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touch’s Chief Executive Officer, Emre Gurkan presented a detailed overview of touch’s performance in Lebanon during the 12th edition of the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit, that was held on March 29 at the Phoenicia hotel, under the patronage of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, represented by the Minister of Telecommunications, Mohamed Choucair.

Gurkan outlined the factors that have contributed to strengthening the company’s pioneering role in the telecom sector, including its affiliation with parent company, Zain Group, serving more than 49 million active customers and leading in 5 countries out of 9 countries, and achieving $4.4 billion in revenues.

He stated that touch provides the best shareholder value, where by the end of 2019 touch will reduce OPEX by 20% to 25%, and will increase Profit Margin by 12 percentage points, alongside the introduction of revenue improvement initiatives.

As part of its innovation and digital transformation program, Gurkan explained how touch is evolving the classical management systems toward Service Operations Center “SOC”, where the quality of experience “QoE” perceived by the customer is measured for each application and service. The results are ranked into subjective feeling metrics (Excellent, Good, Fair, Bad, Poor) referring to the perception of the user about the quality and value of a particular service, rather than absolute technical figures. Gurkan presented also actual QoE figures about touch MBB services, where 83% of the samples today are classified as Excellent.

touch also won three awards on March 28, and was selected as the undisputed winner of the prestigious and highly competitive “Product of the Year 2019” Award under the Telecom category for the Student Plan, touch Mobile App, and touch Business Bundle. The award was voted by people and independently validated by global market research agency, Nielsen

Furthermore, Gurkan highlighted how critical it was that operators looked beyond their traditional business models in an effort to generate new revenues – and he illustrated STC as an example of that.

Uber’s recent acquisition of ride-hailing company Careem for $3.1bn has generated a huge return on STC’s $100m investment in Careem in 2017. Its investment is now worth $274m and Gurkan has praised STC’s progressive approach.

Gurkan said, “The name of the game is in new value pockets. Careem’s acquisition of Uber for 3.1bn has resulted in STC making a lot more money from that one investment than its traditional business models. This is an approach and mindset that other operators need to adopt in order to diversify its revenues.”

Gurkan also spoke of the key role the operator plays in the Lebanese economy and said its primary objective is to provide its customers with unrivalled experiences on its network.

In addition to this, Gurkan said that whilst 5G will be a key access technology, investment in the technology is not required now. What’s more important now according to touch’s CEO is to launch new innovative products and services.

In his keynote, touch CEO stressed the importance of the operator’s efforts to empower women, with the company currently counting 45% of its management as females, with a goal to expand these efforts to achieve 50% of touch’s workforce as female currently at 32%, and 35% of females being in leadership positions currently at 25%. 

Next generation touch

Part of touch’s digital and innovation strategy focuses on developing the startup ecosystem domestically and elevate Lebanon to becoming a leading digital innovator in the region, especially that Lebanon is among the top attractors of investors in the region. touch is keen to catalyze the potential of startups internally among its employees, as well as externally targeting innovators and entrepreneurs.

In this context, Gurkan demonstrated the importance of ZAINIAC, an online platform and community for Zain Group employees launched in 2018, allowing them to suggest innovative ideas, share challenges, and collaborate in a bid to achieve common goals. In the first cycle of the initiative, three of the first five ideas to be picked up by Zain for further development originated from Lebanon.

Gurkan went on to explain the importance of the touch Innovation Program (TIP), which was launched in 2018 and provides support to six startups twice a year, by offering mentorship and workshops. Twelve startups have benefited from the program over its two cycles, and touch has started accepting application for the third cycle.

As part of touch’s efforts to develop the digital economy, the company has collaborated with Ecomz, an e-commerce store builder. This partnership will provide touch with e-commerce solutions on touch’s self-care app, which includes the selling of physical and digital goods.

touch has also collaborated with Fallound to provide a data bundle that will be available for Student Plan customers at no additional charge for the first two months.

Gurkan also announced the partnership with IOTree, the first organization in Lebanon to deploy Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), which provides leading edge connectivity with 3GPP NB-IoT standards.

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