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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Jan Michael Holzberg, chief commercial officer (CCO), Vodafone Oman, speaks about the power of differentiation in providing services and enhancing the digital consumer’s journey.

Vodafone Oman focuses on how a new-generation Telco can create value through sustainability, excellence in customer service and national investment. How does the company achieve these goals?

As a global company with local roots in Oman, our purpose is clear. We connect for a better future. Our role in the lives of Omanis and businesses in the country was very much determined by the way we entered the market a year ago.

We entered the market as a Digital-First Operation. Digital-first meant that we could bring experiences to consumers and businesses that are radically different from what they were used to from the competition but also radically different from what consumers might have seen across the entire world. We created a few firsts in the industry to help accelerate our growth in a profitable manner. Let me give you one example. At Vodafone, if you’d like to become our customer, all you need is your phone. From the convenience of your couch, you can download the application, scan the identification document, select the plan and download the e-SIM.

Within three minutes, our customers can switch their existing service to Vodafone. Our opportunity is not only to scale fast in terms of customers, but also to bring new experiences in terms of simplicity, value for money and global services that were never seen in Oman before; [this] was essentially exponential. It was not only important to bring the best of the Vodafone world to Oman but also to partner with key local companies to achieve our growth. A good example is how we do billing and charging. Our financial partner, which does all of the transactions, is Thawani, an Omani startup. Our marketing agency and logistics provider are local. All of the differentiation that we bring to the country is enabled by a unique combination of global suppliers, such as Ericsson for our network, and local companies that help us make a difference and to touch the hearts and minds of all of our consumers.

Digital-first operations doesn't only mean that we provide radically different ways of marketing and onboarding customers, but it also cuts across the entire customer experience lifecycle. Subscribing to our services in Oman is very much like subscribing to any other digital services. You are in full control of your consumption as well as the options and value-added services that you would like to book. Any kind of assistance that would be required is enabled by a proactive, predictive, data driven and AI-enabled customer experience. Even before you would have an issue with any of our service experience, the app will prompt you and give you an opportunity on how to resolve it. That was a first in Oman and definitely also unique, even in the Vodafone world.

We have also created a significant amount of in-country value, not only by the technology that we have brought, but by the way we partnered and how we hired staff: 95% of the company is Omani.

In 2022, our arrival in the market did not only translate to a world of difference for everyone in Oman but also into in-country value. We realized the generation of in-country value in excess of US$180 million, which I believe is exceptional for new entrants in the market.

As a digital-first company, we utilize our expertise in areas where it makes a difference. For example, our flagship store – Vodafone Hub, brings the entire Vodafone brand experience to life with the help of our staff, which, again, was a first in Oman.

In March, Vodafone Oman celebrated a triple win for digital innovation, creative drive, and an impactful proposition. Please tell us more about these honors. 

I am delighted that our financial success and growth last year did not only translate to recognition by our investors and stakeholders, but also from the wider industry. We were rewarded by three Gold Stevie recognitions, specifically for our digital first operations: 1) the most innovative tech startup with the best application; 2) the best marketing team; and 3) the most powerful launch campaign for a new brand. This is not only within the telecoms industry but across the industry. We are delighted that we will be building on that journey to further bring a difference to everyone in Oman.

Seeing as how the sector is changing very rapidly, how do you see the current state of the industry in Oman? What is Vodafone’s role in this state?

In 2022, we made a big impact in the market with the launch of our prepaid digital proposition. This year, on May 1, we have launched a postpaid proposition called Vodafone Black postpaid, which brings unique features to customers including taking your home tariff abroad, full flexibility, price, transparency and data rollover, but this is only the first step. Our role in the industry in Oman, is to connect for a better future. Connecting for a better future is right on target in terms of Vision 2040, which is to essentially enable the giga economy to digitalize the Omani way of life. How will we be achieving that? Well, the first one is big data. We are already equipped with the most advanced big data solution in the industry in Oman, enabling the optimization of our network. We have only started to show what Vodafone can do, and I'm looking forward to continue to be the digital pioneer in the marketplace in Oman.

From your perspective, what factors will impact Oman’s telecom industry growth in the next five years? And how can Vodafone contribute to accelerating this growth?

We are living in truly exponential times. The growth of the industry in Oman will very much be driven by the enablement of digitalization of the society as a whole.
Digitalization will impact all of us— our lifestyles, business and the way we consume and use telecommunication services.

We need to be mindful that customer expectations have evolved. Customers are not loyal to brands anymore. Customers are loyal to experiences. What you can expect from Vodafone and Oman is that we will build on that insight and will continue to drive a radically different customer experience. Now, this radically different customer experience is driven by technology. First and foremost by data-driven insights and AI that allows us to create a personalized customer experience at every single step of the touch point. Personalization creates a better experience and loyalty. Secondly, we have the opportunity to also enable adjacent industry. This in particular includes the incubation of startups, which we have already started, but also enabling the healthcare sector and the logistics sector. We've only started to make a difference to consumers and we are continuing with enterprises. And we believe, as a digital pioneer, we are currently at the forefront — if not the number one — of digital transformation in the Sultanate.

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