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Orange Romania: Two decades of growing innovation and leading the digital transformation

Interview with Liudmila Climoc, CEO, Orange Romania

2017-06-27 16:50:10

How would you describe the activity of Orange Romania in the last 20 years?

In two decades since we have commercially launched the mobile network, Orange Romania, together with its customers have made tremendous steps forward. It has been a journey through which we have made the huge leap towards digital transformation. For instance, in these 20 years a new generation came along – the digital natives. Content consumption habits were revolutionized and the amount of information that is now available to us is infinite larger than two decades ago. Technology redefined our learning processes and connectivity brought us more information, faster.
In this extraordinary set-up of digital revolution, connectivity played a major role in leading the way towards innovation.

Twenty years ago, we have started offering voice services and right now Orange has become an integrator, leading the digital transformation process. We are now offering on top of seamless connectivity, productivity and simplified processes, together with integration. The presence of Orange Romania in these 20 years is the result of a tremendous teamwork that has dedicated its efforts to ensure the best connectivity and the best customer experience, regardless of the social and economic context that has known a great deal of changes in this period. We have evolved together with our customers and we have developed our products and services taking into account their ever-growing need of connectivity. Our performance in these years is directly linked to our capacity of providing a reliable network, relevant services, personalized offers, together with our capacity to innovate, in order to meet up expectations.

In these 20 years we have numerous examples of milestones that we have introduced on the Romanian market, such as the EDGE technology – which was an European premiere at that moment within the Orange Group. Another premiere for Orange was the HD Voice International and the 4G and VoLTE services. We also introduced premieres when it comes to connectivity. Orange Romania offered the first multimedia services available for the mobile phone and recently we have launched the first smart city concept proof – Alba Iulia. We have innovated in customer experience – we have launched the first smart store that was fully digitalized, offering a complete offline-online integration. Now we have 25 smart stores and moreover, we are the first operator to have introduced the Care Center concept in Romania.

In this amazing process that started two decades ago, we have always analyzed the needs of our customers. And the more technology became part of our everyday lives, the more users resented the need for simplicity. In order to provide simplicity, we have aimed for integrated communication services.. Thus, in 2016 we have become convergent operator, widening our offer to a complete one for the consumer from mobile services to fixed services. Also, we have launched Orange Money, a payment service that transforms the smart phone into a wallet.

And innovation spread beyond the services provided to the individual customers. We have invested in IoT solutions, in order to answer to the needs of our customers. We have a very important role in leading the digital transformation in Romania, starting with the productivity solutions that we provide for our business to business partners and leading towards that we call smart territories. We now focus on connectivity, the backbone of every digital initiative , regardless the industry branch. We aim to develop more and more end-to-end solutions that bring added value in the lives of our customers and in the business environment.

What were your biggest challenges and achievements so far?

The most important challenge for Orange Romania since I took over the CEO mandate was to grow what we seeded so far. 2016 was an intense year in terms of activities, with new services and offers brought to Romania, such as: we started to offer to our customers the experience of the convergence, and came with an answer to their need for simplicity - one operator for all our communication needs, one invoice, one customer service point, rich content, seamless connectivity; we launched Orange Money - we have made one more decisive step towards offering wider digital services. For the moment, our priority is to develop this service by diversifying the functionalities and by increasing the number of merchants allowing transactions with Orange Money.
To reach our objectives, there are some clear pillars that we rely upon.
Customer experience –the strategy upon which we have relied in these 20 years of market presence
Network quality– We have the most extensive 4G coverage and we aim to consolidate our network performance and coverage.

Another challenge is to digest all this complexity around and come up with very segmented solutions for our customers. We have to turn the complex services into simple and segmented solutions for their different needs. In order to do that, first of all we have to listen and constantly improve the relationship we built in time with our customers, to keep up with the fast changing needs.This is the essence of our listening and responding strategy and the reason why we started to transform the network in a customer centric one. In order to achieve this, we have reorganized our processes. For instance, we have included the customers in the network expansion process. Thus, we have developed the Orange 4G Fun Kit – a special app that allows our customers to rate our network and to decide where the coverage will be extended. This is a premiere for the group.

These challenges are all related to our ambitious objective of reducing the digital gap. The digital differences between the rural areas and the urban ones still exist, and it is our mission to contribute to decreasing them. First of all, in order to reduce this gap, our mission is to enable Romanians to be seamlessly connected, by offering best quality of service for mobile data through 4G network. This implies a continuous 4G coverage expansion process, increase of traffic capacity and permanent network optimization. This year we have announced the full urban 4G coverage. Our network is fully prepared to serve its customers with the highest Internet speeds and the best quality of services.
Another way to decrease this gap is to democratize the access to technology. We have attractive offers that provide access to affordable smartphones, – with a wide portfolio of subscriptions and services, offering smartphones and tablets for 0 Euro and the possibility of payment in installments. Our offer also includes refurbished smartphones and fidelity bonuses, in order to offer our customers access to technology for affordable prices.

And last, but not least, to lead the way to decreasing the digital gap is to become a digital partner for our customers . That is why we have developed programs and tutorials to promote digital literacy. Orange expert advice, digital education initiatives - Parinti la scoala/Parents at school – the program is aiming to identify the difficulties experienced by those who may still be unfamiliar with new technology practices, such as using the internet on a laptop, searching on Google, using a smartphone or social networks, etc. We organized workshops for parents, in order to offer them the opportunity to find out the answers to their questions.

How would you describe the Romanian telecom industry in the past years and what do you expect for 2017?

Romania registered the fastest economic growth in Europe in Q2 2016 vs Q2 2015, adding up to 6%, according to Eurostat, generated mainly by an increase in consumption. The second contributor to the Romanian GDP is the IT&C industry. As part of the IT&C market, telco industry is prominent. The telco industry is on recovery trend and it reached the level of3.4 billion euro.
The increase is mainly driven by consumption – data consumption and also by the fact that Romania is becoming the IT hub of Europe. Romania is a sort of Eastern Silicon Valley of Europe, so economic prospects are good, driven also by the interest in telco services consumption. The reason for this is the fact that connectivity is the liaison to enable people to grasp the opportunities brought by digitalization. In this context, in order to have a sustainable industry growth that assures the backbone for consumers to take advantage of the digital opportunities, our objective is to consolidate our business growth. Orange is consolidating its position with a strong performance during 8 consecutive quarters.

What is the investment plan for this year and what are you trying to accomplish?

Up to now, Orange has invested in Romania almost approximately 3 bn euro. In 2015 when we have launched the Essentials 2020 strategy we have committed to investing up until 2018 half a billion euro. These investments are directed to further strengthening our network and to consolidating the customer experience. Hence, we shall focus in the upcoming period on processes that bring simplified interactions, on introducing new useful innovations for our customers. The recent launch of Voice over Wi-Fi is a great example. After one year of tests, we have commercially launched the service that provides crystal clear voice and instant call connection also over Wi-Fi, even in those areas where indoor, the signal could be less strong.
At the core of our strategy for 2020, offering the best customer experience has been our focus and in order to do that, we have to make sure that Orange is an enabler, connecting the clients with the opportunities brought by the digital world. In order to do so, seamless connectivity becomes compulsory. Therefore, we have been focused on expanding the 4G coverage. This year we have announced the full urban 4G coverage. All our efforts are subsumed to listening to our customers' needs and developing tailor made, simple to use products and services to match their expectations.

What are the main market stimulators these days? What kind of factors are sustaining the development of the sector?

Of course, the authorities have an important role to play within the sector, providing transparency and predictability for the operator. In order to encourage the investments, the new Infrastructure Law has to have clear directives. We need to clarify the tariffs for using various types of infrastructure.
The evolution of the industry is directly linked to the innovation pace and the level of investments within this area. In these 20 years of activity on the Romanian market, we at Orange have brought many innovations to the market, sometimes even pioneering. Also, our partnership with Innovation Labs has a long tradition, expressing our support for start-ups. We have just announced a new a program supporting innovation – Orange Fab, an accelerator for the start-ups.
Another important factor is the rhythm of adoption by the customer of all the new technologies and innovations brought by all the players of the market.

What objectives/projects do you have for the coming years?

We need to grow what we have seeded so far. We started to offer to our customers the experience of the convergence. We now have to accompany more of our customers in discovering the benefits it brings – simplicity, one operator for all our communication needs, one invoice, one customer service point, rich content, seamless connectivity.
Another objective is to keep up with the needs of our customers and offer them the best customer experience. This translates through "digesting" all this complexity around and coming up with very segmented solutions for our customers. This is the essence of our listening and responding strategy. A clear example in this direction is the one I was mentioning earlier – Orange Fun Kit.
Another objective is to develop the new businesses we have entered. Orange Money, our recently launched service, is a key element in our strategy of launching simple and useful solutions, adapted to the local market. Users can pay utility bills without the need of the physical bill, can recharge PrePay options, can receive and transfer money instantly and completely safely, as simply as sending a SMS, using their mobile phone.

Orange Money help them save time and transfer money safely anywhere and anytime, by using what is becoming one of the most personal items – the mobile phone. Orange Money is now in an incipient phase, but in the context of increasingly growing usage of smartphones, we trust that mobile financial services are the future.
Moreover, seamless connectivity will continue to be prominent in our priorities and a powerful and reliable network can open new horizons, such as the smart cities area or the smart territories. Our objective is to sustain our efforts so far and to further invest in consolidating our leadership in this field.
The future of telco market brings fantastic opportunities. Internet and connectivity are now the new electricity that shaped world in what we know today, since the industrial revolution. Digitalization is not shaping only business, the world is talking about sharing economy and the core of this shift is connectivity. Networks are the backbone of this shift in which organizations and consumers find themselves. The increase of IoT creates opportunities for smart concepts – smart homes, smart cities, smart buildings.

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