Awasthi: Digitalisation Will Yield Higher Productivity 

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Ajay Awasthi
The Chief Executive Officer of Spectranet, Mr. Ajay Awasthi, in this interview, speaks on the importance of building customer relationship that will enhance business growth, and how digitalisation of operations will yield higher productivity in business. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:
The lockdown as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, presents huge opportunities for telecom and e-commerce companies as virtual communication and online transactions have become the order of the day. How is Spectranet adapting to the new opportunities?
The lockdown has presented more challenges than opportunities. Spectranet being a 24×7 service provider, the challenges are pretty much unique and related to ensuring site uptime in remote corners, ensuring call center operations with strict distancing rules, attending to customer complaints in their premises. All this needs to be done while ensuring safety of our people.
Cost of operations has gone up significantly as urgent network upgrades have to be done to ensure un-compromised customer experience while browsing. We have also seen an upsurge in call center volumes with customers enquiring about where to renew. This means deployment of more manpower. In spite of the challenges, team Spectranet, with its utmost commitment to customer service excellence, has fared well in countering these challenges in double quick time.
In terms of traffic, what has been the performance of your network?
The data traffic in the network has increased over 30 per cent. While this is a happy situation, the sudden increase in traffic poses a challenge in terms of keeping up with the quality of service. In order to ensure that our customersexperience is not compromised, Spectranethas acted fast and invested significantly to enhance capacities on the access and backhaul network.
What are the major areas or products you have received the largest traffic on your network?
The traffic for Video applications like Netflix and You tube, has shown a significant increase and so has the FaceBook related traffic.
Also, we have observed trends wherein the traffic during night time has started overtaking the daytime traffic. We are happy that our Mega Value Plans offering anytime data plus free and truly unlimited night time browsing, are becoming a big hit with our customers.
With the closure of business premises, how have your consumers being able to recharge their modems?
Being a technology company Spectranet has been investing heavily in building up digital channels. Our customers can effortlessly pay through any of our digital channels available on Self Care .
Telcos may be making money from this lockdown, but in terms of telecom equipment importation and network rollout, how will it affect telcos like Spectranet?
In order to increase our access and backhaul network capacities, as mentioned earlier, we had to invest significant amounts and incur extra costs for ensuring 24X7 availability of network and call center operations.
To sustain this growth in traffic. fresh equipment is required to be imported. With tight FOREX supply,we are finding it extremely difficult to get access to FOREX to pay for this equipment.This will result in delayed projects and consequent degradation of services.
Did you experienced challenges like refueling your base stations or movement of your essential staff from law enforcement agencies, during the period of total lockdown?
Telecom being one of the essential services, the law enforcement agencies have been extremely cooperative. This has helped us in keeping the vital operations like re-fueling of cell sites, carrying out repair and maintenance work going without any hindrance.
What lessons can we learn from the current situation to get things done better as businesses and as a country?
This pandemic has completely changed the way work used to be done and transformed how companies engage and interact with their customers. Digitalization is the way forward. It is not only more cost efficient but also act as a turbo charger for productivity. Critical to add that a move towards digitalization will also need robust framework for data security and privacy related concerns.
Recently, the Naira was devalued, how does this affect your business?
Devaluation of Naira has certainly increased the cost of doing business. All the dollar denominated CAPEXes have suddenly got inflated by the devaluation. Similarly, cost of importing modems and other devices have increased. The devaluation is going to put significant financial burden on smaller operators.
How has the lockdown impacted on telecoms services on the part of Spectranet?
The lockdown has presented quite a few challenges.Spectranetbeing a 24×7 service provider, the challenges are pretty much unique and related to ensuring site uptime in remote corners, ensuring call center operations with strict distancing rules, attending to customer complaints in their premises. All this needs to be done while ensuring safety of our people.Cost of operations has gone up significantly as urgent network upgrades have to be done to ensure un-compromised customer experience while browsing.We have also seen an upsurge in call center volumes with customers enquiring about where to renew. This has resulted in deployment of more manpower.Humbling to mention that team Spectranet, with its utmost commitment to customer service excellence, has fared well in countering these challenges in double quick time
Checks showed that Spectranet customers are largely enterprises, I mean corporate bodies, but these entities were not opening offices, with most staff working from home during the lockdown. What is the percentage spike in traffic, either low or high?
Spectranet has a fair mix of enterprise, retail 4G LTE and Home Fiber
 (FTTx) customers. While the traffic from enterprise customers has reduced, we have seen an upsurge in traffic from retail customers.
Overall, the Data traffic in the network has increased over 30 per cent. While this is a happy situation to be in, the sudden increase in traffic poses a challenge in terms of keeping up with the quality of service. In order to ensure that our customers experience is not compromised, Spectranet has acted fast and invested significantly to enhance capacities on the access and backhaul network.
What strategies is Spectranet putting in place to remain up and doing this period of COVID-19 pandemic?
This pandemic has completely changed the way work used to be done and transformed, how we engage and interact with our customers. Digitalisation is the way forward. It is not only more cost efficient but also act as a turbo charger for productivity. Being a technology company Spectranet has been investing heavily in building up digital channels. The pace of digitalisation needs to be hastened up now.
Going forward, what is the fate of Tier 2 operators in the country?
Spectranet by virtue of its robust network with industry leading uptime figures, excellent customer service and an extremely strong brand, will continue to play its role as a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP). Our recent diversification into FTTx an WTTx based fixed line services has further strengthened the position of the brand as number one in the industry. We will continue to invest in cutting edge technologies to offer high speed broadband in Nigeria, at par with international broadband standards.
The recent devaluation of Naira, though, has put additional financial burden on the company, but it has certainly increased the cost of doing business. All the dollar denominated CAPEXes have suddenly got inflated by the devaluation. Similarly, cost of importing modems and other devices have increased. The devaluation and scarce availability of Foreign Exchange (FOREX) is going to hamper expansion of operations in a significant manner for smaller operators.