TELCO TO TECHCO

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In a conversation, Md. Adil Hossain Noble, Chief Enterprise Business Officer at Robi Axiata Ltd, explicates the company’s shift from a telco to a ‘techco’ identity, its high-tech services, and the secret to his excellence in divergent roles over the past two decades.


Although it is identified as one of Bangladesh’s leading telecom companies, Robi appears increasingly eager to establish its tech-based identity. What has necessitated the transformation?

We live in a world that rides on two words, ‘connectivity’ and ‘information.’ Mere connectivity is not enough to fuel this journey; what we need is to combine the two to fuel innovation, and create value by introducing digital experience in everything that we do. When you look at Bangladesh, you find that the same is being played out through the growing synergy between the traditional and the digital economy as part of the Smart Bangladesh vision.


Through our enterprise business brand, ‘Robi for Business’, we are now collaborating with the enterprise sector across the industry to accentuate the company’s ‘telco to techco’ evolutionary journey and contribute towards Smart Bangladesh Vision in the process. 


We are not only building the infrastructure but also developing solutions to serve the growing appetite for digital lifestyle services. Through our enterprise business brand, ‘Robi for Business’, we are now collaborating with the enterprise sector across the industry to accentuate the company’s ‘telco to techco’ evolutionary journey and contribute towards Smart Bangladesh Vision in the process.

How is Robi’s transformation into a ‘techco’ manifesting itself in terms of what you offer your enterprise clients?

It is manifesting itself in every possible way. We are designing services that significantly reduce the time, effort and physical energy needed by our enterprise partners to connect and communicate information. To our enterprise clients from the public, private, and the development sector, we are providing state-of-the-art advertising services, entertainment platforms, HR solutions, healthcare platforms, security services, MFS platforms and more with the power of innovative digital technologies.

Besides, Robi has attained excellence in providing ERP, e-KYC solutions, call centre solutions, cloud solutions, IoT, data analytics, AI, robotic process automation (RPA), mobile device management (MDM), smart attendance solutions, smart office solutions, Microsoft and Google Office, and Robi’s own Cloud solution.

What are some of Robi’s tech-based solutions?

Robi ‘ERP2ALL’ is a business management software that integrates all functional areas of business and human resources in the form of a Management Information System (MIS). Robi’s ‘goRMG ERP’ is the ultimate ERP solution for the garment manufacturing industry. It is integrated with different modules that cover all aspects of an RMG business. We also have ‘PROTRACKER’, a fully customisable and cloud-based, production tracking software that manages the entire apparel production process.


We are the only telco operator to have launched a fully kitted data centre last year, and are in the process of setting up the country’s first Tier 4 data centre in the private sector at the Jessore Software Park, an establishment outside the defined seismic zone.


Robi HR Information Systems (HRIS) is a comprehensive digital platform which helps organisations enable a digital workplace and workforce. This product is trusted by over 150,000 users in 500-plus companies in 21-plus countries across the Asia Pacific.

Robi Healthcare Solution is an integrated software for cost-effective service delivery. The solution helps to create accessible electronic health and medical records and reduces middleman’s involvement. Our case study shows an increase in revenue by 50% following the adoption of this solution.

Robi Secure Connect (RSC) provides a secure point-to-point m2m connectivity using a dedicated APN to connect and transfer data between terminals or devices to a client’s server or cloud, within a secure IP-based network over the internet.

Robi also offers a secured, intuitive and scalable mobile device management solution that helps organisations to secure and manage endpoints including smartphones, tablets, laptops, rugged devices, m-POS, digital signages, mobile app management, device settings, management, anti-virus, device location tracking, and mobile security.

As part of our evolutionary journey, we have created our wholly-owned ICT-focused subsidiary, RedDot Digital Limited. We also partner with a number of local and global tech giants to support our wide-ranging digital solutions. Therefore, we are fully ready to serve our enterprise clients through our enterprise business brand, ‘Robi for Business’.

Robi’s diverse range of high-tech capabilities also includes cloud service, data centre and IoT solutions. What insights can you provide regarding their specifications?

We currently offer data co-location/disaster recovery services as well as a full-fledged cloud service featuring all the functionalities of global cloud service providers. By opting for Robi’s cloud solutions, our clients can avoid the pressure of paying in USD.

We are the only telco operator to have launched a fully kitted data centre last year, and are in the process of setting up the country’s first Tier 4 data centre in the private sector at the Jessore Software Park, an establishment outside the defined seismic zone. The facility is going to be a major pull for our enterprise clients to avail our cloud and data colocation service, either as geographical redundancy or as the main cloud. In addition, we are also licensed service providers of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft’s cloud services in Bangladesh.


Robi was the first operator to successfully conduct trials of 5G back in 2018. Learning from the experience of countries that have deployed 5G, we are now planning for viable business cases for 5G in Bangladesh.


Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a top technological priority for Robi over the past few years, as a result, we have developed the best AI capabilities in the industry by engaging a formidable team of data analytics and AI to serve our clients. Our team engages with our clients to review their data-sets, and then uses data modelling techniques to provide valuable insights to help management take critical business decisions. We also use data analytics to help clients design targeted campaigns to drive up footfall and sales at their physical stores and e-commerce platforms.

Robi also offers a vast number of smart IoT solutions to help in business management and digitalise business processes. We divide our IoT into two segments – intelligent trackers and smart office solutions. Under intelligent trackers, we have car, OBD, bike and asset trackers. Under smart office solutions, we have smart sockets, switches, ID cards, smoke detectors and intelligent IP cameras. Combining AI and computer vision technologies in distributed IoT nodes, our video analytics solution, WatchCam, takes care of all security concerns for our clients.

Who is Robi’s tech clientele? What are some challenges in providing these high-tech solutions?

The banking sector is going through significant digital transformation, and we are playing our part to the fullest. All the major banks are using several of our solutions, such as IoT, digital security, HRIS, ERP, AI/ML solutions, RPAs, cloud solutions, and data colocation services.

We are serving a leading NGO in the country, that uses our ERP solution in 14 countries they operate in. Robi is providing a leading multinational company with its ERP solutions; the company is using the same solution in one of its overseas operations as well. We are also serving a leading multinational financial organisation with our data colocation service. We are also serving all the leading FMCG companies with the whole bouquet of our digital service and solution portfolio.

We collaborate with a number of leading start-up companies in various capacities. Though they are in their nascent stage, they are expected to restructure all sectors of the economy very soon. We look forward to working closely with this community of entrepreneurs.

While there are countless opportunities, we do have some stumbling blocks. First and foremost is the lack of awareness. I know of many large companies in Bangladesh that are unaware of the benefits of cloud services. Also, I have encountered SME entrepreneurs who are reluctant to let go of their age-old paper-based inventory management system, despite knowing the benefits of digital alternatives. But the good part is these situations are improving rapidly as they move towards a digital economy.

The country’s next big challenge is to utilise 5G. In your opinion, what is the scope of 5G for Bangladesh?

Robi was the first operator to successfully conduct trials of 5G back in 2018. Learning from the experience of countries that have deployed 5G, we are now planning for viable business cases for 5G in Bangladesh. 5G provides greater data throughput and shorter latency than 4G/LTE services. The high-bandwidth, low-latency attributes of 5G mean that non-fibered locations can use AI-supported video solutions.

We have built the capabilities to deploy 5G in manufacturing plants, distribution centres and public services. As these locations implement autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and other mobile robotic solutions, the highly accurate location sensing and ubiquitous coverage of our 5G network will be critical for business and government public services. Implementing a private 5G network solution will provide 5G capabilities in a secure network specific to the facility. Using public or private 5G networking will deliver lower-cost, ubiquitous coverage for IoT devices, robotic automation tools, and solutions where high-bandwidth, always-connected networking is required.

How do you assess the existing taxation regime in being able to facilitate the digital transformation of the economy?

Unfortunately, the current taxation regime is not enabling enough considering our Smart Bangladesh Vision. Especially our traditional telco business is being stifled of growth opportunities due to the taxation regime. In this context, our journey from telco to ‘techco’ provides a way for our business to grow on a different trajectory altogether. However, going forward, we have to reform our taxation regime to infuse it with the spirit of Smart Bangladesh Vision.

You are an iconic model as well as an established corporate professional. How do you manage such diverse roles?

I think what has served me well is my ability to say no, no matter how enticing an offer may have been. I had been offered several ‘dream’ projects in my modelling career, but I turned them down simply because it would compromise my corporate career. Besides, I have been very careful in picking modelling or showbiz assignments because I didn’t want stardom to get in the way of my growth as a corporate leader. What keeps me ticking is my eagerness to keep learning new things that have helped me come this far. I am really enjoying the constant challenges to stay on top of tech issues as the Robi enterprise business breaks into new frontiers all the time.

 

Photographs by Farabi Tamal

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