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Payments company Centili has been making waves throughout the last year and has started 2021 super-strong. It has rebranded, announced several new contracts and plans for 2021, which include expanding the product portfolio beyond the payments space in which it operates since founding in 2011. The company is focusing on the emerging areas of conversational commerce and monetisation platform-as-a-service. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Centili Group CEO Zoran Vasiljev stated that he believes these trends will mark digital monetisation in years to come.

An experienced telco and tech executive, Vasiljev took over as CEO in March last year. He spent several years working in Dubai earlier in his career. The company has big plans in the Middle East, where it already serves customers and partners, maintaining productive business arrangements in the IT and telecoms community.

What are the main services and solutions that Centili offers to its customers? 

Centili is a digital monetisation company. Our robust payments platform is connected to 280 mobile network operators to enable the processing and managing payment transactions via the telco infrastructure. On the one hand, we help mobile network operators and aggregators manage their mobile payments business through this platform. It gives them a ready-made set of tools and processes, packed with commercial and legal assistance. On the other side, Centili enables apps, games, and social networks to charge their services to their user's mobile plans. We implement intuitive payment flows and great user journeys; we remove friction by relying on our deep technical expertise and a decade's experience with mobile payments' technical and commercial arrangements. Thanks to this, our clients can launch services to market faster, while managing and running them more easily.

Centili Maestro is our core product, which we have come to label as a monetisation-platform-as-a-service. On top of being a digital monetisation platform with payment processing, subscriptions, reconciliation, and other capabilities around micropayments, it is growing in ways that encompass customer acquisition, engagement, and retention. It enables companies to solve not only their payments needs but also the adjacent issues that often arise in digital monetisation, such as authentication, customer acquisition, customer experience. The platform enables the activation of several conversational commerce flows, and more of them will be added throughout 2021. 


This year marks Centili's 10th anniversary. How would you describe the journey? 

The journey was exceptional. It was dynamic, sometimes unpredictable, filled with hard work and the relentless pushing of boundaries in product development. I joined the company almost a year ago; many people have been with Centili for five years and more. So far, the journey got us to 70+ employees, ten global locations from which we operate, and a digital monetisation platform that keeps gaining international recognition for performance and innovation. I am proud that we have earned respect from our customers and the industry, but we kept our feet on the ground and focused on what mattered most – building a platform that solves our clients' problems. I have known this company and its founders for more than six years, and there was always a unique potential stemming from the culture, values, and a captivating drive to succeed.

It is important to understand that our journey was strongly influenced by the fact that we were founded and grown as a sister company of Infobip. As you may know, Infobip is one of the hottest European unicorns, a leader in communication platform-as-a-service with more than 2000 employees and 60+ offices around the world. In the first years, Centili was managed through their structure, which enabled us to accumulate knowledge and experiences which would otherwise have been out of our reach. Even today, when we operate as two separate businesses, Infobip is a valuable lever for Centili.


What role has the company played during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the main challenges that your customers faced and how did you help them face those challenges? 

To address the changing landscape of digital experience delivery, we launched and will keep launching new 'as-a-service' offerings. We have seen that the post-Covid recovery will accelerate a move away from owned infrastructure, and I strongly believe the platform model is the next big thing in digital monetisation. Centili Maestro delivers precisely that. It is a cloud-based managed service platform which enables smooth ecosystem management and monetisation for telcos, aggregators and enterprises, OTTs, gaming companies and many other digital brands. It simplifies partnerships, opens additional revenue streams for both operators and digital merchants. Under the platform model, our customers can take advantage of Centili's existing infrastructure, network, and experience to increase their agility, reduce costs and increase revenues. This will be a vital shift as many businesses seek to recover from the pandemic's economic impact.


Which of the products and services you offer is gaining interest in light of the current developments? Why?

Since we pivoted our business model and introduced a subscription-based model in Q2 2020, we have seen over ten companies, both telcos aggregators and digital merchants, adopt Centili Maestro. Besides that, the pandemic has seen a massive uplift in conversational commerce in all markets as businesses look to better connect with customers. We are launching a plug and play solution that takes care of the end-to-end technical delivery of conversational commerce from communication to payment. We will support businesses as this approach becomes the expectation. 


What are your plans for 2021?

Centili has started the year by celebrating the 10th anniversary and uncovering our new branding. We are focusing on new products and business models. In parallel, we are structuring the organisation for ambitious growth. We've brought in almost 20 new people, and we have prepared for 2021 to be an exceptional one. The company has big plans in the Middle East; we are certainly no strangers to this region.

We look forward to many more projects in which we join forces to push the boundaries of what is possible in digital monetisation. We will remain an active voice in the industry, so be free to connect to our webinars, discussions and social channels, and start the conversation.

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