Signs of change
Sachet said that over the last two years, Accenture has seen a shift with operators trying to focus on innovation and adopt new operating models. To encourage innovation, he said operators are getting closer to users and not guessing want they want and finally working with third parties and creating new business models directed at them.
He also said some are creating a separate service innovation organization to nurture an innovative culture, set incentives to reward innovation creation and fight the war for talent.
Menon from Frost & Sullivan argued that the industry has seen a good deal of innovation in the areas of business models and pricing schemes. He pointed to Bharti's approach to leveraging outsourcing and the strengths of its partners as an outstanding example of innovation.
"Building low-cost business models to reach out to the masses with an ability to have an ARPU of just $3 per month and still be profitable is an innovation."
Where telcos have struggled, he said, is in the area of customer intimacy. "They have yet to be able to offer a differentiated level of customer experience based on knowing the customer and his needs. This is where we will see innovation coming in the next 10 years."
Dato' Sri Shazalli concurred, saying operators need to customize their products and services based on customers' ever-changing needs and desires.
He gave the example of mobile broadband, where its pricing strategy has been dynamic from the start.
"We keep a close eye on developments at a global level and are aware of new business models such as free voice calls paid for by advertising or hybrid prepaid-postpaid plans. But the reality is these tend to appeal to a small niche, whereas as a large and established telco we need to find what appeals and is easily understood by the masses. Innovation will be unprofitable if it fails to attract new business."
He said Celcom fuels innovation by "carefully selecting the right business partners that have common goals and are able to work to develop services that will enrich customers' mobile experience."
This approach also gives application developers and young innovators the chance to bring their ideas to the next stage.