“The Landscape Is Changing, Our Digital BSS Will Evolve Into 5G Portfolio”
“The 5G, by virtue of its high bandwidth, low latency and near WiFi creative service, can eat into a lot of other local service providers. It will be telecoms, who can directly or through partners offer high-value services to the enterprises,” Manoranjan Mohapatra, CEO, Comviva states while speaking about the transformations in the telecom industry as it moves towards 5G technology
Tell us about Comviva’s journey so far?
Comviva was incubated in 1999 by Bharati Enterprise and was incorporated as Bharti Telesoft to serve the telecom industry. In 2001, it repivoted itself to focus on building solutions and products for the Communication Service Providers (CSPs). Initially, it was an extremely hard job as we were seen as an offshoot of Bharti Enterprises, which was synonymous with Airtel. Other telecom operators in India did not prefer buying from an Airtel entity. Therefore, we ventured into other markets like Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia, where our acceptability was high.
In 2002, we did our first acquisition of a Mumbai-based company, CellCloud which brought prepaid recharge solution and it was a good beginning as it helped us dominate the market with recharge platform.
In 2007, I joined the company. Prior to that, in 2005, we secured venture funding from Sequoia, WestBridge and Cisco ventures. That was a cornerstone in the history of Bharti TeleSoft.
In 2008, we did an acquisition of an India based company – Jatayu, which brought in a lot of messaging solutions and it was consolidated. In 2010, we rebranded ourselves as Comviva Technologies.
In 2012, Tech Mahindra acquired a majority stake and subsequently converted the majority stake to an almost 100 per cent stake in the company. We have reinvented ourselves multiple times over from a predominantly Value Added Services (VAS) company whose relevance diminished with time.
Going forward, we believe our Digital BSS is going to evolve into a 5G portfolio. Also, the IoT would play a very key role. In terms of marketing experience management, we will do customer experience management and other areas as a horizontal expansion. In messaging, our focus area is to enable telcos to be CPaaS. From FY’23 we are looking at accelerating further and the bulk of our growth is going to be from aggressive sales and marketing and solution approaches.
As we grow, in terms of technology we are also focused on moving to the next Gen platforms which are Cloud Native, SaaS-enabled, etc. I think the pandemic has served us right in allowing us to be more focused, to look at strategy with a fine comb. Hence, we are in a much better position for FY 23 today.
What are some of the important trends in the telecom industry that you are observing?
I think the word telecom is getting diffused. In the communication sector, a lot of players are becoming communication providers or important players in the communication segment. The OTTs, whether it's Facebook, WhatsApp or Google, are very strong players in the communication sector. The superscalars, Amazon and Google, cloud, and others will play a very significant role as solutions are becoming more cloud-enabled or cloud-centric.
From a trend point of view, the infra is going to change and become more standardised, like offered from a cloud in an aggregated format. Telecom operators have realised that consumers can only do just this much in terms of wallet share. One area that we are looking at is helping the enterprises and making a significant dent in the enterprise segment. The 5G, by virtue of its high bandwidth, low latency and near WiFi creative service, can eat into a lot of other local service providers. I think in the short term, we will see the enterprise segment becoming important, contributing heavily by leveraging 5G in security and in IoT centric services that the telcoms can offer.
Do you see an abstraction demand for digital solutions across the telecom sector?
Yes, It is because the landscape is completely changing. 5G is a discontinuous technology from what most people had. In fact, most operators are moving from 3G to 5G without having to go through the 4G approach. Enterprises are more and more open to getting services through aggregators or telcos as they did not have a choice. Only the large enterprises could invest in their own infra. But that segment is moving. Recently, there was a report that one of the operators in Europe has already done a trial for a 5G-enabled car parking solution in large car parks where you don't have to go and look for your car and fetch it. This is just one example. There will be many such use cases that will happen, which will be between IoT, 5G and the service provider. I think the next 2 to 3 years will see a marriage of IoT and 5G for a bundle of services in the consumer software enterprise.
How has been your business performance in the current year that is FY2021-2022?
Overall business performance has been satisfactory. We have done reasonably well in terms of our plans. I think we will be close to achieving our 100% target from a revenue point of view. But that's coming in the wake of lesser than planned travel or lesser than planned operational expenses because of the pandemic, working from home, zero travel. But it's not sustainable. Some of these are going to come back into the expense profile. One area that's been on the negative side is employee attrition. The ability to attract talent and retain talent and overall employee cost has increased a little bit.
New developments of the company and plans for 2022-23?
After we have acquired the BlueMarble product line and consolidated it with digital BSS, our overall digital BSS is very attractive and almost state of the art, from a technology point of view. It also helps us bring about half a dozen of referenceable customers and marquee customers in the European and U.S. markets. We want to leverage that to position a few of the other products as a brand that can be sold in the US and Europe.
Historically, Comviva has been operating in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, we are consciously investing and moving to build products that are more appealing to the Western market. We will continue to focus on Europe, Africa, Middle East because that's been a fairly large market and growing markets. In terms of technology, we will invest more in digital banking, enterprise CPaaS, 5G and IoT and customer experience.
What kind of innovation do you support, any examples?
At the organizational level, we are very focused on innovation. We receive 10-15 global industry recognitions every year for our innovation. We drive innovation in the following ways:
The BAU products, and their road map has to evolve for technology and new use cases. It happens with our 12 to 14% R&D investment that happens on the existing products.
The second one is the New Product Initiatives (NPI), which are significantly focused on growth areas like marketing automation or digital lending or modern card issuance. Collectively, our 4-4.5% R&D goes on incubation.
The last one is that we partner with the start-up world, and we pick 2 to 3 partners which are complementary to the activities that we do but synergistic to our overall solution. Our objective is to help these startups by providing them with a landscape where they have access to our 100 plus customers globally, our SME pool, labs and, also have access to a larger market ecosystem.
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