VISIBLY SATISFYING CUSTOMERS

UAE, Dubai 2013 | ICT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Victoria Strand, Vice-President & Head of GCC and Pakistan, Ericsson, on the company's highlights, maintaining a relationship with du, and the characteristics of the local market.

Victoria Strand
BIOGRAPHY
Victoria Strand graduated from the University of Linköping in Sweden with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration. She joined Ericsson in Sweden in 1989 as Area Sales Manager for the Soviet Union. She then held diverse positions including project management, bid and proposal management, technical sales support, HR, and communications. Between 1993 and 1994, she worked in the Market Unit in the Netherlands. In 1998, she was named Head of Business Management for Central Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia and held this position until 2001. Between 2003 and 2010, she was the CEO and Head of Business Unit Test Environments. In 2013, Strand was appointed VIce-President & Head of the GCC and Pakistan Unit, part of Ericsson Middle East.

What kind of growth and major milestones were achieved in 2012?

I believe that 2012 has been a year of consolidation for Ericsson, and that is valid for the Middle East as well. We have completed exactly what we set out to do, namely incremental improvements in all areas, be it net sales, margins, or orders booked. It was a year that saw the true convergence of telecommunications and media as new distribution models emerged. This was, at least in part, responsible for driving demand for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) contacts. We felt the effects of the political instability and the general volatility in the region, as did the rest of the region, but considering the countries I'm responsible for, we have managed to handle all adversity, and consolidated to see further growth in several areas in 2012.

What does Ericsson's relationship with du mean for the company?

du is one of our key customers, together with a number of other mobile operators and service providers in the UAE. We have a long-standing partnership with du, which allows us to supplement the company's aggressive growth strategy and its continuous focus on improving its capabilities in service delivery, and enhancing the customer experience. We do the billing with our business support system in addition to other projects, and we have interesting discussions with du on a handful of new areas.

Does Ericsson maintain its aggressive plans to greatly boost sales in the Middle East by 2015?

We do indeed have ambitions to maintain our strong position in the Middle East and continue our growth. I can say that the market is progressing very much in line with the trends seen globally and regionally. We observe a continued push for mobile data, and a focus on reducing operating costs, as well as improved performance and customer experience from many of our partners in the market.

What makes the local market unique compared to other countries in the GCC?

GCC countries have very high GDP growth and are some of the richest in the world. They also have fairly small populations, which means that international expansion is on the horizon. Considering the UAE, the authorities have been impressive and intelligent in terms of investing in infrastructure. This could mean roads, but also telecommunications, or the tallest buildings in the world. And as such, we observe the government investing in the country for the benefit of its residents and local people, which is not observable everywhere in the world.

As the leading woman at a major multinational company, what have your experiences been?

To generalize, I believe that I may have had a slight advantage as a woman, due to the visibility you get. I have had the fortunate experience of working with great line managers throughout my history with Ericsson. These people generally believed in finding the right person regardless of culture, gender, or race. To have at least one woman has also been a smart business move in many parts of the company, as diversity adds value to discussions and decisions. Despite the fact that I was often given the smallest, most insignificant role at each company, I have consistently performed above and beyond expectations, being promoted to the next level time after time.

What are your company targets, and how would you like to achieve them in the future?

Overall, the telecoms industry in the region has been moving at a rapid pace. Telecoms providers have been consistently providing new services and products, and increasingly becoming consumer-centric. In this rapidly changing industry, we believe that telecoms operators will continue to adopt new technologies and solutions as the demands and requirements of consumers also continue to rise. As a company, our ultimate vision is to create a networked society. Our goal has always been to leverage global presence and scale, as well as technology and services leadership, in order for Ericsson to remain the prime driver in the telecom industry. We are committed to ensuring that our customers' telecommunications technology and service needs are met, and that we are well equipped to face the industry's challenges.