Two ingredients to successful telecom partnerships 

Over the past few years, analysts have been touting the benefits of cross-industry partnerships between incumbents as well as challengers. Partnerships provide a way to leapfrog business, penetrate new markets, and grab a more significant share of the pie in a synergistic manner.

Communication service providers (CSPs), the nerve-center of perhaps the most complex partner ecosystems, are no stranger to the value of partnerships. However, with digital transformation quickly replacing legacy systems and processes, these players struggle with low digital elasticity. This hinders their ability to be competitive and develop alliances quickly. Without digital tools and the right platforms, navigating the complex web of multi-partite telco partnerships can be challenging, yielding lesser value than expected.

What are these critical platform capabilities and digital tools, and how do they deliver benefits? Let us look at some of the partnerships forged by two leading telecom players to understand these must-have features:

Airtel’s vibrant expansion

Over the past few years, Bharti Airtel has been aggressively innovating to extend its reach into different verticals and expand its product portfolio for its 300+ million customers. The Airtel Payments Bank, a comprehensive payments portal, saw partnerships with many players like MasterCard and HPCL in addition to products like Bharti AXA Life insurance. In September 2019, Airtel entered the OTT segment with the launch of Airtel Xstream, a digital entertainment platform that provides movies, apps, games, and TV channels. Since its release, Xstream has been forging partnerships with various media content providers, notably Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Lionsgate Play, to deliver content in India’s diverse regional languages. In keeping with its brand identity of youthfulness, Airtel is set to promote health and fitness content via Spectacom, a local upstart, to all its users. More recently, Airtel has tied up with Apollo Hospitals in a telco-healthcare deal that aims to use Airtel Thanks app to provide an AI-based COVID-19 risk assessment.

Lessons: Identify the right partners to amplify the value

Telcos can encourage either rigid or fluid partnerships based on internal dexterity. To foster future-ready alliances, they need to identify agile upstarts as well as incumbent players, rapidly grab and onboard them, and launch services quickly. Digital partner platforms can simplify the process of partner recruitment, clarify what tools, networks and channels are available, how to leverage existing platforms when pushing new services and products, and educate partners on how to realize value through deep customer engagement jointly.

Verizon and Google symbiosis

In 2013, PwC predicted that telcos could become aggregators of cloud-based enterprise services because of inherent advantages of vast networks, data, and transmission infrastructure. However, it is only in the last couple of years that we are witnessing such partnerships bloom. Take the case of Google and Verizon. In 2017, Verizon moved 150,000 of its own employees to G-Suite. After a year of trialing, Verizon migrated another 100,000 workers to the platform. Today, Verizon is an active reseller of G-Suite, using its own 4G LTE network to deliver workplace productivity and collaborative tools to enterprise customers. Verizon and Google are taking it one step further now through the introduction of YouTube-TV to Verizon individual customers in a platform-agnostic manner.

Lessons: Deepen partnerships for sustained revenue

It is not just about on-boarding new partners but discovering ways to keep the partnership profitable. As telcos innovate, so do their partners. Thus, any partner management solution platform must have transparent and precise ways to score partner performance. It should also simplify partner access to multiple verticals through reusable partner profiles and partner data. This is crucial to deepen relationships by visualizing how new partner products can integrate with the telco value chain, create synchrony between pricing and business models, and co-innovate for specific use cases.

Why digital partner management solutions are important

Having worked closely with telcos, Subex knows that partnership is the way forward, especially as CSP revenues from traditional services dip. However, on their own, telcos do not have a reputation of digital mastery and are often limited to national markets instead of global ones. Thus, while smart and long-lasting alliances is the way ahead, the right partner management system is how CSPs can get their foot in the door to unlock unprecedented value. In fact, TMforum reports that “industrial automation, remote monitoring, digital health, smart grid, smart city, and connected vehicles collectively represent a $1 trillion market by 2023.” Clearly, CSPs must evolve their digital partner ecosystems – quickly – to exploit this opportunity.

Digital partner onboarding is the first step to successful collaboration.

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