CEO A1 SERBIA AND A1 SLOVENIA
Telecoms & IT I Interview I Serbia 2023
_BIOGRAPHY his professional journey spans over two decades, during which he has held various leadership positions in the telecommunications sector. He joined A1 Telekom Austria Group, the parent company of A1 Serbia, in 2006 and has since made significant contributions to the organization's success. Before assuming the role of CEO at A1 Serbia, He served as the CEO of A1 Slovenia,
“SINCE THE BEGINNING OF OUR OPERATIONS IN SERBIA 16 YEARS AGO, WE HAVE SET OURSELVES HIGH TARGETS AND MANAGED TO EXCEED THEM, OWING TO THE COMMITMENT OF OUR EMPLOYEES AND THEIR ATTITUDE TO CUSTOMERS.”
THE COMPLETION OF THE REBRANDING PROCESS, TRANSITIONING VIP MOBILE INTO A1 SERBIA, IN 2021 WAS A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE IN A1 TELEKOM AUSTRIA'S PURSUIT OF A UNIFIED INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE. COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THE COMPANY'S NOTEWORTHY ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE COUNTRY AND HIGHLIGHT THE SIGNIFICANT POSITIVE CHANGES THAT ACCOMPANIED THE REBRANDING?
Since the beginning of our operations in Serbia 16 years ago, we have set ourselves high targets and managed to exceed them, owing to the commitment of our employees and their attitude to customers. We have gone through a very interesting and by no means easy path, from the largest greenfield investment in Serbia to a company with more than 1,500 employees and almost 2.5 million customers.
Rebranding was an opportunity to keep all the good practices that make us different and to become stronger and better because of the international experience and support from A1 Telekom Austria Group. We have brought a global perspective to the Serbian market, in addition to the current close and partnership-based relations with our customers.
IN THE FIRST YEAR OF OPERATION AS A1 SERBIA, THE COMPANY ACHIEVED THE HIGHEST AMOUNT OF PORTABILITY WITH OVER 10% REVENUE GROWTH. WHAT ARE THE KEY ASPECTS OF YOUR SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY IN THE COUNTRY?
Concurrently with the preparations for the rebranding, with the support from the A1 Group, we have launched a large investment cycle for the improvement of network infrastructure capacity, which is still ongoing. For example, in 2022 scope of improvements was all-time high with more than 50% of our network being upgraded during a single year, which reflected in record number of network quality awards we received and the fact that we are the operator receiving the majority of ported numbers.
Other than that, the speed of adaptation to new business conditions and a dedicated focus on customer needs are of crucial importance in modern business, and we have never lost sight of that. That is why A1 Serbia is speeding up building our own local optical network in the FTTH (Fiber to the Home) architecture. Also, we became the owner of over 850 km of telecommunication pipes for laying optical cables, thanks to newest acquisition with Conexio. A1 has a significant optical infrastructure for connecting its own network elements, for international connection with other members of the A1 Group, as well as with other operators.
A1 IS GOING THROUGH A TRANSFORMATION PROCESS FROM A TELECOMMUNICATION TO AN ICT COMPANY. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS AND HOW IT AFFECTS THE SERBIAN OPERATIONS?
The telecommunications industry has been at the center of technological change for years. It is not an overstatement to say that we are the drivers of the digital revolution and have an increased responsibility to our customers in this regard. We provide them with a gateway to cyberspace, and it is a natural thing to protect them there and provide them with modern services to make their business and private lives safer and more efficient with the help of technology.
A1 Serbia has long been connecting not only people, but also machines, and this is why ICT is our strategic orientation. There is a lot of room for progress in Serbia in this regard, and we are recognized as a reliable partner with international knowledge, expertise and experience to provide relevant services of the future, tailored to the customers’ needs.
THE 5G TECHNOLOGY BRINGS NUMEROUS OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR ITS DEVELOPMENT. WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE COMPANY IN THE COUNTRY?
Telco companies are facing increasingly high data volumes and rates. This requires powerful networks and an appropriate infrastructure, since the increasing data volumes require faster data transfer. The new generation of wireless communications, 5G, brings wider bandwidths, enables new applications and provides a significantly better user experience, especially for business customers, thus providing new options for economic development.
A1 Serbia is ready for the implementation of 5G technology and is looking forward to the auction for the allocation of a new frequency range that will be dedicated to 5G technology in Serbia. What gives us an advantage is the international expertise, since our experts are already working with 5G technology in other markets in the A1 Group footprint.
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT HOLDS GREATER SIGNIFICANCE THAN EVER BEFORE. COULD YOU PLEASE PROVIDE AN OVERVIEW OF THE KEY SOCIAL INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN BY A1 IN SERBIA?
We have a very active role in the improvement of local communities where we have been operating since 2007, and our corporate model is based on ESG set of standards for our company’s operations. The project Svet kakav želiš (The world you want) is an umbrella platform and at the same time a vision of the world we strive for and where all A1 Serbia’s social responsibility activities are aimed at. Through this platform, we support sustainable, innovative and socially beneficial projects, ideas and initiatives in the fields of public health, education, environmental protection and culture.
Also, our business operations are aimed at achieving carbon neutrality with the use of renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency, in compliance with the principles of the circular economy. We’re the only telco company on the Serbian market whose network resources rely on solar panel technology. By the end of 2023 we will have 5.600 solar panels that help connecting our users with the power of sunlight. Through sustainable business, we ensure equal working conditions for all employees, with an emphasis on gender equality and diversity, education and achieving work-life balance, as well as encouraging innovation and digital literacy.
YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN PROMOTING THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT IN SERBIA THROUGH YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE FOREIGN INVESTORS COUNCIL IS COMMENDABLE. IN YOUR PERSPECTIVE, HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THIS PLATFORM, AND WHAT FURTHER STEPS DO YOU BELIEVE THE GOVERNMENT CAN TAKE TO UNLOCK THE FULL POTENTIAL OF SERBIA AS AN ATTRACTIVE INVESTMENT DESTINATION?
The Council has achieved a status of a reliable partner of the RS Government that makes a significant contribution to the overall economic growth of Serbia. The White Book is undoubtedly a key project of the Foreign Investors Council. It has earned its influence in the Serbian economy owing to the credibility given to it by the Council members actively taking part in the creation of the White Book, based on their vast professional knowledge and practical experience.
Today, it is the key input for the report on Serbia's economic progress in the EU integration process. This is largely the result of stable and continuous communication between FIC and government institutions which over the years have shown clear progress in improving the business environment for foreign investors in Serbia.
WHAT FINAL MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONVEY TO FOREIGN INVESTORS WHO ARE CONSIDERING INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN SERBIA?
The entire region of the Western Balkans, and Serbia in particular, is rich with very smart, professional and hard-working people who also have the much-needed ability to improvise, which may not be found in other areas. This is probably related to history, because people often had to be resourceful to overcome everyday problems.
In addition, significant progress was made in the field of digitization, citizens’ awareness of digital literacy is changing, and state institutions are rapidly starting to adapt to these changes. I like to believe that A1 Serbia has contributed to those positive trends and there is no doubt that we will continue in the same direction.