ICT Sector: Nezar Banabeela Presents Fully Integrated Digital Services Provider stc Bahrain

Nezar Banabeela presents fully integrated digital services provider stc Bharain. Since entering Bahrain’s telecom market, stc Bahrain has become the market leader. stc Bahrain has also positively impacted the telecommunications market by changing the way it does business and has been at the forefront of innovation by launching the latest high-tech devices first, along with having introduced a comprehensive wholesale and enterprise portfolio with national and international services.

Interview with Nezar Banabeela, CEO of stc Bahrain

Nezar Banabeela, CEO of stc Bahrain

What do you think will be the future of the economy and the ICT sector in Bahrain?

In 2020, we saw a huge impact because of Coronavirus, not only in the Bahrain market but as a global pandemic. There was a much bigger picture to what is happening in the whole world. Now, with such challenging times, there are certain responsibilities that should be taken care of by everyone. Of course, as stc Bahrain, part of our responsibility is to help people and businesses to stay connected. If you look at how much the pandemic actually impacted people during that time, we saw a change in people’s behavior towards digital and online usage. In Bahrain, the ICT sector is one of the major pillars for the economy and it is extremely critical for the future. With this in mind, together with the pandemic, you can see that Bahrain is actually one of the fastest countries in the whole world at adopting digital technologies. Today in the market, we have more than 100% smartphone penetration. We know that the growing appetite for online solutions is already there. We are trying our best to enable the whole of society and empower companies and people to push beyond these boundaries. As much as we have faced this pandemic and the challenges that came with it, at the same time, we are learning from this experience and there are big opportunities that will help us to recover faster and have solutions for the future for our products, services, and needs.

The company, stc, is considered one of the top telecommunications companies, not only in Bahrain, but also in the Middle East region. How does the company compete to have outstanding customer service and a better brand?

The company is one of the key enablers for IoT in Bahrain. We aim to support the Kingdom to become a smarter and more digitally enabled nation by enabling the society itself. Driving innovation, making sure that we have new state of the art technologies, creating a sustainable future for the local communities, developing new talent, building telecom‘s future are all the foundation for everything that we do. The second pillar is our customers and our customer care. We need to always provide a very simple and flexible journey across all our channels and our engagement areas with our customers. This should be our focal point because what we are trying to do today is not just to provide the service; but, the more that we adapt our technologies and our journeys and where we engage with the customer to the customer’s lifestyle, the more that we can add value to the community and to the people and the people will come and appreciate it. We proactively look at new opportunities and how much we invest in new experiences that will revolve around our customer to make everything smooth and connected to their lives.

What distinguishes stc Bahrain from the competition?

We are a fully integrated digital services provider, which means that we are not taking one segment or one area only in our industry and focusing on that; rather, we have our wholesale market, our enterprise market and our consumer market.

First is the foundation, the infrastructure itself. Our infrastructure today is the strongest in the Kingdom. Our backbone is the reachability that we have today in Bahrain through what we own and also through our group. It is a huge thing that we belong to one of the largest groups in the whole region. We have phenomenal connectivity throughout the region as a group, and extending this to Bahrain gives us an edge. In addition, we are building our technology locally in the country itself. We were the first to adopt 3G, then 4G, and we were the first to launch 5G in the Kingdom and expand across the whole of the Kingdom. The official reports announced by the regulator show that we have the fastest and the maximum throughput in all of the Kingdom. The second layer is the customer journey. We simplify and make it flexible. When the pandemic started, we actually implemented more than 86 different initiatives to digitize many of the customers’ journey. At any point of time, our customer can put in a request and within less than two hours, he receives the service up to his house. We are pushing new opportunities in FinTech, gaming, and more to provide a connected life.

What services do you provide?

We are providing services serving both consumers and businesses. We are building a very strong platform for all our ICT services and other areas such as FinTech, insurance, gaming, energy management, advanced ICT, money services, IoT, M to M, data hosting, colocation, and digitizing their journeys on their digital channels. All of these things we can provide to our customers today. One of the bigger things that we are doing today to support our SME market is Tajer which is a platform where to any SME with a subscription base we can provide ERB, billing, inventory, etc. We gather all these services in one platform, in one access point that he can utilize and benefit from.

Can you describe the investment opportunities for the sector and the company itself in Bahrain?

We are a fully integrated digital services provider, which means that we are not taking one segment or one area only in our industry and focusing on that; rather, we have our wholesale market, our enterprise market and our consumer market. The wholesale has two areas. First, from an international infrastructure perspective, it’s connecting Bahrain and making Bahrain a hub in the world and mainly in the region, and connecting many countries through all of these capabilities and valuable skills. The second part is technology. This is where we are investing heavily to support our businesses customer. We see a lot of opportunities there in colocation, cloud computing, M to M, the IoT, etc. It is the consumer who we are making sure is at the center of all our activities. At the beginning, we were providing the customer with telecommunication services, voice and data. Today, we are coming out with stc Pay, which is our digital channel. We looked at all the other elements related to insurance and what we can extend. We also came out with motor insurance and travel insurance to give our customer more of this portfolio. We are even looking at how we can be part of their lifestyle in gaming. We believe that we can add value to the community.

What are the company’s CSR activities?

We always contribute and give back to the community. We have a team who is dedicated to CSR and our activities are very well structured. There are three main areas in CSR that we believe we are adding value to the community: healthcare, education, and environmental. Since we started, we have launched more than 100 different programs on these three initiatives across multiple segments. This is where we give back to the community and thank them and show appreciation for what they have given us.

What do you want to have achieved in three years’ time? What is your vision for the company in the medium term?

If you look at the Bahraini economic vision, there are five main pillars for the strategic development areas: financial services, ICT, logistics, tourism, and building a better life for everyone. Through stc, we would like to play a crucial role in supporting the national vision and, even further than that, actually evolving the Kingdom’s telecommunication landscape and pushing new boundaries by investing in new infrastructure and providing state of the art technologies and connectivity services, such as 5G. Today, our FinTech, our insuretech, and our ICT solutions have significantly evolved and have made Bahrain much more innovative. This is demonstrated not just by our commitment and our effort. In the next three years, we will be leading the way in digitizing the services experiences and making them more relevant to the needs of today’s fast moving and digital customer. We will hold a market leading position. This is part of our reputation. Also, aligning this with evolving customer requirements is very important and crucial to the role we want to play in the Kingdom. In the next three years, we will be doing our best to make sure that the initiatives that we started today become much more reality embedded with the community and give value to the society itself.

Are you looking for strategic or technological partnerships? Are you interested in attracting investors?

In technology, we just recently signed a deal with one of the top two companies in the world providing digital services that would support our back end system. We are working on two strategic projects where Bahrain will be the hub and they will be implemented in Bahrain to allow Bahrain to be connected to the whole world with state of the art technology. From a capacity perspective, it will exceed more than 36 terabytes per second.

What has been your inspiration and what drives you to do what you do?

In 2010, we launched the company and in less than two years, we became the market leader in mobility. This was our background researching how we enter the market and how to become the leader in this market. In less than two years again, we became the market leader in wholesale. Then, we launched our enterprise services and we came out with the best in class technologies. That is where we put the 4G and where we fought to introduce the status of technology. In the last three years, we have been depending on a strategy that we should diversify our portfolio around our customers. What is inspiring me to continue this push is first of all, the great organization that we have at stc Bahrain. If you belong to this great team that is the best and at the top of the game and the leader in the market, this is the biggest inspiration. I feel proud that I have left my fingerprint with the team and that I was part of this and that I am leaving this big legacy.

For more information, please visit: www.stc.com.bh.


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