29 Mar 2010

Operators focus on return on investment in the recovery from the economic downturn

Last week’s Eurasia Com event in Istanbul was a one of the most enjoyable I’ve been to in the last months. Not only was it hosted in one of the world’s most vibrant cities - Istanbul - but the event itself had the perfect mix of learning from telecoms leaders and of networking.
After final count, over 600 people attended the event over the 2 days, sharing their time between the conference sessions and networking in the exhibition . The interesting point about this number is that different crowds attended each day, making it possible to make new contacts at each break or lunch, or indeed in the drinks reception which took place at the Conrad Hotel's Summit Bar, offering fantastic views over the Bosphorus. The audience was composed of representatives of the whole telecoms ecosystem (operators, vendors, regulators, brands etc.) from Turkey, the CIS, the Black Sea region and neighbouring markets.
The debates covered the key issues that concern all stakeholders in the telecoms market : operators’ strategies, evolution of the telecoms ecosystem, increasing competition, broadband strategies, value-added services, convergence, customer growth and retention. However, it seems that the tone of the discussions has changed in the last year.
In 2009, telecoms players were justly concerned by the global economy and the fall in revenue it caused. As a result, they were looking at cost-reduction strategies to avoid losses. Last week, they put the emphasis on ensuring return on investment instead, possibly a more positive way of approaching the market's challenges. Most of them (particularly the Turkish operators such as Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea) have kept their network investments up during the downturn, and now they are focusing on ensuring that they generate returns. As Ineke Botter, CEO of Bakcell in Azerbaijan summed up: “if an investor invests a quarter of a million dollars in a network, you have to make sure it’s followed up by revenues”. This focus on ROI means operators are looking more closely at addressing new market segments (rural areas, youth, mature customers, enterprises), improving loyalty strategies to up-sell to existing customers, service innovation such as mobile marketing, and joint ventures with other industries such as the banking sector for m-commerce.
The conference included a mix of presentations, case studies and lively discussions, with plenty of opportunities to develop next year’s programme with new topics. If you were there and would like to give some feedback, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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