The Business Year

Fouad Halawi

SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Virgin Mobile KSA gained 1.5 million new customers in 1H2016

CEO, Virgin Mobile KSA


Fouad Halawi is the CEO at Virgin Mobile KSA, a position he has held since October 2015. He brings with him over 15 years of executive management experience in the telecommunications industry across Europe, Australia, and USA. He is specialized in business development and managing large P&L responsibilities with over 1,000 staff across global territories and different time zones. He has successfully launched many MVNO brands and has a proven track record of leading organizations to disrupt and achieve over 30% MVNO market share in the first year of operation in any market. His in-depth knowledge of various industries along with his impeccable strategic skills have proved instrumental in driving competitors out of business and securing sustainable business growth for his employers.

"In just six months, from December 2015 to June 2016, Virgin Mobile KSA added an additional 1.5 million customers."

How is Virgin Mobile positioned in terms of the market and what is your growth strategy?

Potential for growth is always present. We generally assess market share by looking at several different sources and indexes. A good deal of growth is forecasted in the market, new regulations have had both positive and negative effects on our business and the market in general, but we have chosen to view the changes as opportunities and are positioning ourselves accordingly. A change in management and a new vision for the structure of the business, including being the first MVNO in the market and bringing new speed and agility to our operations, has had a large impact. In just six months, from December 2015 to June 2016, Virgin Mobile KSA added an additional 1.5 million customers, taking its user base to 2.5 million and pushing the established operators hard. It’s a staggering success and has changed the way operators, industry, regulators, and investors look at the potential of the KSA telecom market. We invest a great deal of time into developing growth strategies and are witnessing the impact of that. We are committed to operating within the market with a great deal of agility; all of our internal processes allow us to react to changes rapidly and effectively, such are the advantages of an MVNO. This has been one of the major reasons why we were so successful in 2016.

What trends do you see in regards to regulation of market dynamics and requirements?

It is in the best interest of firms to disrupt the market in a positive way, to try and get the best prices for customers. By focusing on niche markets that the larger, more established telecoms firms have neglected to service appropriately, we have the ability to expand our market share, and thus position ourselves as a very unique service provider with best of breed technology. However, regulations in Saudi Arabia remain to be evolving so we can see some regulatory improvement to allow MVNOs to have more flexibility and balanced competitive edge operation. They are more agile, more nimble and more willing to take risks. MVNOs are also accelerating the digital transformation in Saudi Arabia, we at Virgin mobile Saudi are looking into digitizing our sales channels, member care and billing as we see those as three main areas that will help in transforming the industry digitally on the short term.

As companies have begun stressing high quality and service, how have you been able to keep your prices competitive?

We believe in providing our members with an exceptional experience rather than just a telecom service, increasing value for money dramatically, by providing our members with unique lifestyle propositions. When someone becomes a Virgin Mobile member, they are joining a family and taking part in the full Virgin Mobile experience. Such as the many initiatives we take part in throughout Saudi Arabia, some examples of which are the first ever Saudi Comic Con, or even our social media activations which give everyone the chance to be a winner. It is through initiatives like these that we believe in providing our members with something much more valuable than simple telecommunication services. With regards to our competitive prices, we do extensive research and analytics in order to build our pricing structure, after which we implement the pricing best suited for our target audience. Seeing as though the majority of our members consist of Saudi Youth, we must take into consideration the purchasing power of such individuals and as such we provide packages, bundles, and services that suit their specific needs.

What are your expectations for 2017?

Market dynamics are changing, so our strategy is to take the company to the next level in 2017. This year we had 60% growth, and that is very rare in the telecom industry. The customer now has multiple choices and we think we will benefit from being one of those choices with point of difference. We will continue to be leading the change in the Saudi market so that digital transformation, innovation, R&D, and creativity set the path for our future digital aspiration. Our digital services strategy will demonstrate to our members our commitment and difference to remain consistent with delivering disruptive strategy. Right now, Virgin is concentrating on the youth market, and it represents one of our fastest growing demographics. People recognize the brand as being youthful and energetic, and we are trying to develop that across every aspect of our business. Last year was a huge jump forward for us, and now the entire team is aligned with our strategy for the future. Every aspect of the company is invigorated with a new spirit, and it is certainly paying off. We have had 93% engagement from our entire team, and we are dedicated to ensuring that our employees continue to feel appreciated. Too often there is a mentality in business that overlooks the importance of the team and the employees. Our philosophy is putting our people first, because if our people are happy, our customers are happy. An example of this would be our new “Young at Heart” headquarters in Riyadh that truly exudes the spirit of fun, dynamism, and energy. The office features an open space and many entertainment activities that allow our employees to feel at home as they work throughout the day, this has dramatically changed the way our people work and interact with one another, boosting morale in ways we have never seen before. We are sure that this sort of engagement will reverberate down to our members and their experience with our brand.



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