The Call For Leaders interview series reached its third phase, with the established 3Q format having received a revamp for 2021. The original Call For Leaders 3Q and its sequel, Call For Leaders – Back in Business, have seen us talking to quite a diverse roster of business leaders in Romania, representing top companies and various industries. In today’s interview, we talked to Liudmila Climoc, CEO of Orange Romania.
After a difficult 2020 year, how do you think business optimism will be influenced in 2021?
When looking back at 2020, I prefer to talk about the full side of the glass, proud of the achievements we had and the lessons we’ve learnt. These accomplishments enabled us to start the year with a lot of energy and optimism. I must briefly mention what our achievements were:
- being the #1 network in Romania, with the fastest mobile internet, the most extensive coverage confirmed by multiple certifications;
- supporting the digital transformation process, by accelerating the adoption of digitization solutions;
- offering clients and partners help to face crisis challenges – in implementing videoconferencing, digital education, call-centre or security solutions;
- focusing our efforts in the area of cyber security, offering cyber security solutions to companies and public authorities;
- accelerating the involvement in the field of education, both through the Orange Foundation’s projects and through business partnerships;
- expanding the Orange 5G network in 14 cities and fully covering Bucharest;
- registering a 60% increase in the Orange Money customer base;
- signing the acquisition of the majority stake of Telekom Romania.
It is fair to say, therefore, that the current crisis has accelerated a process that was already happening – digital transformation – and we were a very important part of it, in the local context.
Regarding 2021, we are confident that, as a company, we can do even better than last year. It is true that all the challenges the pandemic brought us disturbed our private and professional lives. But I see all the efforts our team is investing these days, and I can definitely say the results are showing.
Nevertheless, the months of experience in dealing with this sanitary crisis are contouring a milder and optimistic setting for the year ahead, business wise. I am confident that our industry and also others are on the right path of recovering and enter a process of growth.
How will your company be involved in the development of your industry, and also in the recovery of other sectors which were affected by the pandemic?
Telecom industry is one of the key sectors of the economy. We all saw last year how much dependent we were to connection and connectivity, personally and professionally.
Orange Romania proudly contributes in the digital transformation of the Romanian companies, from different sectors, that have now an opportunity to maximize their full potential. I am glad that both private and public companies understood the need of: a speedy adoption of digital solutions, online platforms to support the educational process, a greater degree of awareness of the importance of cyber security, and an increase of the adoption of digital financial services.
The biggest challenge, in these months, for any company is to bring investments considering the long-term effects, to build a strategy. Our approach is not just to offer them a solution, but to create a long-lasting partnership.
This can also be a great opportunity, for us as a nation, to develop a new set of future proof skills, that will help all of us in the future. We already know we have brilliant minds and very good professionals and we can take advantage of this digital transformations to reconfirm Romania as a digital hub and play an important role at European level.
The telco market was not immune to crisis and, according to our estimates, we expect to see an impact of approximately -3% decrease. Fortunately, there is a growing trend in VHBB connectivity, for both mobile and converged services.
It indicates the fact there is a need for this kind of services and efforts are being made to fulfil this need. Our strategy in 2020 was concentrated on digitization and convergence, expanding the fixed services footprint and maintaining a steady rhythm of investments in our network, and in 2021 we will focus even more on network and customer experience. We have services that ensure our growth and we will continue to develop and capitalize on them, focusing our efforts on providing the best convergent services for customers.
We can further contribute to the recovery of sectors affected by the pandemic through our strong infrastructure. It’s the result of constant investments in the network, around 100 million euros annually.
We also have a major contribution to education digitization. A priority for us has been and is to support the process of digitization in education. Last year we were part of the auction organized by the Ministry of Education and we won 2 out of 3 tenders, delivering 180,000 tablets, a remarkable performance given the lack of stocks internationally. At the same time, we continued to get involved in the field of education, carrying out the Digitaliada project through the Orange Foundation, and the value of the investments reached 2 million euros.
How will you approach innovation and new investments in 2021?
The health crisis has determined us all to make extraordinary efforts to adapt to the new reality. Our strategic directions remain the same, and the ambition we have assumed in the medium and long term is for Orange Romania to develop and simplify the lives of all people, building together inclusive services of the future and offering society a sustainable transformation.
To achieve this ambition, in 2021 we will focus even more on the network, which is one of our most valuable assets. We have a major advantage in expanding the 5G network with the best coverage. At the same time, we have convergent services and services that ensure our growth, with an emphasis on fibre investments.
Our strengths for 2021 are those that have proven their efficiency and success in 2020: digital services, including the new YOXO digital subscription, B2B solutions (cybersecurity, supporting digitalization for education, for private and public companies), supporting customers with mobile financial services- 100% digital.
At a time when the Internet of Things, 5G and Artificial Intelligence are developing rapidly and prompting revolutionary new uses, the time has come to meet this legitimate expectation. How can we build a digital world people can trust in? As a leading multi-service operator, it’s up to Orange to assume this responsibility. It is only on this condition, that innovations can enable meaningful progress for people, society and the planet.
Next, it is necessary to reconfirm the end state and main milestones in digital strategic roadmap, and dedicated resources and investments, focusing also on execution for these milestones.
For any operator, the telecom infrastructure is the key to success in providing customers with quality services and one of the most important criteria to be competitive. Every year, we are investing over 100 million euros, which translates into over 3.5 billion in the last 23 years, in order to develop the Orange telecommunications network.
A rapid expansion of the communications infrastructure and the development of new technologies can be done only by ensuring a simplified regulatory framework that allows this. At the same time, for an accelerated development we need support for the expansion of fixed-mobile networks in less populated or isolated areas. I can confirm that Orange has steadily increased its investment in network infrastructure and will continue to do so in the years to come.