Etisalat’s Profile

Etisalat was founded in 1976 at the vanguard of the Middle East’s technical revolution. Over the last four decades, the firm has grown from strength to strength into one of the world’s foremost telecommunication corporations. Etisalat focus on bringing ground-breaking answers in order to uplift communities where it operates, moreover, hasten social progression and economic development. That focus has been underlined by its dedication to vigorously development and engineer policies for growth within each its respective operative markets. This tactic has propelled Etisalat to achieve considerable feats in 15 nations across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, that has resulted to an estimated market value of $23 billion, annual revenue in exceeding $8.5 billion and a customer base of 125 million. Etisalat’s innovative services have been a hallmark of excellence that have driven it in order to receive over 60 regional and international acclaim, furthermore accolades since 2008 including an unparalleled three GSMA Global Mobile Awards at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, in 2012 (Etisalat).

Its Rich History-a Chronology of Excellence and Success

In 1982, Etisalat inaugurated the first mobile network in the Middle East. In 1989, it established the Etisalat University College to generate a talented team of engineers to strategically drive its growth into the future. In 1994, Etisalat launched the Emirates Data Clearing House, availing an integrated solution to GSM operators.  In 1995, they rolled out Internet services throughout the country, another first regionally. It also opened a SIM card factory, Ebtikar, a top provider of smart card solutions.  In 2000, its mobile subscribers breached the 1 million mark as data services were introduced using eWap. It also introduced the E-Vision brand for its cable TV services. The Etisalat Academy was also established in order to provide professional and technical courses. In 2002, its subscribers hit the 2 million landmarks. It also upgraded its mobile network to offer GPRS. In 2003, more than one million customers were added in the year. It launched the Middle East's maiden 3G network and unveiled MMS services to its customers. In 2004 it acquired a second license to operate in Saudi Arabia consequently launching Etihad Etisalat - Mobily. It also bought a stake in a fixed-line operator in Sudan. In 2007, it acquired a stake in a green-field operator in Nigeria. It also invested in Excelcomindo, a leading mobile phone service provider in Indonesia.  Mobile subscribers exceeded 6.7 million while Internet penetration breached the 60% threshold in the UAE. Additionally, it introduced mobile TV. In, 2008, it successfully acquired a stake in Etisalat DB. This would herald its entrance to India consolidating its presence in the Asian subcontinent. It also concluded the rollout of a countrywide fibre optic infrastructure over the next generation services would be provided. Moreover, in this year Etisalat also was honoured as the principal carrier in the Middle East, a first in the Financial Times Top 500 list. In 2010, Etisalat installed new services across its fibre network including 3DTV, making the UAE one of the first five nations in the world to offer 3DTV. It also began deploying quicker mobile broadband speeds using HSPA+ and conducted viablity trials of LTE (Etisalat).

Etisalat’s Customer and Stakeholder Focus

Its customer care and stakeholder focus hinges on two pillars: provision of an excellent customer experience and corporate social responsibility.

Customer Excellence

Etisalat ensures customer excellent using of a three pronged strategy that ensures that they give their customers the outstanding value for money: innovative products that reflect changing technology and varied consumer preferences; quality infrastructure and first-rate customer service.

Innovative Products

In its annual report of 2007, Etisalat proclaimed that understanding the client’s needs is in the centre of its corporate strategy. With regional growth came diversity and a changing demographic profile that had necessitated the need for tailored offerings. As a consequence, the corporation introduced assorted products which underscored Etisalat’s strategic objective of continuing to create value for its customers through innovative communication solutions. Since then, Etisalat has never lost focus of the need to constantly innovate and has always stayed ahead of competition. Customer driven innovations have been one of its hallmarks, the result of which has been several innovative awards. Its remarkable innovations are well documented and it has been their distinctive strength. Indeed, their passion for innovation has not only built a strong brand for its product but has also won numerous regional and global awards, these have included: Most Innovative Company of the Year in the Middle East and Africa (2007); Best New Product or Service of the Year Health (2007); Genesy Customer Innovation Award (2009); Most Innovative Non-Voice Service (2009) among others (Annual report, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012).

First-rate Customer Experience

Etisalat has a customer satisfaction policy in place and a commitment to exceptional customer care has been one of the drivers of a loyal fast growing customer base. In 2007, Etisalat expanded the ‘online’ banking network in addition to opening extra service counters around the country with the aim of improving customer convenience and to get closer to them. In 2010 Etisalat’s strategy included developing a best-in-class customer experience with a strong focus on streamlining, integrating and simplifying processes whilst improving the skills of customer-facing staff. The customer distribution system was also expanded, greatly increasing the number of Etisalat contact points (Etisalat Corporation).

In 2011, Etisalat embarked on a program to transform itself into a service-oriented company with the launch of the SERVE program. The two-fold focus of the program was: to understand customer’s needs, and possibilities to serve them better and quicker. During 2011, SERVE made a positive impact in a number of areas that enhance customer satisfaction, resulting in major leaps and the highest scores in the year’s TRIM Index-CSAT scores. The same year, the Complaints Management Program, whose main objective was to improve overall process efficiency, and enhanced the mindset and conducted of all departments towards handling customer complaints was established. In 2011 face the successful setting up and testing of a root-cause-resolution process that minimizes re-occurrences of identified issues. Other achievements were a pilot of a central complaint management process, and the development of a frontline empowerment process. As a result of a commitment of outstanding customer care, Etisalat has won several regional and international awards that include: Comms, Best Customer Care (2006); Best Customer Care Provider (2009); Best Customer Care (2009); Sementa Best Quality of Service Operator of the year (2009); Best Customer Care (2011) and Best Customer Experience Provider of the Year 2010 (Etisalat Corporation).

First-Class Infrastructure

Etisalat complements the quality of its service by maintaining the uppermost network standards for sound quality, signal strength, coverage and fewest dropped calls (Etisalat Corporation, 2010).

Additionally, Etisalat equally ensures that its infrastructure meets the highest international standards, and has started embracing green technology. Its nation-wide fiber-optic network in the UAE is projected to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption by over 80% and 70% respectively (Etisalat Corporation, 2010).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Etisalat has long embraced CSR and has an illustrious record of CSR initiatives. Etisalat is considered to be the most active socially accountable corporations in the region. Etisalat’s approach to CSR is to support selected social and economic activities and events either through funding, technology or direct support. The core categories of Etisalat’s CSR programs are educational, special needs and ecological where not only pecuniary aid is contributed but also services, expertise and learning are shared with the organizations.

In 2007, Etisalat has extended its commitment to education and capacity-building to a new level with the donation of AED 25 million to the Dubai Cares campaign to help bring education to impoverished children across Africa and Asia. During the holy month of Ramadan, Etisalat partnered with the Red Crescent Society and set up tents to serve 160,000 Iftar meals right through the month. Additionally, 2,000 meal boxes were donated each day to disadvantaged people and families. In 2008, Etisalat committed itself to sponsoring the UAE football league in the UAE for a further five year period. In 2009 Etisalat’s sustained support for people with special needs stood out in its CSR contribution. Etisalat partnered with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in the nationwide project “Echo of Silence” which was designed to empower individuals with hearing or speaking impairment live a fuller more fulfilling life (Etisalat Corporation).

Late in July 2010, there were a lot CSR initiatives; moreover, destructive floods swamped northern parts of Pakistan, affecting a multitude of people. Both PTCL and Ufone (Subsidiaries) were swift to lend support and assistance in the humanitarian work, overseeing the dispatch of medical supplies and food as well as setting up medical camps in the affected regions.  Being a year of the FIFA World Cup, sponsorships in Mobily and Etisalat UAE (subsidiaries) continued to bring a fresh generation of footballers into the game. Etisalat sustained its sponsorship of the Afghanistan cricket team. In Egypt, Etisalat Misr maintained its sponsorship of the Paralympic committee. Etisalat Nigeria, besides setting up the Adopt-a-School program, also launched scholarships for premier students in the fields of electrical engineering, computer sciences and management courses (Etisalat Corporation).

Etisalat’s Quality Management Strategy

Etisalat’s strategy of managing the quality of its services starts right from training of its staff. The establishment of Etisalat University College in 1989 and Etisalat Academy in 2000 was indeed visionary. Etisalat Academy is an exclusive and the largest development and training center of excellence throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The two institutions play a key quality management role from the very onset of training key and support personnel most of who are later incorporated into the firm (Etisalat Corporation).

Training at the institutions is tailored to the firm’s specifications on quality, furthermore whilst curriculum is modeled on the firm’s strategic view. The institutions also help Etisalat to be at the very cutting-edge of fast paced technological turn over in the telecoms industry. The company also has a formal quality policy, which sets out clear objectives and a plan that ensures not only quality service for customers but also innovative products that cater for the ever changing tastes and preferences of its discerning clientele. As part of their excellent policy, Etisalat ensures that whenever a new staff joins the firm, they immediately become part of the company’s quality mandate. This is achieved through well elaborated and very highly structured procedures that are followed and monitored. These procedures enable the managers to ensure that the systems in place are able to help the staff to give their best service possible (Etisalat Corporation).

Industry and Key Competitors

The Middle East is a region that has some of the world’s highest levels of penetration of mobile telephones. Telecom corporations in the region have continued growing capital investments  in communication infrastructure to enhance network quality in order to give more value to customers.

Operators have sustained focus on cost economy and operational efficiencies to manage their expansion and boost returns. In order to spur growth, large regional operators have sought cross-border expansion by acquiring smaller firms in target foreign markets. Countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and most of the North of Africa, represent expansion markets, as distinct from the by now saturated Gulf markets (deloitte). Telecommunications industry in the Middle East is a billion dollar industry that is largely dominated by a few players. Etisalat is one of the largest players perhaps only rivaled by Saudi Arabia Telecommunications. Table below indicates that Saudi Arabia Telecom on edges Etisalat and its subsidiary by a single percentage point in terms of total revenue (Zawya).

Table: 1

Market Share

Telecommunications Co. in Middle East

Country

Total Revenue (M$)

%

Saudi Arabia Telecommunications Co.

Saudi Arabia

                                   14,842.00

35

Etisalat

UAE

                                     8,778.00

21

Qatar Telecommunications Co.

Qatar

                                     8,722.00

21

Eithad Etisalat Co.

Saudi Arabia

                                     5,347.00

13

Mobile Telecommunications Co.

Kuwait

                                     4,743.00

11

Total

                                   42,432.00

100

In table 2, however, Etisalat and its subsidiary beat Saudi by a single percentage point.

Table: 2

Market Share

Telecommunications Co. in Middle East

Country

Market Capitalization(M$)

%

Saudi Arabia Telecommunications Co.

Saudi Arabia

                                   22,663.00

28

Etisalat

UAE

                                   19,543.00

24

Qatar Telecommunications Co.

Qatar

                                   14,138.00

18

Eithad Etisalat Co.

Saudi Arabia

                                   12,259.00

15

Mobile Telecommunications Co.

Kuwait

Mobile Telecommunications Co.

Kuwait

                                   11,265.00

14

Total

                                   79,868.00

100

The Firm’s Business Excellence and Quality Management Strategy

Etisalat, as demonstrated earlier has a very clear business excellence and quality management strategy: integrating a mix of business excellence principles into a formulation that gives their customers the absolute best value for money and delivers the best quality of service possible. As discussed previously, their strategy is heavily centered on customer and stakeholder focus. They have been able to sustain industry leadership primarily on the customer platform as attested by the numerous international, service and customer excellence awards. The customer and stakeholder focus platform is further differentiated into four areas of focus: customer-driven technical innovations; outstanding customer service; first-rate and green communication infrastructure and a very active CSR program. Nonetheless, their main business excellence platform is neatly integrated with other business excellence principles in order to give an optimum mix. These include: process focus supported by continuous learning and upgrading; employee development, engagement and team work; a strategic focus of business excellence as a foundation of competitive advantage and visionary leadership.

Key Resources and Capabilities

Etisalat’s key resources are: it’s visionary leadership; a highly trained workforce; brand; technological leadership and financial muscle. Its leadership is normally constituted of fine strategist who have for many years kept the company at the top. It is worth noting that Etisalat has won several management awards. It also boasts of highly trained staff that is the engine behind its technical prowess. Recognizing the important role of human capital in corporate success, Etisalat strategically established both a world class academy and institution of higher learning. Etisalat has painstakingly built a world renowned brand that has won several awards as well. In an industry that has a very high technological turn over, Etisalat has been driven to great heights by its technical superiority and innovation prowess. Lastly, success comes with a healthy balance sheet. Their pecuniary muscle has enabled them to re-invest and consolidate their lofty standards.

Distinctive Competences

Distinctive competence refers to an activity or set of activities that a firm is superior across an industry. The telecoms industry in the Middle East is very competitive and the industry standards are quite high. Etisalat has been a model of success because it excels in most areas of its operations but stands out for its technical innovations. They have top-drawer capacities in order to convert customers’ needs into products using the latest technology to great effect. It therefore comes as no surprise that they are the most decorated innovator in the industry in terms of global and regional awards.

Recommendations: Total Quality Management Strategy

There should be extremely few recommendations that a consultant may make to a company that is as successful as Etisalat. Companies are supposed to develop overall strategies that exploit their distinctive competence in order to gain competitive advantage. A total quality management strategy should thus be no different. A look at Etisalat’s quality management strategy suggests that indeed they are already doing that. My recommendations would be not be very radical but rather complimentary. Indeed, they would also be few since they are getting it right in the first place. I would suggest a little more focus on processes as well. When a distinctive competence is technology, streamlining of processes or re-engineering of processes can greatly lower costs and optimize applications. I would also suggest further spending on research and development. Although equipped with an academy and a university, the cut-throat contest in the technical industry necessitates greater investments in research and development if one is to stay ahead. The benefits could outweigh the costs, they could include: prestige which results into customer numbers; one may also patent inventions and sell them for royalties and sustainable competitive advantage. The firm may also partner with other technical institutions and firms to create advantages of synergy and optimize costs.

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