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To stay ahead of the curve, every organization today is pulling out all the stops to “digitally disrupt” the marketplace. In this process, however, the finer nuances are often lost, leaving these players flailing. In a conversation with Mark Newman, Chief Analyst, TM Forum, Manoranjan ‘Mao’ Mohapatra, Chief Executive Officer, Comviva shares his views on whether companies are merely jumping onto the digital disruption bandwagon or are they prepared to leverage data to its fullest potential? Excerpts…

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 where is the telecoms industry today in its digital transformation?
    My personal view is that the industry is at a four or five. This isn’t because the industry isn’t doing it correctly. It’s because most people today still think that the need for transformation is one- time. If one goes back 20 years, one knew that any change in IT systems would have a life of ten years. Now, a lot of people are being myopic and thinking that the transformation would serve them for three to four years. But, in truth, one needs to accept that one has to live with transformation on a daily basis.To cite an example pertaining to software and agility, when I started in my career, major software builds were being carried out per year. Five years ago, a software build was being carried out per quarter. Now, a major software build is being carried out twice a year through agile. In fact, I read that Amazon is doing a software build every 11 minutes!
  • How are most Chief Information Officers (CIOs) approaching transformation?
    There is a whole spectrum of views and approaches. One section of chief information officers (CIOs) believes that one either transforms lock, stock, and barrel or not at all. Others are happy doing bits and pieces. I would say that most CIOs are taking a middle path. The reality is that there are a number of constraints for the CIOs. They have hundreds of services running that are generating revenues and these are paying their employees’ salaries.Most people are disrupting for the future, not to meet today’s challenges. To do this, one needs to adopt a leap-frogging approach. The need to leverage data is growing by the day. This is increasing demand for computing power and bandwidth for communication. If one has not prepared oneself for this growth, one is building up potential challenges for the future, when this explosion happens.
  • Is the relationship between CSPs and their vendors changing as a result of digital transformation?
    I’m not sure that the various aspects of this relationship are really changing yet. Customers are still trying to manage the transformation, which means that it is not really a partnership. They are still taking a “laundry list”-centric approach to how we work with them, rather than building a holistic view centred on a collaborative effort.
  • What impact does it have whether your customers use your cloud or their own private cloud?
    Today, most CSPs are using their own private cloud to host services such as those provided by Comviva. They ask us to bring our application to them, which is fine, except that they can’t then leverage our central expertise in data modelling and data analysis. We have a data science practice within Comviva with 15-20 experts based in Bangalore. Maybe we send one or two individuals to a customer location, but they are not availing our full competency set. Furthermore, it can be expensive for them because they are paying for dedicated resources.We have come across certain CSPs who are open, for example, to the idea of our caching their data. This is, however, rare, as most ask us to deliver our capabilities within their firewall.
  • Is there an element of fear from some communication service providers (CSPs) about transformation?
     certainly think there is sense of insecurity in many communication service providers (CSPs). They fear they may be opening their internal data too much. In many cases, this is because of national laws, with regulators concerned about data being stored outside their country.
  • You’ve talked a lot about operators leveraging their data. Do you believe that they can make money from their data?
    Yes, we do believe in data monetization. Consider the example of how a telecom operator can help a bank sign up customers. An operator’s mobile customers may only be generating one cent per kilobyte. However, if the bank is able to leverage customer data, it creates value that goes well beyond connectivity. If a bank’s subscriber acquisition cost is, let’s say, $1 per customer, then they may be prepared to give $0.10 or $0.20 to the operator.One of the reasons why this data-as-a-service business has been slow to take off is because the business-to-business (B2B) function in many operators is very underdeveloped, often generating less than 10 per cent of the total revenue. Furthermore, there may be tension between the consumer and the enterprise lines of business, as they feel that they are competing for business. The relationship aspects of transformation aren’t fully developed yet. Customers are still trying to manage, which indicates the absence of the “true essence” of a partnership.
October 12, 2019 0 comment
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Telecom Operators worldwide are facing increasing heat due to gradual erosion in their core infrastructure revenues. P2P Messaging is going down affected by OTT traffic. Net Neutrality concerns are affecting service differentiation and segmented monetization. As the world moves towards all IP for every mobile service, Operators need to quickly turn around a corner and find newer ways to monetize their data infrastructure and be ahead of the game Operators form the backbone of the mobile economy and have the highest contribution to the mobile ecosystem. The Mobile ecosystem revenue is forecasted to grow to nearly $3 Trillion by 2020, as per GSMA.


At the same time, the share of the operators in the pie is reducing. Think about this – Telecom Operators have invested zillions of dollars in setting up the infrastructure that is enabling us to communicate the way we want today, anytime, anywhere. The digital transformation of the industry has caught out the operators, and they are finding it increasing difficult to sustain their revenues and grow. Voice revenues are on the decline, P2P messaging traffic decline is faster, owing to the proliferation of OTT services. Traditional core-infrastructure services cannot sustain them for long. Everything is going to IP, everything is data. The big question in front of operators today is how to effectively monetize data traffic.

 image005 Gartner predicts that by 2018, worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 3x from its current levels

However the operator data revenues are not increasing by a similar proportion. Ability to monetize that insatiable appetite for more data holds the key to their long term success

Mobile Data Revenue eco-system

Broadly, the mobile eco-system is enabled by three main drivers – Consumers, Advertisers and Enterprises


  • Consumers / Subscribers

Depending on the general consumer consumption pattern, the global consumer / subscriber market for data can be broadly classified into Pioneers, Mature and Followers segments.

Operators need to evolve differentiated strategies to individually address these segments. These could range from offering higher data volume limits in data-hungry markets, competitive pricing, pay-per-use models for driving data usage, to even data VAS like data sharing options for friends / families for common apps.

  • Content Suppliers / Advertisers

Advertisers provide the means for businesses to reach their customers. Their main value comes from being able to offer a higher conversion rate through better targeting.

The captive customer base of subscribers is a huge asset that operators have to make use of. Usage patterns, location information, demographics, interests and what not; all are key data that the services out there are dying to get hold of for driving custom intelligence and targeted sales.

The $500Bn Content / Advertising market is desperate to get these insights that will help them generate higher conversion rates, with more contextual and targeted advertising. Operators are also in the best position to keep the data anonymous given their long-term experience in dealing with user privacy concerns.

  • Enterprise / Sponsored Data

Enterprises are the businesses that want to get connected with their customers anytime anywhere. They are looking for newer channels for engagement for retaining customers, promoting new services and improving service quality.

The big opportunity that is today untapped to a fairly large extent is Data Sponsorship. It has been making the rounds for a while now, but net neutrality debates have curtailed its success. A top Tier 1 operator in North America introduced a service named Sponsored Data in 2014, where customers can browse, stream and enjoy content from data sponsors without impacting their monthly data plan allowance. Some limited use-cases are possible with zero-rating, but still there is the search for those killer use-cases, that can help realize the true potential of this business.

This requires a paradigm shift in how operators are thinking about data. There is need for operators to start to treat data as something that could be used for trade. Enable enterprises to use data as a means to incentivize, reward and promote services towards subscribers. Enterprises are looking at ways that go beyond just offering discounts or distributing gift coupons. What if operators created the environment for enterprises to use data flexibly as part of their marketing campaigns and customer retention schemes? What if an enterprise could deploy data-led loyalty programs? What if they could manage real-time campaigns that use a mix of customer / network intelligence that the operator brings in, and incentives based on data packs? The growing use of smartphones and launch of an ocean of apps and services for the consumers has put a premium on the data pipe of operators. Operators should look to take advantage of this by making it convenient for businesses to connect with their customers using data as an engagement channel.

Data monetization is critical for the long-term success of operators in this age of digital transformation. It is quite probable,in the very near future that data might just become a newform of currency, with a healthy contribution to the mobile economy.

February 10, 2016 0 comment
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We live in a data-rich age. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, annual global IP traffic will pass the zettabyte (1000 exabytes) threshold by the end of 2016, and will reach 2 zettabytes per year by 2019. Impressive numbers, no doubt, but, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The rules of the game have changed. The challenge before any company today is not about aggregating data and building up their stockpile. What’s important is-how does one gain the most insights from the data available? And, most importantly, how does one leverage that insight to gain an edge over competition?

Picture this-you’re sitting with a potential client and making a sales pitch. As a part of the same, you begin spewing a host of facts and figures. Now, all this while, you’re thinking that the client is mightily impressed with your exhaustive knowledge base. But, and here’s the catch-how do you know the client isn’t actually thinking, “How will all this data help my business?”

In other words, the number of spreadsheets, pie-charts, bar graphs, et all, you bring to the table isn’t likely to impress your client (except maybe in terms of how good your research is). The company representative you’re pitching to is probably aware of your ability (otherwise, why would he even bother meeting you?). However, they’re probably more interested in knowing if you know how to use the data at your disposal and what they need to do next. In other words-the data repository you have access to won’t do the trick-it’s that single idea or insight you offer that makes all the difference.

So, what is the difference between data for the sake of data and actionable information? Well, let’s look at an example-say you find out that a friend has moved from the US to India. This is an isolated piece of information that doesn’t require any action on your part. Now, say you knew that the friend requires a talk plan which offers a substantial number of ISD minutes, coupled with an internet pack that offers fast and reliable connectivity for emails and browsing. That should prompt action on your part-the individual in question is a potential customer and you have a few products that can be tailored to suit his requirements. Of course, equally important is when you found out-remember; the telecom space is a cut-throat one and sometimes, even two minutes is too late. So, hopefully, your discovery was at an opportune time-perhaps while logging into your prospecting system. This means you were ready to act on the opportunity at hand. THAT is an actionable insight.

It isn’t that simple, though. As per KPMG, the process of uncovering that vital nugget of information that may serve as an insight has become complex, owing to a rapidly evolving technological ecosystem. This has disrupted an organization’s ability to adapt-not too hard to believe, keeping in mind the breakneck speed at which technology is evolving and new sources of data are being uncovered! Data sources, such as social media feeds, customer blogs and mobile data are all playing a part in increasing complexity and creating opportunities for companies.

Having said that, however, there are broad rules one can follow to make the most of one’s data. First and foremost, the emphasis is no longer on capturing data, but on analysing it. So, gather data from multiple sources (yes, all kinds) and then link it in a meaningful way to analysis. Next, figure out the best way of breaking down this data dump and rehash it in a way that throws up previously hidden bits of information. Finally, remember: the best data analysis is useless if the insights don’t find their way to the decision-makers in a timely manner and in a format they can understand.

In a nutshell, bear in mind that the idea isn’t to stop collecting, analyzing and applying massive amounts of data. Quite the contrary. Just ensure that you don’t end up sending every kernel of data, every list and every chart to your client. Focus on meaningful insights and share things that pass the “so what” test. That means presenting insights and ideas that matter to the client-the “Here’s what to do” rather than “Here’s how we get there.” After all, it’s just data!

August 27, 2015 0 comment
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