TBY talks to Jurgen Peetz, CEO of Nar Mobile, on the company’s growth, its contribution to the telecoms sector, and prospects for 4G.
TBY What is your history in the mobile telecoms industry?
JURGEN PEETZ I have been in the telecoms business for more than 20 years and led the development of such companies as Nokia in several senior executive positions, in Orange Austria as Managing Director, and at Comium Mobile with four mobile operations in Africa as Group CEO. I took the leadership of Nar Mobile as a result of my extensive experience in the senior management of several mobile operations in Europe and on the African continent. Over this time I got to know how to predict market movements and how to overcome problems in many different situations and atmospheres. The most important characteristic in our sector is innovation and having a clear business strategy. Prior to my arrival in Azerbaijan, I had been leading four different operations in West Africa, where we applied innovative strategies that turned us into a leading company. Innovation is a key word for success nowadays, and now I am trying to apply all my experience to Nar Mobile and the Azerbaijani market. I must say that I like Azerbaijan very much. I am very impressed to see Azerbaijan so developed and Azerbaijanis being well-educated and hospitable people. People in Azerbaijan are very friendly, and what is more important for me is that they are technology friendly. People here try to use the latest technologies as much as possible, be it in mobile communications or any other field. They are curious about all new developments and innovations. Azerbaijanis tend to show great interest in education, technology, computers, and the internet. This is really great.
What were Nar Mobile’s results like in 2011?
Azerbaijan’s mobile market saw important movements in 2011. Our Nar Mobile brand is known in the market as the most transparent, innovative, and affordable mobile communication services provider. Unlike our competitors we never used kontors (units), which is an outdated and non-transparent practice for customers. Finally, in 2011 our competitors were forced to move to manat-based payment models, and that made the price competition very intense. In 2011 we invested more than $80 million on major network modernization to deliver the best customer experience to our subscribers. We also invested in the enhancement of our sales and distribution capabilities, and introduced Nar Dünyası (Nar World) sales and service centers under a new modern concept, which is a customer-oriented approach in sales.
We also strengthened the image of our brand by getting Eurovision 2011 winners El & Nikki to become the faces of Nar Mobile. As a result we showed solid progress in 2011 by increasing our revenues by more than 20%, increasing our market share by 2%, and reducing our churn rate significantly. We have also added to our profile of innovative products and solutions. At BakuTel 2011 we announced our partnership with Azerbaijan Airlines to launch mobile communication services on all aircraft. This will be possible as a result of an exclusive agreement with OnAir, the world’s leading inflight connectivity solutions provider. We also presented the latest mobile health solutions that allow our customers to use data services for their health assessment needs. In 2012 our customers will be able to check their blood pressure and temperature with their mobile phones. Also, for the first time in the CIS region, Nar Mobile is introducing the “FutureLab” project, which is an innovation and research center to produce multimedia applications and other customer-tailored solutions in the local market. Nar Mobile is now a very dynamic and young company with new services and products, clearer messages in the market, and one of the most modern networks in the CIS.
What role has Nar Mobile played in developing and strengthening the overall ICT sector in Azerbaijan?
I strongly believe in Nar Mobile as a brand and company that has had an important impact on the overall sector. First of all, it has showed to the market and customers what it is to be a transparent operator, as we never used kontors. Second, in 2009 we introduced 3G services in Azerbaijan, which is a very important milestone in the development of mobile communication services. As you know, the introduction of new services requires some time for customers to learn what the service is about before they start using it actively. We managed this challenge successfully, as nowadays the majority of customers know what the benefits of 3G services are. In that regard, our competitors that started offering 3G services only few months ago have a good advantage as the ground work was laid by us.
With our 3G services the local media market saw another innovation when Khazar TV started 3G-based live broadcasting of its news for the first time in Azerbaijan using our 3G network. Nar Mobile has played a very strong role since the beginning of 2011 in stimulating market development, strengthening transparency, and driving innovation.
Since Nar Mobile was the first mobile operator to launch 3G services in the country, what are your prospects for technologies such as 4G or LTE?
With the network modernization to be completed soon, we will be ready for provision of LTE services. We plan to become the first 4G mobile operator in the region. This will definitely be a serious breakthrough in the development of the ICT sector in Azerbaijan. It will increase access to mobile broadband tremendously for people in Azerbaijan. Also, this would allow us to further expand the latest mobile technologies in various projects such as in e-government, mobile health, and mobile education applications. The early launch of Nar Mobile’s LTE services will open the door for far more innovative services. The key in all of this will be innovation to differentiate; without innovation in the telecoms business you cannot succeed, especially in a market such as Azerbaijan, which is fully penetrated.
How will the new mobile number portability (MNP) law change the market?
The introduction of MNP in 2012 in Azerbaijan will contribute to the dynamics of the market: fairness and competition will be enforced. A customer can move to any mobile operator without changing their number. Our studies show that customers in Azerbaijan are quite loyal to their numbers and are reluctant to move to other operators even if that operator offers lower prices and better services. So far, this has strongly affected our success. I am confident that with MNP, Nar Mobile will gain even more customers due to our competitive advantage in price, service quality, and innovation.
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