The wireless supply chain: from warehouse to the boardroom

Remon Gazal, Chief Commercial Officer and SVP Brightstar Logic 

The supply chain has always been an important element of the wireless industry, as devices have played an integral part of both carrier and retailer consumer offerings.

Its prominence has been intensified by recent developments in the broader wireless ecosystem, primarily the increase in price of the top of the range handsets to meet or exceed the £/€/$ 1,000 price point. This, in turn, has led to consumers upgrading their devices less often, which has made for difficult trading conditions for carriers and especially retailers.

The combined impact of these trends has led to carriers and retailers treading a very fine line in regard to their handset supply chain. Get it right and you can make the annual launch season a trading peak, winning and securing customers with a high lifetime value. Get it wrong and you risk losing market share amongst high-value customers, or carrying a lot of high-value stock which ties up valuable working capital and drives up operating costs.

It is a similar story in the enterprise space where employees increasingly demand the same standard of communications and IT kit that they have become accustomed to using in their personal lives. This puts pressure on CIO and procurement teams to deliver enhanced choice and flexibility or risk conceding ground in the “war for talent”, which is showing signs of hotting up as the recovery from the 2008 recession gathers pace.

In light of this increased pressure Remon Gazal, Brightstar’s Chief Commercial Officer and SVP Brightstar Logic talks about what businesses and organisations can do right now to turn their supply chain to a source of competitive advantage. He also discusses some of the upcoming technological trends which are likely to have a major impact on the supply chain space in the next few years.

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Video transcript:

Hello, and welcome to Business Reporter's Future of Supply Chain Campaign, hosted by The Telegraph online. I'm Alastair Greener. Internet and mobile technologies have transformed the telecommunications industry. Yet companies are struggling to keep up with customer demand. Businesses and consumers are becoming impatient waiting for services to be delivered. How does the telecoms industry keep up pace with the backlog of demand and evolving technology? Remon Gazal, SVP and Chief Commercial Officer at Brightstar is here to give us some advice. Good morning.

Morning, Alastair.

When it comes to telecommunications, who's driving the changes in the supply chain?

The consumers, really. The consumers are insisting on choice. They're insisting on flexibility. And they want to know that the carrier knows who they are and how they want to behave. The old service designs that are based on simply what the technology offers are no longer accepted by the consumers. They want carriers and retailers alike to design for them, for the experience that they expect, and the experience that they deserve.

And how is this challenging the various players in the supply chain, like the retailers and so on?

Carriers are expected to be more like retailers, and retailers are expected to be more like carriers. Probably remember the first time you bought a phone. You walked into the store, and you chose the phone, and you walked out. If I asked you to think to the last time you bought a phone, so the last 12 months, maybe?

Yeah, less than that. Maybe about six, six months.

Six months ago, sure. So you walked into a carrier store. You had an idea of the phone you wanted?

Yeah, pretty much.

Colour, size, idea of what you wanted with the phone?

Yeah, I knew I needed a case. I wanted the protector on it, obviously. And actually, probably a new charger, as well.

Excellent. And was it all there?


And if it wasn't there? What would you have done?

I'd have probably gone to somewhere else. I certainly would have considered somewhere else, yes.

Yeah, so you don't just accept what's there, right? You're starting to behave like a true consumer. For a carrier, it's a massive challenge. In the past, carriers may have carried an array of 20 or 30 different phones. Now, not only do they need the array of phones, but they need the array of accessories, of screen protectors, of cases, colours. All of that is expected to be there. And so they're expected behave more and more like a retailer. And they're not necessarily set up like a retailer. And increasingly, customers are going into retail because they're not getting the experience they want in carrier. And they're expecting the retailer to connect them to a network, and to do all the service provision on top. They're expecting the retailer to behave like a carrier.

That battleground of switching customers is highly fertile for the one who gets it right. This is a very promiscuous base. They will go to the person that is going to serve them best. So from a carrier standpoint, how do I look more like a retailer? From a retailer standpoint, how do I look more like a carrier? Take that into the enterprise.

We've got people who then turn up to work, and as employees, they're behaving like consumers. They're not simply accepting what their company says the policy is. They're saying, I want to bring my own phone. I want it to connect. I need these accessories with it. I need this service layer. I need to always be connected. I can't tolerate my phone being out of action.

The phone used to be a luxury item, and now it's a necessary way of doing business. It's become the primary device, sometimes over and above the desktop computer, or the laptop, or any other forms of communication. Huge complexity gets driven into your supply chain when you need to cater for all of that.

So in order to cater for all of that, what should the players in the supply chain be doing to respond to, as you say, this massive consumer change?

Need to start with the experience. What is the experience that you want your customer to have? What's the choice they're demanding? You can't do it with people. You can't answer those questions properly with people. You need the technology to do it. You need the technology to be able to respond quickly, to see what's coming up, to predict what may happen next, and to respond accordingly.

Carriers and retailers alike are made up of lots of different disparate systems. And the consumers interact with each one. They don't want to introduce themselves to the carrier three or four times in a transaction simply because the carrier is going from one system to the next, to the next. So creating that link across the service lifecycle, across the customer lifecycle, learning about the customer, understanding, perhaps, what may happen next, and predicting for it, and then having a supply chain that's flexible enough to respond requires some pretty special technology.

The technology needs to talk to itself, and it needs to be able to synthesise what's happening, and respond accordingly. And do that quickly with a customer view.

Now what about the technology that's available for CEOs to make this whole process a lot easier? You said it can't be done by humans alone. So what's out there to support them?

We're seeing increasingly entrance into this space. Brightstar has its own technology. We call it the summiT platform. And what that platform does is provide those linkages around systems that are in place, systems that we provide. And it takes the data and it orchestrates and arranges that data in such a way that we can generate meaningful insight out of it.

And it's not insight that tells us what happened. That's kind of table stakes these days, and everyone's expected to be able to do that. Much more interestingly, and much more importantly, it predicts what may happen next, and what you may respond to it, and what the impact of that response might be. Seems simple. It's not. It's pretty clever stuff. It's difficult to get right, but when you get it right, it's incredibly powerful. And it's a huge, huge differentiator. And it's something that we see our customers using to over-index against their competitors.

You talked about technology, a big buzz word that we're hearing a lot of about at the moment is blockchain. Does that figure in your solution?

Blockchain is coming to our industry. We don't know what the impact is going to be, but it will have an impact, and will be transformative. The ability to understand the lifecycle of a device by connecting data across trusted partners using smart contracts to create the blockchain for the device, that gives you some surety over the provenance of that device. It's going to have a huge impact. We've got carrier groups now looking at what blockchain means. SoftBank Carrier Group have come together, SoftBank and Sprint, to look at what it means from the carrier side. We're deeply interested in what it means on the supply chain side. And we burned many calories, and will continue to burn many calories as we work out what that transformation is going to be, and how we can partner with our customers and with some other industry partners to make sure that that impact is a positive impact.

You talked a little bit earlier on about the platform that you have that Brightstar. Tell me a little bit more about that and how it actually works.

The summiT platform works around the customer's existing systems, and it also provides systems if they're not in place, and third party systems. And what it seeks to do is create an end-to-end view of the customer and the service transaction. And it uses that end-to-end view to not only smooth the transaction across various settings, online, call centre, in retail, on device-- and give it a seamless and consistent experience, but it also arranges that data in a way that we can generate those insights, and use those insights to predict-- as it talked about earlier-- to predict what might happen next, and suggest some actions that can be taken.

The technology itself is cloud based. It's service oriented. We believe it's got a pretty neat architecture. And that architecture allows you to quickly put in place a service layer, and not necessarily be worried about a full lift and shift of your legacy infrastructure.

Well, I was going to say, is it a bit of a one size fits all?

We like to think it can be many things to many people. I think gone are the days where you slavishly adapt to a technology footprint that is dictated to you by a service provider or partner. Today, our customers are dictating the same kind of choice that their customers are dictating from them. If we need to work around existing systems, we've designed the architecture that does that. What we're really interested in is getting the data out of those systems, Orchestrating it in a certain way, creating business processes through a business process layer, and then presenting it back to the carrier or the retailer for them to get some genuine insight, and being able to action and intercept as they need to.

And what about some examples? Because it's all great in theory, but perhaps you can give us some examples of a CEO who has maybe used your platform or used this technology to actually help them make better decisions.

Yeah, absolutely. Look, one of the-- in our industry in our world, we have hero devices that come around every year. That's a big deal for carrier organisations. These are board level discussions. How do we get the most out of that window where we have mad demand. Consumers are waiting for it. Everyone's talking about it. What do we do about it?

Gone are the days where we're trying to generate demand for these. The demand is there. In fact, the constraint is now supply side. So the carrier is allocated their part of the supply, 100,000 units, 1 million units, whatever the case may be. They want to get the most out of it as possible.

What our technology does is uses past data sets to construct future data sets, to understand where the consumption-- where it's going to sell best in the channel. What do I do with my 100,000 devices? Where do I put it? Firstly, which customers generate the most value for me? And how do I get the device into their hands in the quickest way possible? And then get the resupply back in? Getting that right-- that whole math equation and the algorithms that drive it, getting that bit right, you over index against your competitors. You resupply at a faster rate. You sell more.

And for a new product launch, there is quite a window of demand. And you want to satisfy so you'll soak up as much of that demand as you can. Now, you need to have so much else in place, in terms of, you've got to have accessories there, you've got to have the service layer there, things need to work. But actually knowing in the first place where to put those devices, who to sell them to, critically important. That's what we provide.

And how scalable is your solution? It's scalable for small organisations to large organisations. It's cross geography and also cross service layers. So we've developed it in a way-- it's cloud based. We use service oriented architecture. We can connect to pretty much any system that wants to be connected to. We can orchestrate the data in a bespoke way, but using a standard approach, which allows us to easily propagate the design and the technology from customer to customer, from geography to geography.

We have operations, because, of course, this means it's not just technology. It's a whole service layer. It's a whole service wrap. We've got operations across the six continents and in all the markets you would expect us to be in to back that up. So you can be comfortable that you can avail yourselves of the functionality and the benefits that you're looking for through Brightstar and through our summiT platform.

We've talked a lot about the incredible changes taking place in the telecoms industry. If you could summarise in just three brief points that our viewers could take away with them, what would they be?

I think firstly, I'd say start with your customer. You get that bit right, and everything kind of flows from there. The future is kind of today. It's here. Things that seem far off are actually already happening. You need a strategy around that. And probably the last thing is the supply chain has moved from the warehouse to the boardroom. It's a powerful tool to differentiate your service. And that shift in thinking, I think, is germane to your strategy to win.

Some very exciting times ahead for everybody in telecommunications. But it is going to require a lot of change on behalf of everybody involved in the supply chain. It's really interesting to see how technology is going to play its part, as well. Remon Gazal from Brightstar. Thank you very much, indeed.

Thank you Alastair.


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