Mr. Ravinder Takkar, in a short while you are set to leave Romania, at the end of three years you spent here at the helm of Vodafone Romania, in order to take over other important prerogatives within Vodafone Group. With what feelings do you part with Romania and with the team here?
My mandate with Vodafone Romania, which ends on July 15, were the best period of my career so far, as I spent them with a wonderful team with which I celebrated many achievements and beautiful moments. We continuously grew the financial strength of the business, reached many milestones consisting of industry premieres during these years. I am proud of these results and I leave behind a strong company and a consolidated team.
I am happy to have met wonderful people in Romania, my colleagues from the management team and all the people from the company. They are very talented, top professionals passionate about their field of activity.
In the press release in which Vodafone Romania announced the end of your mandate here, you stated: “I spent three fulfilling years with Vodafone Romania in which I had the opportunity to build together with my management team and our employees on the most important pillars of our business: network performance, customer experience, financial stability.” Could you please offer us more details about the most important accomplishments registered during this period?
One of our most important achievement is the steady increase in the number of clients, who are the core of the business. For three years in a row, we managed to expand our customer base across all segments and exceed 9.4 million clients at the end of March 2017, against a local market that has been increasingly competitive. A major factor that contributed to this evolution was the high level performance of our network, confirmed by the Best in Test certification obtained, every year, from the independent auditor P3 communications. In addition, Speedtest by Ookla, the well known tool to measure internet speed across the world, has designated Supernet 4G+ as “The fastest mobile network in Romania”. As far as I know, Vodafone Romania is the only telecom operator in the world to hold the two distinctions at the same time.
We also received the confirmation of the quality of our services and the impact on our clients’ experience through our internal and external tools for measuring the customer satisfaction. Having this solid basis, we managed to obtain, every year, a sustained growth of our annual service revenue.
Thanks to the quality of our services, the smartphone penetration had a significant and continuous growth over these three years, with an accelerated increase in 4G terminals.
Also, data consumption increased by more than 800%, with the 4G services having a 250-fold growth in the same period. This was sustained by the constant investment made in the development of our network and by the efforts of our great teams of engineers.
These years also brought a significant increase of the video traffic in Supernet 4G+. This evolution was possible mainly due to the quality of our network and the specialized services offered, such as the 4GTV+ video and audio streaming service, launched along with a partnership with Netflix and providing access to the most relevant local and global content in an innovative and intuitive way.
On the enterprise segment, we successfully contributed to expanding the adoption of digital solutions among the companies in Romania. Ready Business Score, the innovative tool we launched at the end of 2016, is one of the best examples of our initiatives in this area.
Another important achievement is related to our 4G roaming services, a segment where Vodafone Romania has been leading for quite some time. Since 2014, when I took over the mandate in Romania, the coverage of our 4G international roaming services has expanded from 4 to 111 countries. Also, we were the first ones to liberalize roaming for all our Romanian users, ahead of the new EU regulations.
I believe that one of the biggest accomplishments is the great team of the company and the work environment that we created, which makes the organization be one of the most sought-after employers in the country. I am happy that I was part of this team and had the opportunity to celebrate this year, together with my colleagues and our customers, the 20th anniversary of Vodafone in Romania. No less than 100 members of the current team have been working in the company since its establishment, in 1997.
If you were to sum-up your experience in Romania in three words, what would those words be?
It is a very difficult challenge to sum up this rich experience and all these great achievements in just three words. To tell the story of the three years, I would certainly include the words innovation, growth and people.
What advice do you have for your successor, Murielle Lorilloux?
I do not believe that she needs any advice from me. She is a very experienced top management professional and will lead a solid business in Romania, with a strong, consolidated team. If I were to say what I would have liked to know before starting my mandate, I would mention the frequent legislative changes and the lack of predictability, that influence the business and the entire local environment.
How did the Romanian telecom market transform while you were the CEO of Vodafone Romania?
The Romanian telecom market is very dynamic and competitive and went through a rapid transformation over the last three years. In fact, I think during these three years, the local market competitiveness has been at a peak. Mobile internet services were the key factor of this process and also became one of the main drivers of the market growth. These services became the most popular among Romanian consumers and added to the voice services in terms of top preferences. Besides, more and more users started to use in the recent years the video services, to watch and download movies and make video calls. In our network, this is currently the main content Consumer, as almost 55% of the traffic now comes from streaming apps, while three years ago, it came from web applications.
All these changes in consumers’ behaviour encouraged a rapid transformation in terms of diversification of the service portfolio offered by the telecom operators. In this context, investments in the telecom networks saw an accelerated growth in the last 2-3 years.
What is the future of this market and what role did Vodafone Romania play, during your mandate, in boosting competitiveness in this domain?
Romania benefits now from one of the best telecommunications services in Europe in terms of quality and prices and for sure I will miss this. We can expect that the demand for the services offered today will further grow and people will become more and more connected. The main challenges for the telecom companies on this dynamic market will remain the intense competition and the rapid shift in customers behaviour and expectations.
Over the last three years, Vodafone Romania focused on continuously investing in developing the network and capitalized on our innovation to ensure excellence in our customer experience.
What is extremely important for the future of this market is the predictability and stability of the environment. Investors need to understand things from an industry sustainability perspective and plan their businesses on long term. Local industry needs to have a healthy business environment and a framework that ensures fair competition.