New CEO says Ooredoo going for masses, not classes

Former Ooredoo Myanmar chief executive Ross Cormack passed the torch to his successor, Vodacom veteran Rene Meza, about one month ago, beginning a new chapter for the market’s first foreign entrant.

Since launch, the company has widened its target market to focus on the masses, Mr Meza told The Myanmar Times in a recent interview.

Now, the firm says it differentiates on technology and experience with data, which has seen surging usage on its network.

At a press conference yesterday billed as introducing Ooredoo Myanmar’s new chief, Mr Meza announced that data use on Ooredoo had exploded over the last year. In the second quarter of 2015, users went through more than 4 million terabytes of data.

“It has grown by over 10 times in the last year,” Mr Meza said.

The company turned on its all-3G network in August of 2014. At that point it ran on just over 620 towers and blanketed less than 30pc of the population. Now, Ooredoo has put up almost 2500 towers and covers nearly 72pc of Myanmar’s people, with the aim of increasing that to almost 90pc by the end of this year, according to Mr Meza.

The operator used to target a more affluent crowd, one that could afford pricier devices – but now it has shifted its aim to include everyone. Mr Meza said the company wants to democratise data.

“At the beginning of our journey, we did not have the commercial strategy of being a mass-market operator,” he said. “We were basically basing our commercial strategy on the fact that we would be only for a portion of the country: niche high-end data-hungry customers, who can afford a US$40 or $50 device, with only a few world-class and fancy shops across the country and that was it.”

This, and the company’s strictly 3G technology offering – which limited its customer base to those that could afford 3G-enabled devices – could be to blame for customer acquisition numbers that lagged behind rivals. Norwegian telco Telenor has picked up more than 10 million users since launch, while Ooredoo’s base has grown to almost 5 million customers. Around 85pc of Ooredoo’s are on smartphones.

“The difference is volume,” Mr Meza said. “Now the strategy is clear. We want to be a mass market player. We want to be a 3G network not only for the classes, but also for the masses. We’re going to drive low-cost devices in the market in order to offset the entry cost between a 2G phone and a 3G phone.”

He told reporters on September 30 Ooredoo now offers a smart device for K15,000.

The company is also upping its ability to connect customers with products as Mr Meza said it plans on doubling its points of sale from almost 90,000 in the next year.

On the technical side, Mr Meza said Ooredoo’s 3G network sets it apart from competitors.

The firm has invested more than $1.4 billion into Myanmar so far, Mr Meza said yesterday. That money has gone to building fibre – which will extend from more than 5000 kilometres now to over 12,000km by the end of the year – towers, and other supporting elements, he added.

With the flip switched more than a year ago, Mr Meza now faces the complex challenge of expanding Ooredoo’s coverage to Myanmar’s more rural areas.

Last year, both Ooredoo and rival Telenor Myanmar focused their rollouts first on Myanmar’s three largest cities – Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. Now, with both trying to cover nearly all of Myanmar in five years, they’ve turned their gaze to its more far-flung corners.

Currently, the market is waiting on the debut of a fourth competitor – structured as a joint venture between a consortium of local firms and a foreign partner – though it won’t have a big impact on the company’s strategy, according to Mr Meza.

“We’ll continue building a world-class network for data on 3G, expanding our distribution network, and being affordable for the people in Myanmar,” he said. “We will continue to introduce innovative products and services based on smartphones, and to drive affordable smartphone devices in the country.”

Though the public has asked operators since their beginnings in Myanmar about launching 4G technology, Ooredoo said it can’t for now.

Mr Meza also said the company has no plans today to introduce 4G LTE, as it does not have the spectrum required to deploy the advanced technology.

“Once the regulator releases spectrum for 4G, obviously we’re going to be able to provide those services.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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