Connecting Myanmar to a Better Future
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Ooredoo will forever boast the reputation of launching the world’s first 3G-only network to enable its market-leading internet provision in Myanmar, but this only tells one chapter of an ongoing story which affirms the telecom operator’s position as a globally significant innovator.
Having initially brought “crystal clear voice calls and fastest internet” to the country in 2013, compounded by the availability of life enriching value-add services a year later, the Company’s rapid growth has been one built upon industry firsts, national pioneering and partnership building; and this is still technically classed as the business’s inception period.
“The first 12 months were very busy, with many things happening in parallel. We were building a Company from the ground-up; setting up an advanced 3G network, a national distribution network, and a world-class team of people. At the same time, we were launching innovative products, which for the first time in Myanmar made mobile phone service something that the entire population could afford,” says the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Rene Meza. “We’ve seen explosive growth, and a market that has matured faster than anyone would have expected. From rolling out only a couple of years ago, Ooredoo already has 80 percent of subscribers using the internet; most on their smartphones. The country is hungry for data, and is accessing the internet at an unprecedented rate for an emerging market. It was this explosive growth that encouraged Ooredoo to break records once again, and launch the first 4G network in Myanmar, which covers 4.6 million people.”
“We’re also very happy with the role we’ve played in bringing entry-level smartphones into Myanmar, with our S-Series devices, allowing all customers to get access to our fastest network. We wanted to make the experience of accessing the fastest data network accessible to everyone, so prices are at par with feature phones at only approximately US$20. These devices have taken the nation by storm. With their large format screens, and powerful cameras, they have become very popular.
“In addition to our own Smart Series 3G devices, we’ve secured partnerships with major device manufacturers to promote their 4G services. Ooredoo customers will get amazing data offers when they purchase Huawei, Samsung, OPPO, VIVO, Great Wall and ZTE to enjoy on either our 3G or 4G network,” Meza continues.
Inevitably, such innovation has been rewarded in the country with more than 8.2 million active customers now taking advantage of this new level of offering; representing 80 percent national coverage from a population perspective. With consumers emanating from both public and B2B domains - as well as a partnership portfolio that lists some of the biggest names in global technology such as Nokia, Samsung and Huawei - Ooredoo Myanmar has grasped control of the market and has a product remit that suggests it won’t be relinquishing this responsibility any time soon.
“We are always looking for ways to bring more value to our customers,” Meza explains. “We are also the only operator to launch free Ooredoo-to-Ooredoo calls, which allows anyone in Myanmar to talk to each other for free. We are the only operator to launch “Unlimited Facebook” packs, enabling customers to stay continually connected to one of the most popular social media applications in the country. And, most recently, we rolled out a personalised offer programme named My Ooredoo, My Offer, which enables customers to retrieve their own personalised special offer each Friday, ranging from Free Facebook to 4G data trials.
“For our corporate clients, we provide three main categories of services; Business Mobile, Fixed Line and Machine to Machine. Under Business Mobile Services, we provide mobile prepaid services, mobile post-paid service, mobile internet, international calling and international roaming; under Fixed Line Services, we offer dedicated internet access, domestic private lease circuits and international private lease circuits; and Machine to Machine Service (M2M) connectivity gives customers access to real-time information for their business to track and reply to sales leads and customer enquiries faster.”
Here for the long-term
Seemingly a mammoth task in such a short space of time, this initial offering actually only scratches the surface of what Ooredoo promotes within its service portfolio, with a whole host of value-added services also in tow.
“We’ve brought convenient solutions to our customers with our emergency service of loan balance transfer called Kyo Thone. Customers can take airtime loans when their credit gets low and finding a recharge outlet is not convenient,” Meza details. “We’ve revolutionised the way customers manage their accounts by launching the My Ooredoo Application, a one-stop shop to check balance, buy bundles, activate services and more. A short time ago, telecommunications customers in Myanmar were battling with very unfriendly processes and limited access to their accounts. This has fundamentally changed now, with Ooredoo leading the way. We even offer customers the ability to register their own lines through an online self-care portal… this is real innovation.”
“We’re looking ahead,” Meza continues. “In the near future, we plan to launch our secured mobile money service to our customers. We’re expanding our 4G footprint. Ooredoo is here for the long-term; we’re looking at our investments with longevity in mind and when we got our telecommunications license we were committed to these types of major investments, both in terms of providing a cutting-edge network and a world-class corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan for Myanmar.
“We are the best customer experience provider in Myanmar; we always listen to the voices and feedback of our customers and we look to international best practices to generate ideas on what kind of innovative offers may work in Myanmar. Our commitment is to offer a better network with better customer care service for our valued customers.”
Crystal clear voice & unprecedented data speeds
Facilitating these strategies has been a US$2 billion investment into the Company’s telecom infrastructure development, consolidating its position as the fastest internet brand. On the other side of Ooredoo’s two-pronged mission, a further US$12 million has been spent on CSR initiatives compounded by partnerships with leading NGOs both inside and outside of Myanmar.
“Investment in Myanmar is important, both from a technology perspective and a corporate social responsibility perspective,” Meza states. “We are a technology Company, which is obvious, so we started off our investment in this category, offering only advanced 3G service. This was a big bet, and it’s paid off. It also paved the way for our 4G roll out. As of July, we had built 4,232 towers and expanded 11,546 kilometres of fibre optic cable proving our commitment to the long-term, not only in the development of the telecommunication sector in Myanmar; but also the development of education and health sectors for the people in Myanmar.”
But Ooredoo has not stopped with simply technology investments. The operator leads the way in Myanmar with regards to investment in social causes too.
“We have done our best to make an impact in Myanmar, in a meaningful way,” continued Meza. “We are working with several international partners currently.
Ooredoo is funding mobile health clinics with PACT International, to help get medical access to the furthest corners of Myanmar. We are also working with the Red Cross, in order to provide sustainable sources of drinking water in areas where supply is limited and to support disaster relief. Most recently, we made a $3.1 million investment to the UNOPS in order to build primary healthcare facilities across Myanmar; and we’re not done yet. From 2015, we’ve invested more than $12.8 million in corporate social responsibility. This is something I’m personally very proud of, and it’s really showcasing our commitment to this country.”
Winning numerous awards in the Asia-Pacific region as a consequence of its all-encompassing ethos, the Company’s overall investment total has topped the US$2 billion mark and is currently the fastest growing operator in Myanmar despite its already established stronghold.
“Being the fastest growing operator in Myanmar makes us very proud. At the end of June, we had 8.2 million active customers and the usage of data and voice services has doubled. By the end of 2016 we plan to have 4,500 towers and 13,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables throughout Myanmar, all running on state-of-the-art technology; by far the widest coverage in Myanmar.”
Connecting to the better future
Successfully keeping more than eight million people happy comes a little easier when people closer to home are sharing their satisfaction, and this is achieved via a “people first” strategy incorporated into Ooredoo’s human resource structure.
World-class training and development programmes - driven both internally and via external partners with specialised skills - prove that learning doesn’t just end in the classroom and Ooredoo has leveraged this concept to tailor a host of young professionals towards the Company’s own vision.
“With our intention to make Ooredoo the best place for people to work for, we are focused on fairness and respect. We ensure we have a fair environment where everyone respects each other and we have a Business Code of Conduct where all employees are encouraged to conduct business in ethical ways in line with our brand values of caring, connecting and challenging,” Meza explains.
“Our employees are our first customers and just as we listen to the voice of our customers, we also continuously listen to our employees’ voices as top talents stay only if they feel recognised. We’re also in the middle of rolling out a world-class health and safety programme, to ensure that our staff and our partners have access to best practices that will keep them safe when doing their jobs.”
The same principle is applied throughout Ooredoo’s supply chain and business partner strategy in ensuring that continuous communication and engagement is backed up by trust and loyalty; assets that are given even more significance considering the country’s transitional phase.
Meza concludes: “Myanmar is in another transitioning phase with more customers seeking out advanced 4G network services, the next evolution of data services. Our customers’ lifestyles are moving faster in the 21st century and there is so much more to learn and so much more to do with the internet. We want to provide them with a service that is going to be convenient for them.
“We want students to go online, we want doctors to be connected to the best practices world-wide, we want to help people bring their business ideas to life… all on the fastest 3G/4G network.
“We’ve got momentum now, and we’re not slowing down,” concluded Meza, “We’re here to make a difference in Myanmar, for the long-term. Stay tuned for more innovation, and more excitement, from Ooredoo Myanmar.