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Google offers digital change to telcos in MENA

Telcos partner with Google and deploy some services to shift their focus to digital

Sarkis: "Telcos want to combine their mass customers and their targeted customers. Digital will give them the levers to target this mass."
Sarkis: "Telcos want to combine their mass customers and their targeted customers. Digital will give them the levers to target this mass."

Google's footprint reaches all over the region, in many different areas, but what is the company doing with operators?  Charbel Sarkis, Industry head, MENA, Telecom and technology at Google, explains to ITP.net's sister site, CommsMEA.

"Putting digital at the centre of what operators do is a global story but in the Middle East there has been a lot of efforts to achieve this," he said.

"We work with most operators in the MENA region. Mainly in the Gulf, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan Lebanon and Iraq," Sarkis explained.

There are two main reasons why operators aim to achieve this. "I think telcos have been gradually shifting their focus on digital, putting digital at the centre of what they do. This is a global story but also in the Middle East there has been a lot of efforts to achieve this."

This is coming for two main reason, as Sarkis explained: "Telcos are realising that their consumers are on digital platforms. Internet penetration in the Gulf, also smartphone penetration in some countries is high. The popularity of social platforms, like YouTube, in the region is very relevant too," he said.

Sarkis said that operators also see how digital can change their own business: "Telcos in the region are facing different challenges, related to competition, to the mobile penetration, so they are looking for ways to grow their revenue and to reduce some costs by improving efficiency. They are realising that digital can help to solve these problems," he noted.

Product development, communication, sales and customer care are the areas that Google covers for operators in the MENA region."This is how we engage with telcos. We like to plan together with our partner so that we really understand their objective. We work with telcos to leverage the power of digital and to promote their customer activities," said Sarkis.

On products, Google partner with telcos to co-launch digital base products. One example is carrier billing, a service that the company is currently developing with many operators in the region.

When it comes to communication, Sarkis explained that digital has changed "very deeply" the way companies communicate with their users. Creating awareness around products and services is one of the services that Google offers.

"Telcos want to combine their mass customers and their targeted customers. Digital will give them the levers to target this mass. The second element is video advertising, as it is the most effective way of advertising," he said about this area of Google's business.

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Google also offers services to help telcos presence when customers are looking for a service. Google search is the tool that users utilise to find the product or service that they are looking for and Google can position operators with their search advertisement.

The company also uses YouTube to create a preference for the operator's brand or around specific things of the telco.

The sales side of Google's activities with operators is related to promote a strong e-commerce platform, as Sarkis believes that this region is lagging behind.

"Some studies said that there is a 50% savings from moving one sale from store to online and they are also generating more ARPU. We expect this to be a key topic next year and the coming years," he added.

"Customer care is a pain point for telcos," said Sarkis. He explains that players who have to provide customer care or customer satisfaction services always face difficulties and it is also a high cost activity.

"There are many studies that are showing the benefits of moving the customer care services online. In YouTube we can create different videos and structure a conversation to solve what the customer wants to know for operators. In the region, telcos are applying this in their YouTube channels," he added.