Saturday, July 20, 2024

It is imperative to support SMEs as they grow: Bassam Al Ibrahim (CEO, Ooredoo Oman)


It is imperative to support SMEs as they grow: Bassam Al Ibrahim (CEO, Ooredoo Oman)

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Bassam Al Ibrahim, CEO, Ooredoo

CEO Profile

Bassam Al Ibrahim brings over 20 years of experience gained in roles across the telecoms industry. Bassam arrives in Oman from Ooredoo Algeria where, as CEO, his strategic leadership saw the company thrive, despite a challenging macroeconomic environment.

He has also held a number of positions in Ooredoo Group since 2013, including Deputy Chief Procurement Officer – Strategic Sourcing.

This is in addition to several senior positions in the areas of telecoms, information technology, project management, and procurement at many multi-national organizations.

He has also served as a board member of Ooredoo Oman. Bassam has an MBA from HEC in Paris, and a BEng in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Essex, UK.

You have been appointed as the CEO of Ooredoo Oman in March having over 20 years of experience in the telecom industry in the GCC and MENA region. How does this experience inform your vision in Oman?

Bassam Al Ibrahim: Having 20 years’ worth of industry experience helps greatly in developing an operational plan. It also helped that when I joined Ooredoo Oman earlier this year, the company was well ahead in executing its plans for 2023. The company has big goals for this year. For instance, we want to improve our already existing digital space. The aim is to continue to increase the quality of the 5G services. Whether for personal or business use, we want the service to be much more accessible to our customers. This is the intention for 2023 and the quality of services will only improve in the upcoming years.

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I have noticed that Oman has much better operations than some other countries. It has great infrastructure and telecom services and provides excellent digital services to its citizens. With it being already well advanced, it makes it easier to enhance the quality of service provided to the customers.

Nowadays technology is the key to success in all industries. Ooredoo operates in 10 countries offering business and personal services and has had a presence in Oman for almost 20 years. How does Ooredoo stand out in the crowded marketplace and what is the company’s strategy for this year?

Bassam Al Ibrahim: I agree with your statement about there being a crowded marketplace. There is a good side to a crowded marketplace and there’s a bad side as well. At the end of the day, it is the customer who benefits the most from it as they get a wide range of options to choose what is best for them.

What makes Ooredoo Oman unique in the marketplace is the fact that we are in the lead of the digital domain. Our strategy has been to focus on the digital domain and have the largest number of operations within it. Our goal is to become the one-stop shop for the digital space in the ten countries that were referred to in the question. Customers can access our platform through the app, online portals, kiosks, and visiting the offices, or even through the self-access machines. We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to access our services. The easier we make the user experience, the better the satisfaction of our customers. This is why we are leading in the digital domain.

We are also among the leading parties when it comes to providing ICT solutions to businesses and the government.

Bassam Al Ibrahim

To maintain our position among the leading companies, we have to ensure that we have all the latest technologies when it comes to ICT solutions. This will allow for easier integration from both the business and the government perspectives. The question that arises is how can we merge these two to make it easier for governments to work with businesses and businesses to work with government vis a vis. So, this is one of the areas that we are looking into while moving forward this year.

What ties it all together is that we provide these services through the digital platform. And to ensure that we maintain our lead in the domain, we have to ensure that we give customer feedback the highest priority. Customer feedback is one of the top KPIs for Ooredoo Oman as that is what provides us with data. We want to know how the customer’s experience, from their journey to the kiosks and shops to their experience with using the app, and take from it what will help us deliver better.

Ooredoo is a leading telecom provider in the region, this is possible due to the latest technology offered by the company and the strategic partnerships in the country. Just recently, you signed MoU with CISCO to further advance Ooredoo’s ICT offerings. Could you review partnership and investment opportunities in Ooredoo Oman for local and international companies?

Bassam Al Ibrahim: The MoU that we signed with CISCO is a partnership that is new for the company in Oman however, it has been with the Ooredoo group for a long time. So, it was only beneficial to extend it to Oman. This agreement will ensure that we get the latest and the greatest of CISCO which is one of the leaders in the telecom industry providing ICT solutions and IT services.

There are two ways of looking at bringing in good quality technology. You either have the best of suits or the best of the breed. If it’s the best of breed, we bring in the best technology providers for this specific requirement for the technological services that we provide. If I want to develop an app, I can make take it from Apple Inc., which is the best of the breed, or I can get it from a local partner who can provide me with an app and a website. However, Apple remains the expert.

The strategy that we use is that we bring in the best from the specific field. We can take CISCO as the prime example. Our network is built by one of the best technology providers in the world, Huawei. Our charging system is built by the best in the field of charging and billing, which is Ericsson. As the pattern shows, we are continuously bringing the best in specific areas of our business and this will continue to be our strategy as we go down the pipeline. Some may not agree with this plan because it requires integration which may be difficult. However, the course of my industry experience has allowed me to overcome that gap. The experts in our organization allow us to integrate these systems seamlessly, allowing us to give the best to the customer.

You have an extensive international experience in the sector, what are your insights regarding the telecom sector in Oman and what are the main challenges in the Omani telecom market?

Bassam Al Ibrahim: As mentioned earlier, customers are already enjoying the benefits of the 5G service. Vendors of the world are trying to develop 6G which will be even faster and better for the customer. As we saw during COVID, being confined to homes led to the increased use of 5G services for entertainment, working from home, education, and whatnot. The usage of data will continue to grow as it has done so previously. The customer will not use his phone any less. Rather, I think time spent on the phone will only increase as he’s now gotten used to 4G and 5G services whereas pre-COVID the usage of data services for minimal. To accommodate this increased use of 5G services, we need to make sure that the quality of service and user experience only grows further.

Moreover, coming out of COVID, Oman is seeing an increase in the expatriate community and the development of major projects. Adding to that, tourism will also bring in a lot of people from GCC regions which will drastically increase the demand for data usage. This is when I think will be a challenge for the industry to maintain the high level of customer service it offers.

SMEs are a big focus for Oman as per His Majesty’s Vision 2040 of becoming a technologically-advanced and knowledge-based economy. Ooredoo’s support for SMEs includes several pieces of training and entrepreneurship. What are some of the recent initiatives of Ooredoo that will help Local SMEs to grow?

Bassam Al Ibrahim: One thing for sure is that the Oman 2040 vision is a key pillar of our strategies moving forward and has been embedded in them for the upcoming years as well. We need to find ways to support SMEs in different ways to realize the vision. It is imperative to support SMEs as they grow. This is especially important as many businesses shut down during COVID. So, as many are relaunching or establishing, we have to provide support to ensure that the local ecosystem continues to grow.

Ooredoo can support them by providing technological services.

We offer different services that support SMEs such as Maktabi which is an “office-in-a-box communication bundle”.

Bassam Al Ibrahim

This is a great solution for small businesses as they get the initial support that they need when starting out and then they can continue to grow along with Ooredoo. I often view it as banking for students in universities because when you are a university student, you go with the bank that the university provides. Such banks often provide good options and services to the students because they know that when the student leaves the university, they are highly likely to end up staying with the bank.

This is what we want to do as well. If the SME or Soho works with us as they grow, they will continue to stay with us for a long period as we will continuously provide them with good technology and services. Similarly, the agreements with big organizations like CISCO and Huawei, and other big names mean that not only do we provide them with good technology, but in turn these companies educate the SMEs. They teach the SMEs how they can use the services that we offer, what is best for them, and what will benefit them as a business owner. With our SME support service, we are not giving them Lamborghinis or Ferraris, rather we give them what they need for the time being until the time that they are ready to buy those luxuries on their own.

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