Since 2000, Korek has been able to keep pace with the technological evolution and has managed to overcome all the challenges, which has made it achieve unprecedented progress throughout the years. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Mr. Sirwan Mustafa, Korek Chairman, explained more about the company’s strategy that allowed it to achieve continuous success.
In the interview, Mr. Mustafa highlighted the journey of the telecom operator and how it became the fastest growing company in Iraq. He also announced that it will launch the eSIM very soon and will be the first in the region to announce such a service. 5G was also one of the topics that Korek Chairman tackled during the interview. He said that the company is looking to invest in this service as soon as all required criteria are met.
Korek started operating in Iraq in the year 2000. The telecommunications sector has tremendously changed since then. How did you adapt to this change?
Korek is one of the oldest telecommunications companies in Iraq. It was established in 2000 as a telco specialized in offering telecom services in Kurdistan, Iraq. In 2007, Korek received a national operating license for mobile networks throughout Iraq. Since then, Korek has been providing its services across the whole country.
There is no doubt that the telecommunications sector has significantly evolved since then. Korek has been able to keep pace with this evolution in a significant and effective way that serves the interest of the Iraqi people in particular and the telecommunications sector in Iraq in general. Korek’s mission was to focus on providing the most sophisticated and distinctive services to the Iraqi people at the best prices. This was achieved through the approach Korek adopted in the continuous development of the company’s network on different levels such as executing network improvements by partnering with the world's best network providers, Ericsson and Nokia, in order to improve coverage and deliver services to all subscribers in all populated areas. In addition, to providing a variety of value added services and solutions to subscribers that cater to their needs.
In 2011, Korek decided to strengthen its market position and become global by establishing a strategic partnership with Orange Telecom (France Telecom). Through this partnership, Korek has been able to upgrade its service quality and provide global requirements of telecommunications services with an Iraqi twist that goes hand in hand with the requirements of the Iraqi people, while benefiting from the experience and best practice of its partners that provide telecommunications services in 23 countries.
Korek has been, and is, the fastest growing company in Iraq in terms of expansion, presence, type of services and number of subscribers. In 2015, Korek obtained a 3G license and developed the network. The company also invested in developing this service and delivering it to all subscribers according to international standards while providing offers and packages at the most appropriate prices.
Korek has announced that it is launching the eSIM technology soon. When should we expect the launch and why are you keen to be a leader in eSIM in Iraq?
The eSIM service is a part of the roadmap and the services that the company is developing and launching to stay at the front of the technological development in the field of telecommunications and provide practical solutions for subscribers.
The company is proud to be the first to announce this service in the region, which reflects the company’s strategic vision to distinguish itself as the leading company in Iraq to provide the latest technologies and services to subscribers.
Korek has been developing this service for more than a year in partnership with strategic SIM providers – G&D and IDEMIA which is one the global leaders in this field. The testing phase was successfully launched about 6 months ago and there has been serious preparations to launch the service commercially, noting that we were the first in the region to announce our readiness and did a soft launch to this service. Currently, we are at the final stage of coordination with the telecommunications regulatory authority CMC to fix the date of the official launching.
All the operators and telecom companies are gearing up for 5G. Is Korek getting ready for this new technology? What are the company’s plans in this regard?
The whole world is now focused on 5G and the digital revolution it has triggered in addition to all the other relevant technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc.
We believe that those services introduce a new era in the world of telecommunications that can pave the way for a plethora of unlimited services capable of positively affecting the economic system and lifestyle.
At the recent Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, all service providers expressed their keenness to elaborate implementation mechanisms and presented many use-cases in order to develop and deploy this technology.
There is no doubt that it will take some time before 5G becomes economically feasible given the need to establish solutions and regulations and provide the necessary infrastructure to deploy it. The other sectors should be ready as well to contain this technology because it is not only targeting subscribers but also all types of enterprises. In fact, 5G digital transformation strategies will increase efficiency and productivity.
Just like several companies, Korek is looking to invest in this service as soon as all criteria are met to guarantee its success, and when all the regulations are clearly stated to be able to have full control over it. Korek is now building and rehabilitating the network while taking into account the 5G technology; 50% of the modernized network is now technically ready for hosting 5G and we are also ready to conduct trials with the technology providers.
What is behind the success of Korek that made it succeed in its expansion strategy?
Korek is the first national operator in Iraq since 2000 and we take pride in our ability to understand the needs of the Iraqi people that differ according to the diverse social fabric that exists in Iraq.
Therefore, one of the most important factors that lead to Korek’s success is the adoption of effective strategies that enabled the company to achieve its expansion goals and that are based on a comprehensive understanding of market needs.
Another important factor was the team. Korek is always striving to train and empower its employees who are expats and locals (99% are Iraqi). The company is proud of its team’s expertise which allows the efficient implementation of the company’s strategy and its transformation into an action plan which provides subscribers with unique services. In fact, Korek’s vision revolves around customer satisfaction and offering them the best services, which is materializing through the administrative team who has a large international and local experience in the field of telecommunications.
Furthermore, one of the differentiators of Korek is its continuous investment in network development whereas it has highly invested in building and renovating the network. The company has been able as well to choose the best equipment and technologies through the partnerships it forged with global vendors.
Korek has invested also in technological solutions and customer service applications which reinforce the relationship with subscribers and offer them better service through full network coverage and points of sale.
What is Korek’s main strategy in order to keep up with the competition from other operators in Iraq? And what are the elements that differentiate you from the other operators in Iraq?
Korek sees competition as one of the success elements considering the fact that it motivates the company to excel and requires tireless efforts to evolve and improve performance in order to stand out from competitors. Korek adopts the principle of fair competition which maintains the market value of the telecommunications sector and protects the interests of companies and subscribers alike.
Korek always aims to create a positive competition environment that serves the interests of both the subscribers and the company. We believe that standing out is equivalent to providing a good service quality.
Has the political unrest in Iraq affected Korek’s performance? What other challenges do you face?
It is hard to tackle the economic situation without considering the politics. The security unrest that Iraq has endured in the past caused high rates of internal and external immigration in addition to the destruction of the infrastructure of which the telecommunications sector has had its fair share.
We cannot ignore the security instability that ISIS has caused in Iraq and which has negatively impacted the economy at all levels. This had direct consequences on all stakeholders in the country.
In addition, the instability of oil prices in 2014 and 2015 was another major challenge for us and had affected the whole economy in Iraq.
In your opinion, how can the telecommunications sector boost the economy in Iraq?
The telecommunications sector in Iraq plays an essential role in the creation of an efficient infrastructure that boosts the national economy by providing technological solutions that serve all private and public business sectors.
Moreover, the telecommunications sector creates direct and indirect job opportunities and is always working on developing the skills of local talents in parallel with the local market’s needs. For example, Korek provides more than 50,000 direct and indirect job opportunities including the employees of the company and of companies we deal with – clients, distributors, points of sale, contractors and service providers.
In addition, the telecommunications sector is one of the most important contributors in the Treasury given the revenues it generates that the country needs to invest and grow.
Korek pays great attention to customers’ feedback and works on improving their experience. How do you measure customer satisfaction now as the company tries to constantly enhance customer relationship management?
Telecommunications have significantly developed. Globally, social media platforms have facilitated communication and led to more openness; thus, increasing the awareness of subscribers and expanding the horizons of their aspirations. Satisfying customers has therefore become one of the main challenges and strategic goals that Korek set and invested in.
Korek’s ultimate goal was and still is achieving customer satisfaction and providing the best service at all times even if it means investing more in means to increase our reach and in solutions that reinforce the relationship with the subscriber and allow Korek to understand more their behavior and needs in order to better fulfill them.
Korek was able to lead the way for the great relationship with customers that it guarantees through two 24/7 call centers in different geographical locations where around 500 qualified employees are available to answer customers’ calls in several languages and provide them with the necessary need care.
On top of that, 114 main customer Service Centers, that have around 400 employees in total, are spread across Iraq including the borders and hot spots. Moreover, 9000 points of sale are located across the country to offer Korek products.
What are the companies’ major plans and projects for the future?
Development and improvements are always on top of Korek Telecom’s agenda with the aim of keeping abreast of the fast technological evolution in the telecommunications field. Therefore, the company is continuously developing and reinforcing the network to be able to offer the latest technologies such as LTE, 5G, IoT, advanced financial services, e-commerce, and cybersecurity through specialized programs that offer enterprise solutions capable of serving both consumer and enterprise.
One of the goals that the company is always striving to achieve is the empowerment of the company’s local team which is one of the main pillars of the company’s success and progress.
Moreover, Korek is planning on forging a joint collaboration with the government to provide advanced services capable of improving citizens’ lives such as e-government and the improvement of facilities and other utility services that are directly related to citizens’ domestic life style.
We are also continuing to support and develop corporate social responsibility projects that aim to preserve citizens’ wellbeing and strengthen the society.