DRIVING INNOVATION IN VAS
Telecom Review interviewed Ayman Jomaa, CEO of Jomaa Group, which invests in eight companies specialized in many different fields. Mr. Jomaa talked about the innovative PPN service launched by ARBooster, a company that develops value added services (VAS).
Can you give us a quick overview of your company’s activities, especially in terms of telecommunications?
The main activity of our group of companies consists of high profile value added services for telcos. When we say "high profile", we mean strategic services for mobile operators with very high returns and convenience.
If we want to talk specifically about ARBooster and our PPN (Personal Premium Number) service called "Cashin", I always like to summarize what we do in one sentence, which is also our strategy statement: We have democratized the use of PRS to enable instant monetization of an unexploited segment of knowledge and service exchange through a unique offering which provides convenience as well as unparalleled flexibility and mobility. There was always this rule that Premium Rate Numbers have to belong to different ranges and follow different numbering plans. They were only used by large corporations and the media. We looked at an unexploited segment which is "individuals".
If we want to give out the most modest numbers, we would say that billions of exchanges are conducted every day on consultancies and advice between people from all over the world in a non-monetized manner. After all, the main purpose of PRS was content which can be very valuable, especially when you are speaking to a lawyer, a doctor or any kind of specialist. You are asking for their knowledge, their experience, etc. This is why we have created an innovative solution to monetize these exchanges. We actually hold patents in this area. We always monitor megatrends and try to stay ahead. The PPN service is completely aligned with the current market megatrends such as mobility, mobile working, consumer power, open systems and customization.
What differentiates PPN from other PRS services that are already available in other countries?
First of all, it is not limited to a dedicated range of numbers like the 900 series (any number that starts with 900) available in the US and Dubai. It applies to any mobile number which makes it easier since the customers already have the consultant’s regular number.
We also have some features that differentiate us from the others. For example, if you subscribe to a PRS on a 900 series number, you get a fixed rate so everyone who calls this number will be charged the same. With our solution, you can choose the rate you want for every caller. For instance, if you are a doctor and your family or friends would like to call you, you can choose not to charge them an extra fee. You can even choose to charge a different tariff for every period of the day. You can finally suspend or resume the service whenever you feel like it.
It is more convenient to subscribe to this service than to get another number because it is cheaper. In Lebanon, it costs 3 dollars per subscriber; whereas, if you wish to get a short code you would have to pay a connection fee of around 4,000 dollars and then maybe 500 dollars a month.
What do you see as the main challenges of implementation of the PPN service in a certain country?
One of the challenges is that we have to partner with most of the operators in every country. For example, we have two mobile operators in Lebanon. If we partner with only one of them, the subscribers to the service from this operator will not be able to receive calls from the second operator’s subscribers.
Therefore, we need to partner with almost all of the operators in a given country. This is also an advantage because two operators usually compete. However, in this case, they need to partner to launch the service.
In which countries are you currently present and what are your plans for 2015?
Our main target for 2015 is expansion in an accelerated manner while creating partnerships throughout the world to introduce this service to as many countries as possible.
Today, we are present in Europe where we are in discussions with several telcos from all over the continent. However, our bigger presence has to be in the Middle East and Africa. We believe this service would work very well in Asia, especially Eastern Asia, as well as in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and finally Europe and the States.