Q&A: Accenture’s Nitesh Singh on the evolution of ICT
Nitesh Singh talks about where the tech industry is going
SA’s ICT sector is in constant flux and has seen much movement in mergers, acquisitions and deals struck between players.
Nitesh Singh, MD of the communication, media and technology practice at Accenture Africa, shares his thoughts on where the industry is going based on the consulting firm’s experience and vast research base.
Consolidation is rife in the local market. Do you see a future in SA or the continent where a Comcast type of entity emerges, offering both entertainment and connectivity services? Or will we just have greater collaboration between companies?
The latter. Comcast is a special organisation. They’re one of the few to have myriad services.
We saw this a few years ago, even in SA. The mobile operators tried to launch OTT [over-the-top] services. It didn’t work out. The reason is because that’s not their core business. Not only that, but it means getting into the land of publishers who owns copyrights etc. It’s very difficult for a telco to enter the media game as it’s one that they’re not used to.
I see a lot more collaboration happening. We’re seeing it already. The likes of MultiChoice partnering with MTN, offering fibre and connectivity services.
MultiChoice’s new app DStv Stream has made it about a different type of connectivity now. It’s not over a satellite. Its all digital and fibre. These are the types of moves that will now propel them forward.
What lessons can be gained from large international telecom companies that have tried their hand at media?
There’s been the likes of AT&T who bought some big media organisations (including Time Warner). They are, however, feeling the pain and have regretted the move, with shareholders now questioning their decisions.
But at the time it looked like the right move.
The fundamental question you’ve got to ask yourself as a business is: “Do we have a right to play in this market? Do we have the right customers and strategy in place?”
If you really deep dive into that, I think a lot of them would have said “maybe not”.
Across the globe, there are few organisations that offer all of these services .
What is working from what you can see?
What we are seeing, if we look at telecommunications companies, is that they are divesting. They have a business in the data sector, one in the digital sector. They’re starting to have those entities reporting to a group holding company. That seems to be what is happening to all of our telecommunications clients worldwide.
They are becoming different businesses that co-operate with one another. For example: a digital business, an application business, and a financial services business, within the same organisation, with all reporting to a group structure.
The sum of the parts is greater as a whole. That’s the concept that comes to mind and leads to a more lean and mean type of business, moving in the right direction.
It will allow them to better manage their capital and operational expenditure and their financial metrics going forward. It gives them greater control.
What do you make of the password sharing clampdown around streaming services by the likes of MultiChoice and Netflix?
When Netflix did this there was an outcry initially. What’s interesting is that this appears to have tapered off. Customers like me don’t want freeloaders. So if they have better password protection, they’re going to get a better class of consumer and that’s going to filter into better content, whether acquired or developed internally.
Everyone is talking about AI now. Is it necessary for all corporates to have an AI strategy in place?
From Accenture’s point of view it’s not just an AI strategy. What is needed is a digital core, AI, cloud, platforms, data and security. You have to have a strategy for all of that, with co-operation between the different areas of the business.
AI on its own will not unlock the value businesses seek.
However, if you look at those five components, you’ll unlock a lot of value as you transform and reinvent multiple lines of business.
Is it better to own one’s own digital infrastructure or share?
You have to own it or you run the risk of lagging behind your competitors. And management and boards need to understand this.
• This article has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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