We help telcos mine data and solve customer problems: Mike Ropicky

Tektronix Communications’ Mike Ropicky shares how the company is helping telcos improve communication and what are its plans for Southeast Asia

mike-ropicky

Ten years ago, finding a fault in a car was a tedious job. Which meant that parts needed to be opened up — much of that depended on guess work. Today, a mechanic just plugs in a computer, which checks the health of the car. Imagine a scenario when telecom service providers have to trace a problem in their network; they have a tough time for sure. US-based Tektronix Communications (referred as Tektronix from hereon), an end-to-end telecom intelligence provider, just does that. It plugs into the networks and gathers information to help service providers solve problems for their consumers.

Add location information to this data and Tektronix sits on rich data worth a gold mine, which can be used to generate new revenue. It is working with 133 telecom companies, of which about 80 are mobile operators, across Asia Pacific. That said, it has clients beyond telcos too – third party service providers, customer care centres, advertisers and even handset manufacturers, that are working to make the consumer experience rich.

e27 sat with Mike Ropicky, Vice President (Asia Pacific), Tektronix Communications to know about the company’s plans in Southeast Asia and how it sees the market. Ropicky has more than 27 years of experience in the industry and considers himself “more an Asian than a Western”. Besides working in Europe for some time, he’s lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, India and Pakistan. He feels that while Tektronix has “wonderful products and great solutions”, the biggest challenge for him is to get recognition for Tektronix in the consumer mind space, particularly when the company deals largely in the B2B space.

Excerpts from the interview:

Besides tracing problems in telecom networks, how does Tektronix impact the end consumer?
This bane of gold should be harvested to make money. For instance, in advertising, you harvest data and bring in a different kind of customer care service.

We don’t want to be a water company and just see how much water is consumed at the end of the month and charge you for it. We want to see how action happens. A parallel to that is broadcast. How do they make money? Multiple ways: but a big component of revenue comes from advertising, especially if you go for rating.

If mobile operators are sitting next to the ocean, there’s enormous revenue if they dig canals. How do I, that’s smaller companies, entrepreneurs, create campaigns for specific verticals? As we learn to utilise data, we can even make more specific apps. The question that pops up is that why don’t telcos do it? They are not just agile. Take the case of engineers who have a symbiotic relationship between telcos and app providers; they can use this information to make people’s lives easier. From the humanity stand point, new apps can be created for people who depend on others for medical support.

In Southeast Asia, we are looking to grow the ‘White Space’, or basically reach out to those people who don’t know us. We want to touch more customers and make them aware of our value proposition. For the growth of our company, we want to attract more customers and engage more with them.

Can you elaborate on how do telcos eventually benefit from the data?
Operators are challenged by the over-the-top players. How many of us use WhatsApp or Skype? Do we have a specific use for it? For example, my wife is now in the US, so we catch up with each other through Skype instead of SMS. It’s a purposeful way of using a 99 cent app.

With all the data available, firstly, a telecom operator can try to compete by building customer experience. It can try to compete and build its version of WhatsApp and WeChat. SMS becomes weirdly unsuccessful, as it cannot be used with friends who don’t live in the same country.

Secondly, try the partnership approach. This can be more successful if an operator works with providers. Google has actually done this. It put its website on the mobile phone. The website opened two seconds later than Yahoo. So Google went through the mobile operator to fix it, who, in turn, came to us to find the solution. It’s about synergy.

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Thirdly, look for alternate revenue. Take data from the network and figure out new ways to harvest it. We need to look at how the pricing model will change — with advertising happening month to month, what the plan will be.

With this, we need to look at location-based information with an increased focus. I know your location and based on your preference, if you are in a mall, I’ll put an ad on what you want. Geo-location is important as we are impulsive buyers and that’s where the fun is.

So, can entrepreneurs and startups too benefit from this data?
Let’s take the case of Singapore. IDA’s Smart Nation initiative for Singapore is a good example. Operators can share their insight with startups to built appropriate solutions that will work in this direction.

We talk a lot about enhancement, but then what about the stuff that really matters. For example, check your blood to see if you are diabetic and give the information to the doctor. Can we stumble upon next-gen app developers to work on this?

How are you looking at Southeast Asia as a business opportunity? What are the challenges for you in the market?
We probably have the largest growth rate in business and enormous trajectory here. One third of our business in Asia comes from Southeast Asia. Australia, NZ would represent more than a third, and we are looking to grow them significantly.

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As for challenges, I think there are lesser challenges and more opportunity. There are rolling waves and there are waves that are not crashing the beach. We are doing great in the rolling waves segment. We are challenged with simply growing with a number of opportunities and just too much work. The biggest challenge is Asia are the 22-ish centres of diversity… so we have to choose the best and right opportunity to be successful.

But I notice that you have little or no opportunity to work with the startups directly. So how do you impact them?
Our concern is to store Big Data. Data is owned by the telcos. We help telcos get information out of data… I mean, the right data. We have 17 years of experience in R&D to get the right data. We license the ability to get the data, that’s our IP. As for the entrepreneurs, they go to telcos. As for us, there’s zero opportunity with non telcos, but we have opportunity to strategise, offer industry knowledge and do consultancy.

Dhaleta Surender Kumar

Surender Dhaleta is the Editor of e27. Hailing from Shimla, India -- the backdrop of much of Rudyard Kipling's 'Plain Tales from the Hills', this 'poet at heart' journalist brings over 16 years of writing; and 13 years of journalism experience to Asia's tech industry. Prior to e27, Surender, or Suren – as he is better known in the region – has edited Pitch, the leading marketing magazine in India, from the exchange4media stable, for four years. He has also been part of the Editorial Team of afaqs!, the world's second largest online platform for media, marketing and advertising. He is also former Founder of himvani.com, an online thinktank – a site founded way back in 2005, when internet was just taking roots in India – to influence government policies through collective governance for the state of Himachal Pradesh. The site, since his exit in 2009, has moved on to become one of the leading news websites for the state. Mysticism intrigues him. He enjoys reading folklore and mythologies – a passion that reflects in his poems and lyrical short-stories.

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