors at Mobily in Saudi Arabia, Thuraya, Etisalat DB in India, Zantel in Tanzania and Atlantique Telecom which covers seven markets in West Africa.

Mr. Al Haddad completed his Higher Diploma in Telecom Engineering in the United Kingdom and went on to complete his MBA also in the UK. He is a Chartered Electrical Engineer by the Engineering Council (UK), a Corporate Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE) in Great Britain, and a Corporate Member of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineering (IEEE), USA. In this exclusive interview with Akin Naphtal Group Publisher MobileWorld, Haddad speaks on extended partnership with FC Barcelona, number portability and  services for the unbanked community. Excerpt…..

Earlier this year you signed an extended partnership with FC Barcelona in Africa and Asia. Can you give us an update on the signed partnership, how have your subscribers benefited from this partnership?

Etisalat is committed to provide the latest telecommunication services and technologies to its customers across our extended footprint.  Through this unique partnership with FC Barcelona, Etisalat is bringing the best in global football action to its 140 million customers in 18 countries, while introducing an extended worldwide fan base to FC Barcelona in new territories. We are aiming through this partnership to extend FC Barcelona’s exposure to Africa and the Middle East, and give our customers a new opportunity to enjoy football and to participate in the excitement of the game. Football is a major pass-time across Africa and Asia from all walks of life.  Under our agreement, Etisalat companies can adopt the title of “Official International Telecom Partner of FC Barcelona” in their respective countries and we have already successfully activated their partnership in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

What do you want to achieve with the mobile applications you recently launched in all your operating countries?

By launching Mobile Apps stores we are providing our customers with quick on-the-go access to locally relevant applications and content which positively impacts their daily lives in the 18 countries where we operate, allowing them to use their phones anytime, anywhere to access the internet, and applications and content which is relevant to them.

In addition to this, by working together with local applications development communities, we are ensuring availability of meaningful and relevant applications for our customers as well as developing local talent and creating sustainable commercial opportunities for local communities.

Another good example is our commitment to the customers is our recent launch of “Facebook for Every Phone” application, which provides a unique and faster Facebook experience for feature phones compared to those of similar applications and mobile sites. Facebook’s most popular features and user experience is provided to a wide range of handsets, on an optimizing speed and performance via Etisalat’s exceptional  networks.

Is Etisalat committed to Mobile Money in Africa, considering the looking at the vast opportunity that exist to serve the large unbanked community and the success story of mPesa in Kenya?

In Etisalat we see a customer need for have access to fully scale interoperable and user-friendly Mobile Financial Services. The offering should address the needs of the un-banked, under-banked and even fully banked customers. Obviously, the mix of services offered should clearly target needs of the different customer segments.

A good example of this is our initial success in Tanzania with the launch of the “Touch and Go” NFC service offering. The “Touch and Go” service interface enables everyone (including those with invited literary) to enjoy convenient payment services and to participate in entrepreneurial activities within their own communities, increasing Financial Inclusion especially in the under-banked segments..

What is your view on number portability in Africa?

Mobile Number Portability is the process by which, you can retain your mobile number while shifting your service  to another operator of your choice,  The implementation of MNP will give customers the opportunity to change their operator of choice, but may impact the operating margins of service providers, by increasing churn, higher customer acquisition and retention costs and lower ARPUs.

However,  from my point of view, MNP will encourage  operators to focus on better customer care, enhanced customers experience  and network coverage, and introducing differentiated services like 3G services and applications to attract customers and encourage loyalty.

What is your view on price war currently going on among operators?

Many Markets have experienced pressure on ARPUs, as a result of price competition and  are consolidating their core infrastructure to cope with these challenges.  Whilst , price competition is healthy,  price wars can eventually force operators to compromise on network quality and service offerings which is not in the interest of customers in on the long run.

How socially responsible in Etisalat?

The CSR projects we have undertaken in Etisalat Group have impacted and improved the  life of many in the various countries we operate in. We have undertaken CSR in such areas as   health, education and sports, as well as emergency assistance in times of natural disasters.  In delivering our CSR strategy, each Opco identifies projects that are important in their specific markets and where a difference can be made.  For instance Etisalat Misr has undertaken a major project for purifying drinking water, Etisalat Nigeria provides class room for primarily students and Canar in Sudan fights Malaria, and so on.  This provides a plethora of activities that reflect relevant ‘on-the-ground’ projects across the various operations. Like many other telecommunications companies, and given the nature of the industry, Etisalat values being part of every and each community we operate in. You may check our website www.etisalat.com for the all the CSR related activities the company has undertaken in the 18 countries of our operators.

Where do you see Etisalat Africa operations in 5 years time?

Etisalat intends to maintain and strengthen its position as a leading telecommunications provider in Africa and beyond.  We will compete on the basis of quality of service, maintaining the highest quality network, and expanding and enhancing our range of products and service offerings.   We are committed to bring new technologies to Africa and to improve the way people communicate. At the same time the Group’s international strategy is to maximize the value of its existing international businesses and diversify revenues streams to give more value to its shareholders. We will continue to explore new licenses and opportunities in new and existing markets where there is high growth potential, and where more synergies can be created and value to our shareholders and our employees can be enhanced.

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