Brand expansion

While many Middle East telecom operators have traditionally done their best to avoid competition, Jordan Telecom decided to embrace a competitive market some years ago.

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By  Roger Field Published  March 3, 2008

Like many of his counterparts in other telecommunications companies in the Middle East, Philippe Vogeleer, chief strategy officer at Jordan Telecom, has a problem with competition.

We have always said that we would prefer a smaller share of a bigger cake than a bigger share of a smaller cake. We need to push the market, bring solutions and new services.

But far from shying away from rival companies and new technologies that have the potential to dent revenues, Vogeleer's only complaint is that he wants stronger competition, and more of it.

"We are telling our competitors and the authorities that they need to react to get into the dance, because we can't dance alone," Vogeleer says.

"We have always said that we would prefer a smaller share of a bigger cake than a bigger share of a smaller cake. We need to push the market, bring solutions and new services."

"But everyone has to push at the same time for the whole market to fly, because people have to feel that there is competition and that there are alternative choices."

To many operators in the Middle East, Vogeleer's call to arms may sound somewhat alien, given that Jordan is already widely viewed as having one of the region's most liberal telecom sectors.

Indeed, following Jordan Telecom Group's privatisation in January 2000, Jordan's government owned 60% of the company, and the remaining 40% was owned by JITCO, a holding company consisting of France Telecom and the Arab Bank.

But by the end of 2004, the exclusivity of Jordan Telecom in the country's fixed market had expired, and Jordan's telecom regulator liberalised the fixed local and international services.

France Telecom has since increased its share in the company, and became the majority shareholder, owning 51% of the shares, by 2006.

Jordan Telecom Group now competes in the mobile and internet sectors with Batelco Jordan, Zain, Umniah and Xpress.

Introducing Orange

While Vogeleer is keen to see all operators pushing the boundaries of Jordan's communications market, he has plenty of talk about when it comes to developments within his own company.

And one of the most visible developments was France Telecom's decision in 2006 to roll out its Orange brand for Jordan Telecom Group's services - a process that Vogeleer was closely involved with.

The re-branding, which was part of a wider modernization of Jordan Telecom Group, was a complicated process.

Indeed, Jordan Telecom operated as four distinct companies; Jordan Telecom for fixed lines; Mobilecom for mobile services; Wannadoo Jordan for internet services; and E-dimension for content services.

But with the Orange brand virtually unknown in Jordan, Vogeleer had quite a task on his hands.

"When we launched the modernisation of the company we figured that we needed to see if we could have a unique image, whether we could position ourselves in the market differently from what we had," Vogeleer says.

"To differentiate ourselves from the competition we needed to integrate our companies into a set, and create a new culture for the company and position ourselves in the market based on that culture."

The re-branding process, which took place between 2006 and 2007, started with the integration of all of Jordan Telecom Group's businesses into the same management structure.

"These different companies used to be arranged in vertical layers. We brought in one management team for all the services, so we now have a home business unit for fixed voice and internet; a mobile business unit called Personal, which is for all the services you carry with you; and an enterprise business unit called Orange Business Services, which has all the services people might use for business," Vogeleer says.

Following the integration of the business units under one management, a process that Vogeleer refers to as "branding phase one", the directors decided to introduce the Orange brand across the business units.

"We decided to bring in the Orange brand, but only when we were ready," he says.

"We already had different brands on the market, and it is a very complex exercise to change one brand, let alone four. We really had to imprint on people what the Orange brand is about, where it was coming from, and why we were doing this."

But while the Orange brand is now used for each of the company's main services, the directors made the decision to retain the Jordan Telecom Group name for the corporate entity, mainly because of its wide recognition as Jordan's leading telecom operator.

"We decided to have one single corporate name, Jordan Telecom Group, the reason being if you have the country name in your corporate name, you don't want to lose it," Vogeleer says.

"This helps people understand that we are the main local operator."

Directors at the company also decided to retain the name partly because Jordan Telecom Group had become well known for corporate social responsibility initiatives, and it did not want to lose this investment.

"Jordan Telecom has been good at CSR spend in the country, so the company has become known for assistance for poor people," Vogeleer says.

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