Vodafone Middle East: I've got your number

As Vodafone Qatar passes the one million customers mark, CEO Richard Daly looks at the challenges of his 18 months in charge

The year 2013 is going to be about competition in fixed line services in Qatar, says Richard Daly

The year 2013 is going to be about competition in fixed line services in Qatar, says Richard Daly

Richard Daly doesn’t mention his favourite football team during the interview, which is just as well. Premier League team Queens Park Rangers are facing relegation, and have just been knocked out of the FA Cup.

But you wouldn’t know it talking to the man who has been at the helm of Vodafone Qatar since October 2011. Smart, sharp, and totally immersed in the local culture, Daly has wasted no time setting new and audacious goals for the company and the telecoms industry.

“There is no reason why this place shouldn’t have the best fibre-optic fixed line network in the world. We have the geography to do it, we have the money to do [it], certainly we have the will to do it,” he says.

The New Year saw Vodafone Qatar break the one-million-customer mark and register its first distributable profit since launching in 2009. Challenging the incumbent operator Qtel for its mobile customers has been no easy task but now Daly is upping the stakes. The firm won a fixed-line licence two years ago, and is now building its own standalone fixed-line network. This won’t be easy or cheap, but Daly is convinced the long-term outlook in fixed lines is a profitable one. So far the firm — in partnership with the Qatar National Broadband Network — has connected 250 customers in Barwa City and new customers in West Bay are expected to follow in April.

“2013 is going to be about competition in fixed line services... From a mobile perspective Qatar is really thriving now and the market is growing. In fixed lines, competition is just starting,” says Daly.

The company is looking at converging mobile and fixed-line services, bringing it in line with Qatar’s ambitious plans to have 95 percent of its population able to access affordable 100 megabytes per second fibre-optic broadband by 2015.

But while Daly is rightly excited about the future, he has much to smile about when it comes to the recent past. The last twelve months saw spectacular growth and the rollout of new products, in particular post-paid services. Having one million customers on the books equates to a massive 55 percent chunk of the population. And that in turn means it has financials to boast about: Vodafone Qatar’s revenue for the nine months to December 2012 grew by 20 percent year-on-year (QR1.09bn) ($299.4m) resulting in the company achieving positive quarterly distributable profits for the first time in its history. The QR25m of distributable profits is a 56 percent rise over the same period last year. And with precisely 1,004,767 customers by 31 December, Daly is looking at a huge 26 percent growth in customers over the next preceding months.

“Having positive distributable profits has been a clear target for us and so achieving this milestone after only three years of operations is a great achievement for us all and should give our shareholders confidence that the business is moving in the right direction,” says Daly.

Equally impressive has been the way Daly has led the company under difficult circumstances. He got the top job after the sudden death of the hugely popular and respected Grahame Maher, who had launched the company from scratch and recruited most of the key staff. Maher was not an easy act to follow; he had won praise not only in-house but also from competitor Qtel about the way he had helped introduce competition into the country.

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