The Silicon Review
A company’s degree of being “technology-ready” has surpassed its physical assets as a criteria for success. A keen focus on mobility can simplify the execution of business, which is why having the appropriate kind of consultants is vital. This is where Comviva takes centre stage.
Started as an incubation within Bharti Enterprises, Comviva changed tracks to develop products and solutions for the telecom space within two years. The company made its debut 20 years ago and has, since then, transitioned from a mobile value added services (VAS) company to one focusing on mobile money and payments, analytics and data monetization, digital lifestyle, messaging and managed services.
Pushing the Limits
The company has always focused on delivering innovative and cutting-edge products and solutions. In fact, it has filed over 60 patents, of which, 10 have been granted.
Comviva has been transforming digital payments, enabling digital entities, and facilitating intelligent communications.
The company’s solutions and services are aligned with strategic technology trends to enable telecom operators to provide value added services to their customers due to which it has received several prestigious awards for innovation. The main pivots are centered on the twin aspects of consumer-centric innovations and simplification of user interface for ease of content discovery, and delivering local and regional content in rich formats.
Its mobile financial business contributes 30%, Mobile Lifestyle business 26%, Messaging and Broadband solution 14% and Customer value Solution business contributes around 10% to the overall company’s revenue. Its current R&D spend is 7% of the overall company revenues and is expected to reach 15% in next 3 years.
Manoranjan ‘Mao’ Mohapatra, Chief Executive Officer, Comviva spoke exclusively to
The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Why was the company set up and how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
The company was established in 1999 as a subsidiary of the Bharti Group. At the time, the software and IT sectors were booming, which is why, the company’s founders thought it viable to jump onto the bandwagon. Initially, we planned to focus on telecommunications and technology, keeping in mind the support we had from the bharti group. A year and a half later into the business, we faced multiple challenges, in terms of establishing an entity.
To address this situation, a few individuals in management took charge and turned the situation around. The idea then was to switch from offering IT outsourcing services to developing telecom and software products. The gamble paid off and the company received funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital and Westbridge Capital, along with support from Cisco.
Q. How has company grown over the years? Which vertical do you see the most traction in?
The company transitioned from a mobile VAS player to one focusing on mobile money and payments, analytics and data monetization, digital lifestyle, messaging and managed services.
That apart, we expanded our global footprint from Africa and India into the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Asia. Today, we work with global group operators such as Vodafone, Airtel, Orange, MTN, America Movil etc.
In terms of performance in each geography, 40 percent of our revenue comes from Africa. Asia and MENA contribute around 23 percent each, whereas Europe and Americas account for around 14 percent. Comviva has been witnessing year-on-year growth rates of 15 percent over the past seven years. We have acquired ATS in Latin America and Emagine International in Australia as well.
Q. Please elaborate on the company’s innovative offerings that you offer to the market.
If I were to caption this journey, the highlight of the journey was staying relevant, and we have stayed relevant by constantly innovating and changing our call to the market.
When we started out, we were primarily a VAS company also known as value added services company, but that particular vertical is almost dead now. So if you take a look at those offerings that we had at that point of time are no more relevant today. After that we have constantly invested a significant part of our revenues into R&D for innovation and have delivered incremental value to our customers. Today, we offer innovative solutions pertaining to digital payments which is a very popular domain globally.
We also function in the content services domain. Interestingly, this space has changed multiple times over the years-from text messages, it has transitioned to video-based content. There was a time when people used to send text messages and jokes which has now been replaced by video content. Now more and more content is consumed on smart devices, so we offer these services in a very innovative way to our customers. That’s a section where we have transformed from our conventional services to digital streaming services.
We are also helping global operators to monetize their assets. This simply refers to the monetization of the vast amounts of subscriber data by these players. We thus offer services such as micro credit and microlending, that leverage an operator’s subscriber base. We also have an enterprise omnichannel marketing solution which allows enterprises to leverage an operator’s subscriber data to target subscribers in a segmented manner.
In addition, we also have analytics-driven solutions that are being powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Q. What challenges did you face whilst building the business?
There were multiple challenges in the beginning. For example, India is predominantly a prepaid market and, naturally, we focused on developing products to cater to these subscribers. This led us to the prepaid markets in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
In addition, we were, as you may recall, very closely associated with the Bharti group, at least in the beginning. This made it more challenging to sell products to other operators, such as Vodafone, Idea, etc. we thus began focusing on the Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia markets. This, needless to say, proved to be very lucrative for us.
Q. How does the company set itself apart from the competition?
In a nutshell-our focus on cutting-edge technologies and the “blue ocean” markets of Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
We are betting heavily on the growth levers of data analytics, digital payments and enterprise messaging. All in all, as a company, we’re focused on staying relevant, understanding our customers and mold our offerings to suit their requirements.
Please define a future roadmap?
Comviva has fine-tuned its focus on multiple geographies and is in the process of consolidating its markets in Asia and Africa and growing its markets in Latin America and Western Europe. This is to be implemented through a combination of organic and inorganic initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions in the digital payments, data analytics and enterprise messaging spaces.
It is expected that the sum total of Comviva’s growth strategy will lead to growth of 14% CAGR in the next 4 years with industry leading profitability metrics and its R&D spend will reach 15% in next 3 years. In the product space, we want to continue to focus on data monetization, with the aim of permitting operators to leverage enterprises better. We have also expanded our presence significantly-from India to Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Over the next three to five years, we will emphasize on expanding to Europe and North America.
Please elaborate on a few of the company’s accomplishments.
All in all, we have achieved great success in the communications and innovation domain On an average, we receive 10 to 12 recognitions and awards every year. I think we are the only Indian company, or may be the only company, that has received three GSMA GLOMO awards in the last five years, and this year we have been nominated in two categories. Clearly, the market recognizes us as an innovative player, which is, indeed, a great achievement.
The Thought Leadership
Manoranjan Mohapatra, Chief Executive Officer
Manoranjan’s career has been dedicated to the development and deployment of innovative software communications solutions in rapidly growing markets, transforming high potential businesses into true world-beating organizations. His track record for enabling innovation, his deep knowledge of telecom related technology and his wealth of experience in a range of operational and marketing roles provide a strong leadership base from which to enhance Mahindra Comviva’s position as the leading provider of integrated VAS solutions in emerging markets globally.
Prior to joining Mahindra Comviva, Manoranjan was President and COO at Aricent, where he enjoyed a 15 year career and was instrumental in building the company from a relative start up to a globally recognized brand, with over US$300 million in revenues. Before moving to Aricent, he was a core member of the Center for Development of Telematics (CDOT), where he made a significant contribution to research and development in telecom switching, and where he began his career. Manoranjan has been recognized with prestigious ‘Distinguished Fellow’ award by The Institute of Directors (IOD) in the year 2012 and in 2013 he was named “India’s Top 20 CEO 2013” by Haryana IT, Telecom, and Enabled industries Confederation (HITEC) India for spearheading the company’s growth as an industry leader and for setting benchmarks in the mobile VAS industry.