Upanga Dutta, Chief Commercial Officer at Banglalink, and Harsha Solanki, VP GM Asia at Infobip, in an exclusive interview with The Business Post’s Hamimur Rahman Waliullah discuss the transformative impact of their partnership on the telecommunications-based business model. They delve into the crucial role their collaboration plays in achieving goals within the realm of RCS and addressing the ever-evolving needs of customers.
Banglalink adopted "Digital Operator" Strategy to transform its telco-based business modality. How will this partnership with Infobip contribute to the implementation of this strategy?
Upanga Dutta: At Banglalink, our commitment to enhancing customer experiences through innovative digital solutions is at the core of our 'Digital Operator' Strategy. We've already introduced a range of groundbreaking digital assets, including the widely embraced Toffee, the nation's premier mobile entertainment platform. Our introduction of the country's first telco Super App further solidifies our dedication, offering not just telecom services but also a diverse array of digital offerings spanning healthcare, education, gaming, entertainment, and more.
Our collaboration with Infobip is a strategic move that perfectly aligns with our objectives. By harnessing Infobip's expertise, we aim to enhance Banglalink's AdTech portfolio for enterprise customers, incorporating state-of-the-art Rich Communication Services (RCS) capabilities. This advanced technology, backed by Google, empowers our partner enterprises to interact more effectively with their customers through rich, interactive, and personalised messages. The application of RCS holds particular advantages for organisations such as financial institutions, ride-sharing services, and e-commerce companies, providing valuable insights. We are confident that this partnership will propel Banglalink's enterprise services to new heights.
What specific objectives does the collaboration between Infobip and Banglalink aim to accomplish, especially concerning the implementation of RCS?
Harsha Solanki: Founded in 2006, Infobip boasts a team of over 3,600 employees and maintains a strong global presence with more than 75 offices worldwide. This extensive network ensures swift responses and regular interactions with our customers. With over 9,700 connections globally, including 800 direct operator connections, Infobip enables enterprises and telco partners to enhance the overall customer experience significantly.
Personally, I see immense potential in this market, and I am confident that we have a lot to offer. With the partnership now solidified and Banglalink actively participating in the digital realm, I believe that together, we can empower enterprises to harness the rich features of RCS for their benefit. RCS represents the next generation of SMS and seamlessly complements traditional SMS. Its diverse functionalities, such as carousels, high-quality video, images, CTAs, etc., enhance the visual appeal of communication, providing customers with a more engaging and meaningful experience.
Our alignment with Banglalink's objectives to enhance customer communications is evident. Our track record of successful RCS campaigns worldwide demonstrates our role as a technology enabler, highlighting how Infobip's omnichannel capabilities, coupled with global expertise, can empower enterprises and customers, particularly in emerging markets like Bangladesh. We are well-positioned to create more success stories in collaboration with Banglalink.
What recent initiatives has Banglalink undertaken to elevate the experiences of its enterprise customers? MyBL Super App and Toffee have emerged as two flagship digital services of Banglalink. In what ways do these services contribute to Banglalink's efforts in addressing the evolving needs of its customers?
Upanga Dutta: Our unwavering commitment has always been to provide an exceptional experience for our customers. In today's era, where data-driven content and entertainment are in high demand, our team of engineers is dedicated to maintaining the nation's fastest 4G network. We are proud to have received Ookla® certification as the country's fastest 4G network for the past four years, a result of our continuous investments and expansion efforts, which have seen a 50 per cent increase in network coverage in the past 18 months alone. Our commitment goes beyond merely offering a robust network; it extends to delivering quality products that align with our customers' evolving lifestyles in this dynamic digital landscape.
To strengthen our ties with enterprise customers, Banglalink recently launched the 'Enterprise Customer Experience Week 2023.' Employees from various functions are actively engaging with customers nationwide, seeking feedback to enhance their digital experiences. The company has further expanded its fastest 4G network by installing 15,000 towers across Bangladesh, ensuring that enterprises from every corner of the country can leverage our connectivity for their business growth.
As mentioned earlier, we revamped MyBL into a Super App to consolidate various digital products onto a single platform, providing customers with easy access without technical obstacles. Toffee was introduced to meet the growing demand for personalized content viewing experiences. Through this app, users can enjoy a diverse range of high-quality entertainment, including web series, movies, dramas, and sports, on their preferred devices using any network.
Since the introduction of RCS in Bangladesh, how successful has its adoption been among businesses? Can you provide specific examples or share insights into the response and impact on businesses leveraging this technology?
Harsha Solanki: We are optimistic about the positive impact RCS will have on the communication services industry in Bangladesh, aligning well with the country's vision of a 'Smart Bangladesh.' Businesses adopting RCS in other markets have experienced notable enhancements in conversion rates, brand satisfaction, and customer interaction. This technology empowers companies to deliver highly personalised and engaging experiences to their customers.
Allow me to share examples from a neighbouring country where RCS was launched last year, receiving an overwhelming response. Apollo 24x7, the largest healthcare and diagnostics centre, utilised RCS to prioritise patient-centric communication, improving the overall patient journey. Implementing features such as appointment setting, reminders, and updates through RCS proved immensely successful, marking the beginning of their extensive use of RCS.
Similarly, BankBazaar, a Fintech company, employed RCS for a campaign encouraging customers to retrieve their CIBIL score using the CTA feature. This campaign garnered significant traction, capturing the interest of customers eager to stay engaged with the company.
The future outlook for RCS is promising, especially as we introduce impactful use cases at the right time with the right brands. Infobip's global presence, along with our local collaboration in Dhaka and strong support from Banglalink, positions us to co-create impactful use cases throughout various customer journeys, ensuring a seamless experience. Success with RCS on a global scale encourages us, and we anticipate replicating similar success in Bangladesh, an emerging market with a willingness to embrace new technological advancements in communication channels.
How does the implementation of RCS in Bangladesh align with the vision of 'Smart Bangladesh,' and what role does RCS play in supporting the country's digital transformation and connectivity objectives?
Upanga Dutta: The government's vision, initially for a Digital Bangladesh and now for Smart Bangladesh, is commendable, particularly with pillars like connected citizens and ICT industry growth. The introduction of RCS aligns seamlessly with these objectives, coinciding precisely with the government's push for digital transformation in the country. As a digital operator partnering with a global expert like Infobip, we are poised to offer solutions crucial to the digital advancement of this market. This technology will enable customers to engage transparently and digitally, boosting business productivity and efficiency. RCS is not just a technology for a niche; it is vital for Smart Bangladesh, easily adaptable within the telco ecosystem, fostering rapid and comprehensive adoption. The coming days will undoubtedly showcase significant returns through the adoption of RCS.
The four pillars of the 'Smart Bangladesh' Vision are: Smart Citizen, Smart Government, Smart Society, and Smart Economy. It is clear that the introduction of a highly advanced technology such as RCS can significantly facilitate the materialization of these key pillars.
Harsha Solanki: Personally, I find great value and inspiration in this initiative as it reflects the collective effort at the national level. The Bangladesh government is aiming to build a society that is more intelligent, interconnected, and effective. And this digital innovation (RCS) can play a huge role in supporting the country’s vision. Together, we will be able to empower the society that will not just be businesses but also the citizens of Bangladesh.
What started as the concept of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ back in 2008 has today progressed towards ‘Smart Bangladesh.’ After creating a digital infrastructure, the government is now taking a more comprehensive approach. By 2041, the government aims to close the gap by implementing sustainable digital solutions that are accessible to all businesses and citizens, creating a smart ecosystem. Our mission statement to democratise the future of digital interactions between businesses and people supports this vision. We are working on platforms and technologies to enable companies to improve communication with their end users. We are proud and equally committed to ensuring that we are on this journey with Banglalink.
The government can consider using this channel in a much more creative and fun way, not only to disseminate information but also to engage with the people of Bangladesh. It will be very similar to running an interactive channel to digitally empower citizens. And we're very happy to play a role here in making this a reality.
You must have heard about the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and the same holds true for realising this visionary journey. To achieve this vision, it will take multiple stakeholders in an ecosystem, including telecom operators, OEMs, network providers, policymakers, the government, and more, to come together to make it happen.
Banglalink has partnered with Summit and Teletalk recently. What are the implications of these partnerships from the service quality point of view?
Upanga Dutta: We strongly believe in fostering partnerships. Our recent collaboration with Summit encompasses the divestment of 2000 sites, a strategic move enabling us to concentrate on Banglalink's core services, particularly delivering the fastest 4G internet and innovative digital solutions. In conjunction with our partnership with Teletalk, both operators are actively testing the seamless switching of alternative networks in regions with coverage gaps. The initial phase, focusing on post-paid voice and SMS services in specific regions across the country, is already underway. Subsequent phases will include testing for pre-paid and data services. Upon the successful completion of the field trial, the service will be available for commercial use, providing customers with expanded and seamless national coverage for all services. Our commitment to introducing novel initiatives reflects our ongoing efforts to enhance customer experiences and contribute to our growth in this market.
How do you anticipate RCS, in light of emerging technologies such as 5G, will elevate the customer experience for enterprises in Bangladesh?
Harsha Solanki: To fully harness the capabilities of RCS, robust internet connectivity is essential. The integration of 5G promises a seamless and swift interaction between consumers and brands, fundamentally enhancing the customer experience. It's important to note that the realization of this potential is contingent on the existing infrastructure. From my perspective, an upgraded infrastructure will play a pivotal role in fostering the widespread adoption of RCS in the country.