Q&A with Dr Stephen Collins
This month, Policy World talks to Dr Stephen Collins, Chief Digital Policy Officer, Vimplecom
Q. Vimpelcom describes itself as ' driven by a vision to unlock new opportunities for our customers as they navigate the digital world'. You are in a number of emerging markets as well as mature markets internationally, how do you manage to balance the two aspects of Vimpelcom's reach? What is the overarching strategy as you go into these areas?
A. Vimpelcom’s overarching strategy is to move from a collection of operators in an industry in decline to a global technology group with the ambition to bring opportunities and experiences to one tenth of the world’s population. In 2015 we set out a clear path for transformation: to reinvent our business model, transform our portfolio, strengthen our leadership and identify the path ahead to move to digital. We will create deep and personal relationships with our customers, providing them with innovative digital products and services that will enhance their lives. You will see more about this in coming weeks and months. Concerning your question on simultaneously managing a portfolio containing mature and emerging markets, we see the combination as a real strength, with the developed markets offering business and customer insights we can utilise in our planning for the less developed countries. Equally, emerging markets can be a green field test bed for more radical service offerings in a way which mature markets cannot.
Q. Vimpelcom is also making key inroads into the business to business markets - is this in particular geographic areas or is this a general strategy?
A. It is a general strategy; there is increasing demand for high quality, competitive b2b services in all our markets. Vimpelcom has traditionally been more consumer than enterprise focused, but over the past few years has developed a b2b business that has become a key part of our overall product portfolio. Vimpelcom business brings together the best in digital, cloud and connectivity products and services for business and government customers operating in emerging markets. We have over 4,000 dedicated business specialists who can provide an independent viewpoint on delivering converged end-to-end solutions.
Q. You personally have always been at the cutting edge of new technologies, how have you seen the sector develop in the last three years and what have been the pressure points the industry has had to respond to?
A. For me, there are three things that stand out. The first is that communications services have really ceased to be a viable stand-alone offering. The commoditisation of voice, chat and even video communications – all now routinely offered de facto for free and with a pretty good quality in most cases – shifts the focus to the service offerings provided around the communications core. This holds true for both internet communications providers – (witness the stand alone monetisation failures of whatsapp or skype, leading to acquisition by companies with broader product offerings) as much as established telecoms companies (all rushing towards triple and quad play bundles as well as partnerships with internet service and content companies). Second, we see a relativisation of the back-and-forth between vertically integrated and horizontally layered business models, to a state where hybrid and fluid combinations are being tested, adopted, rejected in quite a dynamic manner; there is no longer a static view of one right structure or model. Third, the importance of user data and understanding it is becoming fundamental to the success of future service provision. The ability of companies to contextualise the data they process in order to provide a richer service experience for their customers is the single most important business challenge and opportunity we face today.
Q. What is the single element that a regulator can do to best enable industry to achieve its goal of benefitting customers (retail and business) and increasing its own efficiencies?
A. A good regulator takes time to understand the dynamics of both market and technology, forebears when new services are launched, and intervenes only when there is clear market failure or consumer harm. The days of command and control in the communications market have long gone, but regulation can sometimes be slow to catch up.
Q. The next IIC event is the Telecommunications and Digital Media Forum in Doha, Qatar. You have long been involved with the IIC - what particular value does your experience with the IIC bring to your work and that of your colleagues?
A. The IIC has done two things very well over the years. First, it provides a discreet, neutral and high quality forum for open debate among all stakeholders, public and private, of the communications industry. Second, it has built up a strong reputation as a truly international forum, with strong participation from all continents. Combined, the IIC provides a uniquely valuable perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing the industry in 2017 and beyond.
- Tuesday, 24 January 2017