We are going to be stronger and better thanks to the international experience and support we get from A1 Telekom Austria Group
“The new brand, A1 Serbia, is an opportunity to upgrade ourselves as employees and take the company to an even higher level, whilst improving the telecommunications market and creating the best user experience for living in the modern digital age,” says Dejan Turk, CEO of A1 Serbia and A1 Slovenia.
Vip mobile changed its name to A1 Serbia after almost a decade of business in Serbia. What benefits did that bring, first and foremost, to your customers and the business world in Serbia?
Since the launch of our business in Serbia 14 years ago, we have set ourselves high goals and managed to exceed them, thanks to our employees’ commitment of our employees and our approach to our customers. As a result of that, today we have almost 1,500 employees and over 2.3 million users. Customers can count on us to keep all the good practices that have made us stand out all this time, as well as that we are going to be stronger and better thanks to the international experience and support we get from A1 Telekom Austria Group. In that sense, the new brand is an opportunity to upgrade ourselves as employees and take the company to an even higher level, whilst improving the telecommunications market and creating the best user experience for living in the modern digital age.
There weren’t many examples of businesses rebranding in Serbia, especially not such a large company, in an important industry, which already had a very recognizable image. What did the whole process entail?
Rebranding is one of the rarest projects that company employees can experience in business life. It is actually a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. The whole process was really challenging, and even more so for us because we planned it and were ready to proceed with it last year. Of course, the epidemiological circumstances that emerged at that time meant that we must first take care of the safety of our employees and the needs of the users.
“One of the main messages that we, as A1, want to send out is that we are committed to people and society as a whole”
The rebranding process is very complex. So many things need to be changed and adjusted while you have to maintain continuity of business, both in the eyes of customers and employees. The key difference is that it wasn’t that difficult for us, because we did not change our core. One of the main messages that we, as A1, want to send out is that we are committed to people and society as a whole, that we believe in the power of the individual and that we want to contribute to the overall development of local communities. All this is an upgrade because our business behaviour has not changed.
The name change happened while the global health and, consequently, the economic crisis was still going on. How challenging is this situation for A1 Serbia?
The need for social distancing has highlighted the importance of telecommunications for everyday life. People need to be in constant contact with their friends and family and be informed about events. Businesses need to have efficient and modern technological solutions. Our main focus is to increase capacity and maintain quality service.
We have invested more than 120 million euro in the last five years in the development of our network, which today consists of more than 2,150 base stations and covers 98% of Serbia’s territory. In the first year of operation under the name A1 Serbia, we will made significant improvements in the network infrastructure, expand the capacity of the 4G network and raise the data service to a higher level. Additional infrastructural expansions are planned across the country, and especially in the area of Belgrade and Vojvodina. We will improve user experience in as much as 70 percent of our network.
Despite many challenges, 2020 was another successful year for the company. How did you manage to adjust to the new situation and maintain market share growth?
Our business results have always been a reflection of the trust of our employees and clients, that is, the support they give us. Therefore, our main focus was on preserving their health. In record time, over 80% of our employees started working from home, including our colleagues from customer support. Practically, in the same amount of time, we have managed to reorganize our business and adjust our services to our clients’ lives in the new circumstances. Our branches adhered to all protection measures and the safety of our colleagues and clients was and still is an absolute priority.
“We are trying to leave a strong mark and contribute to a better and healthier environment for everyone”
In addition to a stable network, we have provided online access to all our services, free chat applications and online meeting platforms.
To what extent are new technologies in Europe changing the range of services offered by telecommunications companies and what are the plans in this segment?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a good example of future technologies and the device market, based on the IoT, has been growing rapidly. A1 Serbia is among only 15 percent of operators in the world that offer the world’s most reliable data transfer technology for devices that connect to the Internet – Narrow Band Internet of Things. Furthermore, there is a great challenge to preserve the quality, reliability and security of service, as well as to protect the confidentiality of the data that are exchanged. In this sense, private LTE, the so-called campus networks, are very important. I am proud to say that we are leaders in this field as well and that we are currently implementing an important project.
What changes and results relating to the telecommunications market in Serbia are you most proud of?
I am perhaps the proudest of the society that is increasingly following and more openly adopting digitalisation trends. This is seen in the speed with which our Virtual Store came to life, which recorded 14,000 visits in the first months of its launch. As a result of the digital transformation, new opportunities are undoubtedly being created. Some business models will undergo major changes or even disappear but new disruptive business models will be created also. All this benefits us in Serbia – new technologies and tools are easily available and we have a very smart and active startup community that has great potential for global scaling of its business models.
The companies you helm are known for their lively CSR activity. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about possibilities that technology can provide in this segment. What do you see as the greatest potential in this matter?
In our environment, the focus is on three areas where the greatest progress is expected in the coming period. These are education, medicine and environmental protection. We can play a big role in that – we have already opened some segments and we are the first operator to engage in telemedicine in Serbia. Environmental protection has been part of Vip’s DNA for years from Ecomotivation through cleaning rivers and implementing internal environmentally efficient practices. We are trying to leave a strong mark and contribute to a better and healthier environment for everyone.
What will the future of A1 Serbia and the telecommunications industry look like?
Telecommunications operators have largely gone beyond traditional business frameworks that were previously considered the only choice. We no longer connect only people, but also devices. The gradual introduction of the fifth generation of mobile networks is expected and accordingly, we want to develop new ICT solutions, which will facilitate and improve the life and business of our customers, providing end-to-end services tailor-made to their needs.