Etisalat Misr is ensuring a steady stream of high quality service and is trying to always find creative and new ways to foster sustainable growth within the country. Telecom Review Africa was able to secure an exclusive interview with Hazem Metwally, CEO of Etisalat Misr, to talk more about the company’s growth in different aspects, how they’re leading digital transformation, 5G, and many more topics.
All businesses faced a rough year last year due to the covid-19 pandemic. However, Etisalat Misr was able to face these challenges. How were you prepared? And what were the lessons learned?
The pandemic is first and foremost a humanitarian challenge that has tested us all on a personal, professional, global, and national level. No one can claim being fully prepared to face its implications. Yet, as Etisalat Misr, we prioritized the people in times of crisis, being our talents, our customers and our stakeholders through embracing three key values: agility, resilience and creativity, which I believe were crucial to navigate us through troubled waters.
First, as an industry, we had to accommodate the high peak in demand due to remote-working and remote-learning; we enabled this acceleration to digital transformation through agility. Bring the best network in Egypt, equipped with state of the art technology; we were able to act fast, act quick to bring innovative services and solutions to meet our customer’s demand across geographies through strengthened 4G technology and increased bandwidth.
Second, our people adopted a striking glimmer of resilience through courage, responsibility and determination. The company has consistently and transparently connected and communicated with our employees to stay focused, and to maintain a vital sense of unity and collaboration despite the uncertainties. This enabled and empowered our talents to fully function daily while working remotely to serve the business demands.
We are an industry that thrives on innovation. Every process, every function, every connection we make must embrace and harness the potential of creativity. Etisalat Misr was built on the premise that selecting the right calibers, providing them with the right resources and embracing their creativity to challenge status quo is what can drive us forward. We’re bonded by our shared drive to keep moving forward.
How important is your partnerships with technology providers to boost Etisalat domination over the advanced services in Egypt?
Leadership is built on the foundation of strong partnerships fostered over the years. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with great entities that help us cater to our customers’ needs through enhanced user experience; and our recent partnership with technology partners cultivates the mindset of a win-win. We are pioneering voice service and continue to expand our infrastructure across networks while technology providers bring the innovative all-converged, reliable and ultra-simplified Single Voice Core solution to our offering.
The increased digital transformation of consumers’ lives and businesses presents our industry with important opportunities to extend our services beyond connectivity, through integrated solutions, consumer and enterprise digital services, and reimagined models of digital communication leveraging advances in human interfaces and technology. We continue bridging the gap on innovation, through partnerships with purpose, across every corner.
Digital transformation is one of the pillars of Egypt’s progress towards its 2030 vision. What is Etisalat Misr’s role in this journey, how is it taking the lead?
Egypt is one of Africa and the Middle East’s most powerful transformation stories with a growth trajectory strengthened by reform and private sector engagement. Etisalat Misr is contributing to its 2030 Agenda not only on Digital Transformation but also on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, through increased investments, job creation, promoting competitiveness and excellence in innovation.
As one of Egypt’s biggest telecoms operators, we are contributing significantly to the ICT sector; as we have built the infrastructure to support acceleration to the 4IR. In the digital economy, connectivity counts. It is impossible to imagine a sector, industry or area that cannot benefit from the digitalization of services.
One of the sectors that we see rapidly evolving is digital financial inclusion. The pandemic highlighted the necessity of having robust systems that would help include a greater segment of our society with simplicity to carry out basic transactions. We have recently announced our partnership with the Canal Sugar Company, which provides farmers with facilitated payment methods through Etisalat Cash, a safe and easy-to-use electronic channel.
We continue enabling the ecosystem through financial inclusion, accessibility and providing opportunity across sectors such health, education, agriculture, manufacturing and entrepreneurship.
You were recently allocated new frequencies to be added to your network. With this boost, what are your plans for Egypt’s development regarding 5G?
Egypt is a great market, the more you serve it, the more it gives you back. While we embrace the thought of 5G connecting human and machine in an infinite number of ways that can change our world, the public hasn’t yet caught up, with adoption still nascent. When technology solves a problem, it sells fast. The newest generation of wireless technology will transform our world and lives, when it starts to facilitate and contribute to our day-to-day routine. The new frequencies weren’t added due to a current necessity but rather they were part of our usual 10-year planning exercise to ensure that we can cover the growing forecasted needs of our clients. We are gearing up on infrastructure, networks, increased spectrum for coverage as well as partnerships so that when it’s time for the next-gen technology, we’ll be ready. I am confident that Etisalat Misr will play an essential role in transforming the concept into reality, given the accumulated experience that the group has in the introduction of 5G across countries.
Customer satisfaction is with no doubt a focal point for Etisalat Misr. What are your plans to further implement customer-centricity?
We have been investing for quite some time now in a customer-centric strategy and operating model; with a culture that aligns with them and talents who deliberately cultivate the necessary mindset and values required within their teams. It takes a degree of foresight, coupled with data and agility to further implement customer-centricity.
We’re keen on resolving service issues quicker, offering more personalized services, adapting our products to the needs and demands of the people. We are the only operator with a full digital portfolio; an indication on our keenness in steering our direction towards our customers, through Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS).
Being customer-first has two dimensions: first is the degree of relevance to the market demands, and second is our ability to deliver impact. This puts us in a stand to always define which areas we want to show leadership on.
This year marks the 15th anniversary for Etisalat Group and the 14th for Etisalat Misr. What were the major milestones achieved during this journey and what are your outlook for the future?
In the past 15 years, the composition of the industry has shifted tremendously, going from “who” is online to “everybody” is online; this is an era of hyper-connectivity and it hasn’t only shaped the way we interact, but the way we live as well. At Etisalat Misr, we got the fundamentals right early on which gave us the opportunity to support innovation and disrupt the industry. This is the guiding principle of the past years, but also the aspiration going into the future. Some of the major milestones definitely begins with being the best network in the market with the most advanced technology, acquiring 4G SIM cards early on in 2007, launching VoLTE service and hosting the introduction of back-then new operator WE on our networks; again showcasing the strength, resilience and capabilities of our service.
We are looking into providing an expanded set of services with higher bandwidth: educational services, entertainment services, digital-enterprise building solutions. Let me use this opportunity to build a bit of anticipation. Later this year, we will announce the introduction of a new experience that integrates our service offerings with entertainment; a more nuanced approach to customer engagement.
Etisalat is now considered as the most valuable brand in the Middle East and Africa, figuring among the top 25 global brands for the fifth year in a row. What made Etisalat Misr stand out and what is the next step you aspire to achieve?
I believe what makes Etisalat Misr stand out is that we really focus on customer retention versus acquisition; that is where consumer experience drives value. We attract our customers through the availability of options including tiered pricing, bundle packs, incentives. However, the challenge is how to retain them. We have to always meet the people where they are, on both financial and quality levels; and that is how we become a valuable brand.
Looking boldly into the future, we will continue to attract, delight and retain customers, beginning with ensuring a steady stream of high quality service and of course finding creative and new ways to foster sustainable growth within the country.
What is the volume of Etisalat’s electronic payment services users?
We have witnessed a large turnout of our customers on the E-wallet and Etisalat Cash services, and we aim to reach 20 million customers within the framework of the Government of Egypt’s plans to support financial inclusion. We’ve also launched a number of awareness campaign; and are working with policy makers to introduce new legislations that support mobile and electronic payments.
The social responsibility file is one of the most important files in the recent period, in which companies devote their efforts to be part of. What are the most important issues that Etisalat Misr supports in this file in the recent period?
We’re seeing a shift from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism; where every business needs to bring value to its stakeholders beyond profits. This shift in mindset requires partnerships, embed the concept of sustainability in our core, and move from social responsibility to social impact. A live-able world is in all our interests: the public, businesses and governments. That requires an enormous combined effort.
Etisalat Misr is scaling up core efforts in contributing to the community through focusing on technology that enables development in priority sectors such as health, education and capacity building. We are also embedding the Sustainable Development Goals in our corporate agenda through integrating Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, Responsible Consumption and Environmental Sustainability, as well as Decent Work and Economic Growth.
2020 has been a catalyst for initiatives, ideas and thousands of projects and collaborations across every industry. As Etisalat Misr, we continue to scout, enable, and implement some of those ideas, to help benefit our society.