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Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the largest telecoms operator in the Gulf, is helping the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) transform into a knowledge-based economy, in addition to supporting government entities as they create more smart services in the country.
As Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) governments look to provide digital services to citizens, they are progressively working with telecom service providers to meet the growing demand for telecommunications service connectivity and to tap into wider ICT services and expertise.
For the largest telecommunications market in the Gulf, KSA’s first and main telecom operator STC is playing a crucial role, according to Anef A. Abanomi, enterprise accounts vice-president at STC.
Abanomi says the ICT sector is rapidly evolving, with established technologies becoming obsolete as new disruptive technology replaces it. STC realised this and has developed strategies to address and even capitalise on the evolution that is happening in the KSA market and broader Middle East.
In supporting the KSA government transform into and build a knowledge-based economy, STC has been guiding small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-market and enterprise organisations to embrace change through the various telecoms and ICT services it provides through managed services and cloud offerings, says Abanomi.
“We are not only supporting customers in improving their effectiveness, efficiencies, scale and focus, but we are also helping them to invest less Capex [capital expenditure] and more on Opex [operating expenditure],” he says.
Key for STC is to take its services to the most remote areas in KSA, where some of the smaller businesses are still struggling to access basic telephony and internet services.
“My team’s focus in 2016 is on improving how we can reach our customers – especially SMEs. We have deployed multiple channels for all our commercial customers to interact with us throughout their complete lifecycle,” says Abanomi.
“Now our customers can choose to engage STC Enterprise Business Unit through the digital channel, call centre, retail network and through our Success Partners.”
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He says at the centre of STC’s Enterprise Business Unit ICT portfolio lies offerings that include mobility, data, internet and telephony services. He adds that the company’s suite of managed services comprises of managed routers, managed security, managed hosting, call centre, PBX, AVL and POS.
“The biggest game changer has been our cloud offerings, which we launched in October 2015. IT presented us a number of opportunities to enhance our offerings and the value we bring to customers in the major cities and some of the remote areas in the country,” he says.
STC is introducing a number of SME-focused offerings that it believes will transform how customers execute their business across KSA.
“In addition to growing the current presence in all the major cities in KSA, we are expanding our push in the next layer of cities where we feel our customers’ needs are not being met in line with the automation and digitisation of services,” he says.
“We want to reach more than 50% of customers currently underserved this year, with the rest reached by the end of 2017.”
Challenges for telecoms industry
Aside from the SME push, Abanomi says a common challenge for the entire industry is finding and retaining skilled talent. This is the same for customers, he adds.
“We remain committed to contributing to the creation of a larger highly skilled base through our in-house internship schemes and graduate programmes,” says Abanomi.
He points out that another common challenge for the industry is knowledge inside the SME segment, as most of these businesses still lack the basic understanding of how best to use ICT to enhance their own business goals.
He reiterates that the company remains committed to helping customers embrace change and transform their businesses as the pace of digitisation garners momentum.
The company is increasing its commitment to invest in terms of geographic reach and in the ICT services it is rolling out.
“We see tremendous potential in supporting the SME segment to develop and grow,” says Abanomi.
“We strongly believe that, as the national ICT provider, we have an obligation to lead the way in supporting the whole transformation agenda currently underway in Saudi Arabia. We will do this by providing smart ICT services to customers of all types.”
Convergence at the core of STC’s strategy
The convergence of the IT and telecommunications markets is causing chaos among some carriers.
In an effort to stay relevant with their customers, many telecom providers in the Middle East are scooping up datacentre assets to get into the cloud market. But can Middle East carriers such as STC compete with cloud leaders such as Amazon and Google?
Abanomi says convergence of telecoms and IT is at the core of STC’s strategy in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East. STC is currently partnering with specialist suppliers to help it fill gaps in its offering.
“We are forging partnerships with businesses to complement our core offerings, and we are leveraging our network and IT channel reach,” says Abanomi.
He says more than 70% of indirect partners that take STC’s service to users have other IT businesses, which have been enhanced by having an alliance with STC.
Looking ahead, Abanomi says STC will continue to take into account the evolution of managed ICT services and look to go further up the customer value chain.
“Automation and digitisation of business processes across the various industry verticals is a major focus for us, as cloud computing is set to transform how our customers conduct their business in Saudi Arabia,” he says.