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Telecom Review caught up with Mikhail Gerchuk, CEO, e& international, to better understand how e&’s international operations arm was fostering innovation and enhancing user experience in its service offerings.

Given the current uncertain economic scenario globally, what have been the key challenges as well as opportunities for e& international’s operations?

With rising uncertainty in many global markets due to challenges such as currency devaluation, inflation and rising fuel prices, we must continue to provide high quality connectivity to our customers at a reasonable price and also to maintain the performance of our networks amidst frequent electricity shutdowns. To deliver on this promise and provide a great customer experience, we focus on energy continuity using renewable sources and other network elements to ensure that our networks operate without interruption. Despite the current situation, we continue to accelerate our network investment program. For example, in Pakistan last year, we brought 4G spectrum, and we are extensively rolling out our 4G networks. As a result of these activities, we see continuous increases in internet traffic consumption. We also see that customers like our services in terms of net promoter score (NPS) as well as customer satisfaction. We see very good results in all our main operating companies.

e& international recently partnered with global insurance leader AIG to offer customers an innovative digital insurance solution. What other sectors do you plan to delve into in line with e&’s overall global ambitions?

e& is now transitioning from a telecom operator to a technology company enabled by the great connectivity that we provide. Our partnership with various companies is part of the strategy. A great example would be our partnership with AIG, which allows us the opportunity to provide a full range of mobile insurance products to our customers. It could be mobile insurance, purchase insurance or health insurance, and they are very accessible and easy to use, and easy to buy because they are affordable for the majority of our customers in emerging markets where we operate. Another great example is our partnership with MoneyGram International, whereby our customers can use the MoneyGram platform for international money remittances instantaneously across India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Morocco, Egypt, UAE and other countries.

How is e& international leveraging emerging technologies, especially AI and ML, in its service offerings? What are the challenges?

Our ambition is to provide the best customer experience to our customers in every country where we operate. Our products are expanding from only connectivity, voice and internet to provide a variety of digital services in finance, insurance, content and other services. To create the best user experience, we need to understand their requirements, usage patterns and information about our customers to offer the most relevant offers to each customer. We have a world-class AI Center of Excellence in the UAE with affiliates in other countries. We use them to create data models and other AI solutions which help us to tailor our offerings, as a result of which we are witnessing an uptake in our services. For example, our mobile wallets in Pakistan or Egypt enjoy a 30 to 40% year-on-year increase because of this strategy.

Please give us an overview of e& international operations and collaboration with strategic partners.

e& international is a division of e& Group that is responsible for telecom operations outside of the UAE. e& international operates in 15 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with 164 million customers. In the current challenging economic environment, our mandate is to continue providing great customer experience to our consumers and enterprise clients in a more efficient manner. For example, we are focusing heavily on solutions for energy efficiency as energy costs are rising globally. Our operation stations are using low-carbon energy solutions with a dual objective to provide great connectivity at an affordable price as well as to protect the environment. Further, to enhance operational efficiency, we cross-pollinate the best practices and partnerships between our companies for developing digital products. Our recent partnerships with AIG or MoneyGram are some of the best examples. We are investing through our venture capital funds in the most promising startups, and we acquire regional digital companies such as video streaming leaders like StarzPlay or HelpAG, who are leaders in cybersecurity. We then leverage their products to offer innovative solutions to our 150 million customers in 15 countries.

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