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UAE telecom provider “du” (EITC) has over ten years’ experience dealing with multiple partners from various industries. Bundling everything together that those partners bring to the table means du can give its customers the best value for money and significantly improve processes, said du’s chief commercial officer, Fahad Al Hassawi, speaking to Telecom Review.

Partnerships are important for du as it transforms to become a “one-stop-shop” ICT provider. “We see our enterprise business growing with a lot of requirements in the area of ICT,” said Al Hassawi. Through partnerships, du is able to bring one solution to customers with multiple options, he said, going all the way from connectivity to hosting to cloud security.

“If we can bundle everything together, obviously we can give them the best value for money and really improve processes,” said Al Hassawi. “There is a lot of transformation happening in most industries – everyone is trying to reduce the cost of ownership, trying to change their business model, improve their processes, improve customer experience, and reduce the cost of operation.”

du has been selective in choosing the right partnerships for each service that it wants to offer, Al Hassawi said. During GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, the operator launched an e-commerce platform in partnership with SAP, and also announced it will offer a variety of BlackBerry enterprise software solutions and services to customers.

“We are proud to offer BlackBerry’s innovative and secure software portfolio to our enterprise customers in the UAE,” said Al Hassawi during the announcement with BlackBerry, once a leading mobile phone brand, but now focused on enterprise software and the Internet of Things (IoT).

du also signed a deal to provide an exclusive subscription to OSN’s new online and mobile app entertainment platform Wavo for free until the end of 2017. du CEO, Osman Sultan, said, “Digitalization is paving the way for the future of TV, and as an adaptive and agile ICT provider, we strive to add value through innovation for all our customers.”

Choosing like-minded partners is important for du, said Al Hassawi, in order to go to market with something customers want, which du can give to them as a single package.

du’s partnership with SAP, however, is more focused on its digital transformation efforts. SAP supports Middle East and North Africa telecom operators in their digital transformation, the company says. As a result, operators can provide superior customer journeys for business-to-business and business-to-consumer customers.

Like many telecom providers, du is in the midst of a transformation process to diversify away from traditional revenue streams. “We have the right starting relationship with our customers from a connectivity point of view, and we can build on this,” said Al Hassawi. “We enjoy a trusted relationship with our customers.”

From a customer point-of-view, people would like to deal with a one-stop-shop partner rather than having to manage a wide range of partners, he explained. “This is something telcos are good at by nature,” he added, “as we manage a network of partners and are familiar with the processes.”

du is moving away from its traditional role as a connectivity provider. As such, the company needs to be able to understand customer needs and become a consultant for customers in advising them on the best options that serve their requirements. If a customer is a bank, for instance, it will have a completely different set of SLAs and requirements, so du will need to be able to focus on delivering what’s best for each customer.

“Selecting the right partners will always be a challenge for us because there are many choices,” said Al Hassawi. “But because of whom we are, and our experience dealing with various vendors and providers, we are in a stronger position than our customers to pick the right partners. Some of the partners we choose have already worked with us so we know them well.”

du also faces stiffer competition in the UAE with the introduction of two new MVNOs: Virgin Mobile UAE, an app-based telecom provider which operates using the same network as du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company); and Swyp, a youth-targeted brand that Etisalat recently launched.

“I think it’s a good thing that there is more choice available for customers – it brings out the best in everyone,” said Al Hassawi. “It makes us [du] even more determined and more focused on differentiating ourselves and showing our customers exactly how they can benefit from choosing du.

“All in all, I think it’s a good thing for customers and for operators, especially since the two new brands in the UAE come with a digital flavor which is the future,” he added. “That’s why EITC decided to partner with Virgin and launch the Virgin brand in the UAE market. The telecom industry is going digital and operators should take note.”

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