DIGITIZATION & DIALOGS

Kazakhstan 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Arti Ots, CEO of Kcell, on digital customer services, multi-stakeholder dialogs, and contributions toward the national digitization program.

Arti Ots
BIOGRAPHY
Arti Ots has been CEO at Kcell since December 2014. He previously served as Vice President for Commercial and Business Development at TeliaSonera Eurasia from May 2014. Between February 2012 and May 2014, he was CEO of Elion, Telia Sonera’s Broadband Services division in Estonia. Prior to becoming CEO, he was at Elion for 10 years and worked as Marketing Director between 2004 and 2012. He holds an MBA from Henley Business School.

What were some of your major objectives when you first entered the market in 2015?

We set our agenda around three areas. The first was in regard to new business, especially business services. The second area was about the quality of the network, while the final aspect was about the overall customer experience and how they should interact with us. In regard to the first, we heavily focused on B2B, as well as building business solutions in the realm of mobile financial services. We thought a lot about digital services that make up a large part of our business. At that time, we did not have 4G, and the data quality was not as good as it is today. Though many aspects of the sector have evolved, our agenda has remained relatively focused on these three priorities. Over the past six months, in response to the several challenges we faced in the country, such as the devaluation, we have started to focus on other areas as well. These include using the most efficient infrastructure, as well as sharing it. We also focused on the digitization of essentially everything we do.

Are you witnessing the desired results given the infrastructure investments you have made in 2017?

Today, we have around half of the population covered with 4G, while around 77% of the population is covered by 3G. For us, in regard to investments, we want to ensure we have the best data quality in the areas where there is a high demand for it. Coverage is not our only primary concern; we are heavily focused on capacity as well. We want to make sure that when customers use our services, they can get the highest quality. In Almaty and Astana, we made tremendous efforts to identify where the quality was less then satisfactory for our customers. As a result we invested quite heavily in new towers in those areas. Also in 2017, we further developed our digital customer services through automation software. We have integrated this digitization through the entire process, including on the back end. We have half a million customers actively using our digital services—something unimaginable three years ago.

How has the market in Kazakhstan changed over the years?

There has been a professional dialog between the cabinet minsters and business leaders in several different forms, through AmCham and Eurobank, for example. The president chairs the Foreign Investments Council, which is also fairly unique, gathering world business leaders here. The biggest change I have noticed is that the critical topics raised by business leaders are actually being solved at the government level now. This dialog is healthy for the country in many aspects. In Western countries, open dialog does not happen; therefore, we are delighted to make the most of it here.

What do you make of Digital Kazakhstan and how can Kcell contribute to its objectives?

We can contribute in a number of ways. It is vital to have infrastructure in place for every digitization process, and thus far this is missing. We are taking the lead on internal process digitization and changing the way we operate. One area that needs more of a push is the digital identity, which is not used only in Kazakhstan; banks have their own identities, we have our own digital identities. The identity aspect, even though almost everyone has an ID card, is missing. These are areas we can improve, with businesses working together toward a common understanding of the goals. For our B2B operations, we have some major projects going on related to the Internet of Things. We are able to bring real value to some process, making a real difference in processes as diverse as production and mining.