This month, Amr El-Leithy became Alcatel-Lucent's Middle East and Africa President, succeeding Vincenzo Nesci. El-Leithy, who was the regional general manager for IBM North and West Africa and held long assignments in IBM headquarters in Paris, is now based in Alcatel-Lucent's regional headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. He tells Network about his aims for the company and how he plans to tackle some of the vendor's challenges.
What do you see as the most significant challenges facing your customers at the moment?
I have met many customers in the last few months and listened to challenges related to reducing operating costs, and how to be extremely competitive in an environment while also increasing revenue.
In a bid to achieve these aims, we have found that many operators are looking into new enabling services and applications - applications or solutions that provide value add and which were not the typical thing three or four years ago.
Outsourcing or management of parts of the network is another thing that many customers are talking about in a bid to cut network expense, so this is another domain that we are working with customers on.
In order to be able to help the service providers with these challenges, the Alcatel-Lucent's enabling approach was successful because it would help adopt and develop business models that would help customers be differentiated from their competitors.
If I take the example of mobile advertising, we are engaging with a number of customers now in the domain across the Middle East and Africa so this is an application that a lot of service providers are interested in.
Our third domain is we are working with customers to find new sources of revenue especially in Africa with the development of broadband and the arrival of the submarine cables.
What will be your main aims at Alcatel-Lucent? What do you see as being among your main goals?
My aim is to aggressively grow the MEA business in two to three years time by at least doubling our market share per year starting in 2010.
Our CEO Ben Verwaayan announced a few months ago that the heart of Alcatel-Lucent new business model is empowering teams and individuals closest to customers so that they can drive, create and deliver the business solutions that the customers want. I am confident that this model will us make us a "faster" company allowing Alcatel-Lucent in MEA to reach its growth objective and take its rightful place in the market.
What are some of the main areas that you intend to focus on?
It is a very tough market and a very complex market and we will achieve our aims by focusing on the things that really make the difference, we will focus on products and services that provide value add to the customers, and we will empower the different teams close to our customers so that they will be in a position to create and develop meaningful solutions for the customer.
We have decided to focus on certain domains where Alcatel-Lucent is the market leader, such as the enterprise market, access on transmission to the evolution of 2G to 3G to LTE. There are five or six domains that we believe we are the market leader in, and we will dedicate skilled resources to these.
The objective from doing this is to make sure that Alcatel-Lucent will be the clear choice of the customer in these selected domains, so that we will be able to take a leading place in the market and have a significant market share in the region.
In these selected domains we will have formulated our plan of attack and we are going to make the difference related to the end-to-end solutions versus our competitors. We will be as competitive as possible in terms of price and we also plan to show our value in the end-to-end solution. What do you see as some of the main challenges for Alcatel-Lucent in the region? And how does Alcatel-Lucent plan to address and overcome these obstacles?
There are many challenges. We have a very large and diverse region that contains for than 60 countries and Alcatel-Lucent has a very large installed base both on fixed and mobile, both in the Middle East and Africa.
The challenge that we have is to align ourselves with the different needs and challenges of our customers in the many different countries and cultures that we have a presence in.
We will address this by focusing on specific domains. We will put best skilled resources close to the customer, listening carefully to their challenges and we will focus on our commitments and quality to ensure that we keep the promises and commitments that we give to the customer.
Is there much cause for optimism about the coming years?
In the coming two years there will be a very big opportunity for telcos because there will be a lot of telecommunication lines and there will be a lot of broadband and I think this can only be a very good opportunity.
And the number of subscribers will increase tremendously in the coming two or three years so this will be a good opportunity for the service providers, we believe.
Customers will continue to refine their business strategies and they will continue to look into new sources to increase their revenue and reduce their cost. Wireless broadband and IT will play a big role here.
Has the role of the vendor changed much in recent years?
The equipment manufacturer is not a vendor anymore, or a "box supplier"; a vendor is becoming a real partner, a solution provider and a turnkey contractor. I am personally proud to be part of an organisational framework that puts the customer in the centre of our universe, customer centricity and partnership with customers are a key corporate discipline for Alcatel-Lucent.
What do you see as the most exciting developments in the telecoms sector in the region at the moment?
Allow me to quote Alcatel Lucent's CEO, Ben Verwaayan on that. I think he summarised the developments in telecom brilliantly in a recent message to the company: "Our industry is transforming big time. From a world of words to a world of images, it is a total rethink of everything our customers are used to doing: the way they build, sell and market! Silos are disappearing in our world: wireless, broadband and IT are blurring."
What key developments might we see in the sector in 2010?
As I said, network providers are facing the challenge of slowing revenue growth and the tremendous growth in data traffic, together with associated applications centered on the web and mobile devices, such as the iPhone.
I believe that we will start seeing operators opening their network capabilities to content providers in a secure and controlled way to speed the creation of innovative web 2.0 services for consumers and also for enterprises.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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