We are committed to Armenia - Ursula Burns

15:39 • 06.12.17

Ursula Burns, Chairperson of VEON Supervisory Board, was recently in Armenia with several other companies' top representatives.  In the course of her visit, she had a chance to meet with journalists in Yerevan to speak about telecommunication industries' development perspectives, and  VEON's mission and vision, as well as to respond to questions and concerns.

Ms Burns  brought extensive international experience to the role having served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation (2009 – 2016). She is a director of the boards of American Express, Exxon Mobil, Nestlé, Datto and Uber, and regularly appears on lists of the world’s most powerful women. US President Barack Obama appointed her to help lead the White House national program on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) from 2009-2016, and she served as chair of the President’s Export Council from 2015-2016 after service as vice chair 2010-2015.

A major telecommunications company, VEON currently serves more than 235 million customers across Europe, Asia and Africa. It operates in Armenia under brand Beeline.

According to Ms Burns, VEON is now on its way of serious transformations. After being in some of the markets for 25 years, it is now initiating reforms to adapt its development strategy to technologies which are important to use or cannot be treated  as repeated by competitors. As an important project in Armenia, Ms Burns highlighted particularly their initiative to launch an incubator to assist the startups in bringing their ideas to life.  

Ms Burns, you were once included into an online magazine's top 10 list of people living the American dream. What marked the start of your business career and what paved your way to VEON?

All of my business career at XEROX was generally in the US, UK long time ago and Japan for a short time. I now spend most of my time with VEON.

I got interested in VEON primarily because of the opportunities to fundamentally change the way that telecom companies actually operate, and their strategy of transformation is pretty bold, risky andor I think good and strong. That's one reason: fundamental change. The second reason is that changes are happening in markets that are generally  are not in focus.

Particularly large US players are now focused on them, and it's good opportunity for these markets to develop and to have investments in the country.

The other reason is the people who I met at the HQ; they have been tremendous - tremendous fighters, very good operators. So I was very excited about the opportunity to work with the new kind of people.  

Ms Burns, you turned a special attention to under focused markets. The changes in the Armenian telecom industries are definitely obvious today, and your visit to our country also testifies to that. What made you show that kind of interest in Armenia, and how do you evaluate the existing potential here as the company' chairwoman?

The markets were really interesting to me. I had never been to Armenia before, though I had heard a lot about Armenia. And I  probably met more Armenians than you would know because we have many Armenians all over the United States and a lot of Armenians in Brooklyn.

I am spending this time of my chairmanship in VEON going to places. I think that it's really important for me to get grounded in this business by going to the places where the business is done. So  I'll spend the rest of my time here (first half of 2018) just kind of touching and feeling the people who run the business, the customers who operate with our services and solutions, and getting to know of the way that business is done.

You said that the ability to rapidly react to changes is one of the cornerstones contributing to VEON's success. So what changes are you planning for the near future?

There are series of levels of changes that are happening in VEON today. One is about the offer that we are giving, i.e - the kind of service that you can provide to customers. The second is in how to run the company. And the third is probably - internal culture.

This is a company that offers a set of services to clients in a certain way based on a certain set of technologies that are predominant in the field - fixed line telecommunication services,  telecommunication services that connect point-to-point to other services etc. The whole nature of business and telecom in particular is changing because of the opportunities and capabilities that digital communications and data as a source of currency offer. As all companies are changing, telecom absolutely has to change. It is one of the fundamental touchpoints. It implies competition-based changes. We know of normal telecom companies, but there are also service providers like Faccebook, like WhatsApp  - these are different ways to get the same thing done, to get communication done. VEON is a 25-year company, and a 25-year company has to change based on what is happening, what technologies are available for it to compete with and to be competed against. So it is adopting a more and more digital nature. We are using data to the advantage of customers.  

In these economies, there is a chance that a change may happen at a pace much faster than it happened in the United States, for example, and we can jump a whole series of steps.

VEON started as an independent and relatively small company, and large shareholders came in and basically governed the company fairy directly, and we are moving a little bit away from a type of small number of shareholders' model to a more open, larger number public investors' [model].

The third thing is in the culture of the company; we are moving away from the old traditional model to a little bit flexible and open model. And open not only in new ideas but also in the technology, in its hierarchical structure. We have open space offices, and it's a good indication of the change, of the type changes we want - more open communications, more egalitarian systems, a lot more ideas.

So there is a culture change, and there is a governance change that we are trying to go through.  

We have to actually go with the change. We have a very big customer base, a very big position; around the world we have more than 235 million customers, users of our service.

We have to manage this transition very carefully. The technology change has to be done in a careful market-focused way. So we have to make sure that in all the markets that we serve in very different countries - from Italy to Russia, from Algeria to Armenia - we are aware of the local circumstances to make our services customer-oriented. The governance changes are very risky obviously, and we are trying to change and put into the hands of the local people more and more authority and at the same to make sure that we do not lose control of the company and our clients.

Culture change is something you won't see, but you will be able to feel it; you'll see it in the numbers over time. What you will be able to see and feel is in service if you are a subscriber (which you should be) to Beeline as a provider.  You will be able to see a lot more offers, a lot more flexibility and a lot more creativity.  

The number of customers is growing, but the mobile market is becoming smaller and smaller because of competition etc. What are the prospects of VEON AREMNIA for development and expansion of business, and what are the obstacles in terms of providing the Armenian population with services that the rest of telecom companies do not offer - for example digital TV pack?

Smartphones also are the biggest player of mobile TV; the biggest amount of cellphones have a digital TV function, so it is not our advantage. The mobile market has been shrinking in the last few years, but VEON is a growing company. We have more customers now, but of course, we do not like the effects of the shrinking market. One reason is the aggressive competition as customers do not see any differentiation between players.

We invested in high-speed data networks: 3G and 4G network, and we now have a modern 4G network in Yerevan and in most places across the country. I hope you feel improvement in the quality of mobile internet for Beeline. In addition, we are going to launch a new product; I am sure you have heard about our global VEON platform, which is coming to Armenia soon, a unique offer comparing to peers.

Artificial intelligence is becoming part of our reality. The question is whether you have any plans to boost research and development in that field in Armenia.

One idea we have decided to implement in Armenia is to organize an incubator for technology startups to help them translate their ideas into reality and allow also customers to enjoy these ideas.  We will provide an office space, technology infrastructures for the startups to help them develop their ideas in lab conditions, and access to expertise (technology expertise, business expertise).

We hope that this incubator will really help to not only accelerate the technology development of VEON but also bring new ideas to assist in the technological development of the country. We have an IG hub in Armenia; it isn't fully accomplished yet, but we hope it will become bigger. We have 

this kind of hubs also in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and also in Georgia. Technologically they are already using it. I hope our product will be recognized, and we will be able to develop our capacities here.

What additional opportunities and advantages will the incubator startup offer in Armenia?

Well, many of the application developers develop the code, but they do not have access to the mobile network to test it. So they finish the application and put it into AppStore, and then it won't work or the IOSP does not work in Android. The big advantage of this incubator is the fact that we have access to the mobile network for testing, so we can see how the application works across the network, and they can see how it "behaves". Although apps are made to look simple, they are actually not simple. We can take a lot of the experimentation - and time and cost with the incubators if they are working closely with this. It's really a huge advantage, and there really a big difference if you want to stop office work and develop your amount yourself. We are going to have an R&D hub, so we have to really think of ways for developing this business.  

Is it hard to do business in Armenia compared to other countries? What's your general opinion about the business environment here?

There are very few countries where doing business is easy, considering especially the environment. Countries are unique - different languages, definitely different cultures and different infrastructures. Scale is a very important thing, for example, for capital companies. We have to continue to detect how to bring unique solutions that are scaled enough so that we can afford them.

As for Armenia, although it is really difficult to do business here, we still like it. We are committed to Armenia, and we invest a lot of money here. We have fixed and mobile telephone communication networks, we launch new technologies and are very committed to this market. And that means we like to operate here. We are here because there is a market to be served, and there is a market to be served profitably. So we want to be here not because only we like Armenia but because the business here is a good business to be in. It's not easy, but it is definitely profitable.

It is really hard to make forecasts in a fast-paced business environment, and nevertheless, where do you see the telecom industry in the coming 10 years. Where does this industry go, and eventually, what's your vision of your company?

First of all, the amount of data consumed by consumers and businesses matters. We see no limit right now. The second thing is the number of devices that need data in real time, and that real time is actually increasing, which means that shortly the industry will have to deliver 5G. 


Armenian News - Tert.am

LATEST NEWSAll Today news

15:19 • 16/12

Ankara persistently links Turkey-Armenia process to Nagorno-Karabakh – Foreign Ministry

14:39 • 16/12

Luxury 200ft super yacht with its own helipad is modelled on a 17th century pirate ship (photos)

14:24 • 16/12

US to return stolen relics to Lebanon

14:14 • 16/12

Armenian biker wins silver in intn'l tournament

13:53 • 16/12

Canada billionaire and wife found dead in New York home

13:41 • 16/12

Armenian endorsed for US Congress

13:21 • 16/12

Nagorno-Karabakh reports 200 Azerbaijani ceasefire violations

13:12 • 16/12

US citizens and illegal aliens charged in marriage fraud ring

12:51 • 16/12

Zhoghovurd: Armenia to ban right-handed cars

11:44 • 16/12

Israel needs more time and effort to recognize Genocide – former member of Knesset

10:13 • 16/12

Bitcoin tops US$18,000 in debut on major bourse

09:51 • 16/12

Sky News faces uncertain future after Disney-Fox deal

09:33 • 16/12

US ready for military solution to N Korea conflict

18:38 • 15/12

Three twins born in Yerevan medical center

17:22 • 15/12

Armenian stone to be used for building Google HQ in London

17:12 • 15/12

EU leaders agree to move talks to next stage

17:06 • 15/12

Sumatran rhino 'hanging on by thread'

16:50 • 15/12

Free economic zone opens in Armenia's Syunik

16:04 • 15/12

'Organic Agricultural Development' program names 2017-2018 winners

15:51 • 15/12

Cribby: Armenian software developers unveil smart cradle (photos)

14:21 • 15/12

Trump's Jerusalem move may pave way to Genocide recognition – diplomat

13:54 • 15/12

French bus cut in two in deadly rail crash

13:44 • 15/12

Visiting cultural sites important for preserving Armenian heritage in Turkey – expert

12:35 • 15/12

Armenia's NATO envoy submits credentials to Stoltenberg

12:12 • 15/12

Armenian president rules out EEU exit plan

11:45 • 15/12

Berlin should resolve problems with Ankara – says Merkel aide  

11:18 • 15/12

Zhamanak: Russian border guards close frontier posts on Armenia-Turkey border

11:07 • 15/12

First Wildlife Rescue Center opens in Armenia

10:51 • 15/12

Ardshinbank signs $25m trade finance facility agreement with Citi and ADB  

10:36 • 15/12

EU-Armenia agreement marks victory of sound logic – Serzh Sargsyan

09:13 • 15/12

Dubai opens $10 million camel hospital

18:02 • 14/12

Football news: Man Utd's Bailly may need anke surgery

17:44 • 14/12

Nalbandian hosts European Friends of Armenia mission chief

17:27 • 14/12

Walt Disney buys Murdoch's Fox for $52.4bn  

17:09 • 14/12

British man has fingers and thumb replaced with his toes after horrific accident with industrial food blender

17:00 • 14/12

Reconciliation with Turkey was mistake, says Israeli politician

16:17 • 14/12

Armenia continues cooperation with Greek, Cypriot Diasporas

15:18 • 14/12

Putin: Trump’s Russia scandal harms US

14:46 • 14/12

Baby girl survives with heart outside her body at birth in UK  

14:36 • 14/12

Surgeon carves initials on the livers of two transplant patients in first assault case

14:18 • 14/12

Turkey-Armenia protocols ‘dead’ in essence – expert

13:30 • 14/12

Armenian opposition bloc names presidential candidate

13:04 • 14/12

Man jumps off huge waterfall in the Grand Canyon to honour deceased friend

12:54 • 14/12

Dwayne Johnson receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

12:40 • 14/12

‘Ambitious anti-corruption strategy’ requires new monitoring methods – premier

12:22 • 14/12

Netenyahu ‘not impressed’ by Muslim leaders’ statement on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

12:09 • 14/12

Record high 262 journalists imprisoned in 2017 - CPJ

11:52 • 14/12

US citizen wanted in Armenia over terror plot - National Security Service

10:56 • 14/12

Aznavour: I hope to be on stage until I am 100

10:14 • 14/12

Glendale City Council approves framework featuring Armenian American Museum

09:54 • 14/12

US Federal Reserve raises interest rates

09:35 • 14/12

Plane crashes in Canada; all passengers ‘accounted for’

09:14 • 14/12

Rohingya crisis: Thousands reported killed in months 

18:57 • 13/12

2017 marked serious progress in Armenia-NATO relations – debate

18:04 • 13/12

Amal and George Clooney 'hand out personalised headphones and notes' to fellow plane passengers on flight with twins

17:34 • 13/12

FBI agent removed from Russia investigation calls Trump an 'idiot'

17:08 • 13/12

Opposition MP says political team 'considers alternative candidate' for prime minister

16:19 • 13/12

European Central Bank could use Steinhoff mess to improve QE

16:01 • 13/12

Princes William and Harry inspect  Star Wars troops in London premiere

15:46 • 13/12

Palestinians will not accept any US role in peace process 'from now on', says Mahmoud Abbas

15:29 • 13/12

Erdogan calls on Jerusalem to be recognized as Palestinian capital 

15:15 • 13/12

No challenges to NATO-Armenia relations - liason officer

14:20 • 13/12

Australian Greens recognize Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

13:14 • 13/12

US ready for North Korea talks, says Tillerson

13:07 • 13/12

6.2 quake hits south-eastern Iran

12:52 • 13/12

Armenian parliament passes anti-domestic violence law

12:34 • 13/12

Fossil hunters find bones of human-sized penguin on New Zealand beach

12:22 • 13/12

Nalbandian: Azerbaijan's disrespect for peace over Karabakh questions their credibility in negotiations  

11:57 • 13/12

Disney set to seal $60bn 21st Century Fox takeover

11:44 • 13/12

Armenia free to develop balanced dialogue with EU and Russia –  European expert

09:35 • 13/12

US Democrat wins seat in Alabama in blow to Trump

09:12 • 13/12

Hamas announces beginning of third 'Intifada' against US decision on Jerusalem

18:06 • 12/12

Armenian biker to join international race in Portugal

17:51 • 12/12

Terrifying footage shows newlywed bride attacked by shark during Caribbean honeymoon swim

17:40 • 12/12

France proposes ban for mobile phones in schools from September

17:16 • 12/12

European court orders Azerbaijan to pay €35,000 in compensation to displaced Armenian family  

16:31 • 12/12

Musician who lost arm can play piano again with 'insanely cool prosthetic' (video)

16:06 • 12/12

Armenia can build EEU’s bridge with Europe in case of securing safe hub for businesses – French Ambassador  

15:12 • 12/12

Canadian lawmaker speaks of April war in Artsakh in parliament address (video)

14:33 • 12/12

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Lauren Hashian can't hide delight as she debuts blossoming baby bump at Jumanji 2 premiere in LA... hours after revealing pregnancy news

14:24 • 12/12

Private arrested over reported fatality in Nagorno-Karabakh army

13:56 • 12/12

Donald Trump wants to send man back to Moon, on to Mars

13:47 • 12/12

'Violent explosion' at Austrian gas plant leaves 'one dead and dozens injured' (photos, video)

13:37 • 12/12

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ‘far from frozen’ - French ambassador

13:12 • 12/12

Bomber strikes near times square, disrupts New York City, killing none

13:05 • 12/12

Erdogan, Putin warn of further tension over Trump’s Jerusalem move

13:02 • 12/12

'Ucomisation': Ucom launches new revolutionary offer

12:45 • 12/12

Armenian Genocide bill stops short of reaching Georgian local government

11:53 • 12/12

Nagorno-Karabakh conscript fatally wounded by fellow serviceman  

11:40 • 12/12

168 Zham: EU-Armenia agreement reflects smart policy choice – Lithuanian analyst

11:00 • 12/12

Turkey seeks to provoke tensions with neighbors instead of normalizing ties– expert  

09:30 • 12/12

Nalbandian to conduct official visit to Greece

09:13 • 12/12

Ukrainian court releases Saakashvili from detention

18:01 • 11/12

Hidden keylogger found on HP laptops

17:51 • 11/12

Golden Globe announces complete list of 75th nominations  

17:22 • 11/12

Armenian parliament speaker hosts chief of UNDP country mission

16:38 • 11/12

Ucom to keep on supporting Armath engineering lab in Armenian border village

16:28 • 11/12

Nalbandian hosts delegation from Armenian Assembly of America

16:22 • 11/12

Uruguay hosts world’s biggest barbecue

15:56 • 11/12

Former batsman banned after spot-fixing investigation