Partnership strategies: Innovation requires new structure and mindset

Joseph Waring
17 May 2012

There's been a lot of talk about the net giants looking to operators for support on a number of levels, including billing capabilities and insight into their customers' usage patterns and behavior. Operators need to act fast to establish relationships and secure a strong position in the mobile content/mobile commerce value chain. The question is: how can they cooperate and with what business model can both parties win?

This was the topic of a roundtable discussion in Bangkok last month organized by CSG International and moderated by Telecom Asia group editor Joseph Waring.

The following are excerpts from the discussion with: Chris Ellis, GM of transformation at SingTel Optus; Yutaka Yasuda, chairman of KDDI R&D Labs; Ahammad Jubaer Ali, EVP of corporate strategy at Robi Axiata in Bangladesh; Nitipong Boon-long, VP of international business department at Dtac; Zoran Vasiljev, managing partner for Asia at Peppers & Rogers Group; Jacqueline Chan, manager of international operations at Singapore's IDA; and Kenneth Khoo, VP of Asia at CSG International.

Telecom Asia: Is it realistic for the average mobile operator to aspire to gain a strong position in the mobile content and mobile commerce value chain?

SingTel Optus' Chris Ellis: The answer is no. That is not to be expected. If you look back historically, it's an absolute exception to the norm for an organization to completely transform itself into a new business model. So we're running almost a two-horse race. In Singapore we've set up an innovation center and domestically in Australia we've set up a dedicated unit for digital products.

But before you start that you have to look at what is your strategy and what is the agenda you want to drive. For us, first it's about how do we use applications or over-the-top services to retain our customer base and protect our revenue from the other players. Secondly, it's about how can we use it to create additional digital revenue. So it's a two-pronged attack.

But there's no question that we won't be able to sell services completely from an application or over-the-top service perspective. So it's always going to be playing on the side or trying to carve out a strategic niche, such as location-based services that use our core capabilities.

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