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Cellcard: Building a Digital Society For Every Cambodian

Like most revolutions, it began small. Like all revolutions, it eventually spread like wildfire.

Similar is the story of Cellcard, which has risen to become Cambodia’s longest-serving mobile telecommunications company and the undisputed Network Leader in the market having just achieved its 6th consecutive OoklaSpeedtest Award.

The real success story really began in January 2017 when the company took the bold move to roll-out more than 3000 4G sites in less than 12 months.

Within the first three months of the roll-out, the company secured its first OoklaSpeedtest Award for its 4G speeds and has subsequently won each and every speed test conducted in Cambodia since.

Having risen to pole position for 4G in Cambodia the operator now has its sights firmly set on 5G which will form the backbone of the full Digitalisation of the Kingdom.

Looking past the network infrastructure, Cellcard has internally geared it employees for the change moving its day to day operations into the Digital Age, automating processes, and bringing on new systems and platforms.

The company has moved to a matrix organizational structure removing hierarchy and empowering all team members to play an active role in strategy and innovation.

With this mindset, Cellcard has changed its approach to customer offerings and has developed and launched a full suite of new digital products and services based on content, entertainment, and education.

This is in addition to a new billing platform, a complete revamp of its self-service app, and the digitalization of customer servicing through online channels including chatbots.

The proof-points of success are clearly evident in Cellcard’s 2019 end year results with a 25% increase in market share and revenue and a highly engaged and satisfied customer base of more than 3.2 million.

The turnaround story from being a late entrant to 4G to now being at the forefront of digitalization and having the highest tested speed for 5G in Cambodia to date (at a staggering 1.6Gbps), is a truly impressive achievement.

“We’re reaching out now across all of Cambodia,” says Ian Watson, CEO of Cellcard, Cambodia “We’re delivering a Cambodian network, from a Cambodian company, built by Cambodian people, into the market. It’s important that we’re Cambodian. Even when you’ve got people like me, a foreigner, we’re conscious of the Cambodian culture – how the people work, how the people operate – and building our internal delivery to match that.”

 Presenting you with an inspirational story of  Ian Watson and his remarkable journey of connecting a nation through Cellcard.

From MBA Graduate To Reshaping How A Nation Works

Ian Watson is widely applauded in the telecommunications industry as an Innovation Thought Leader and visionary leader who inspires and motivates as he shares his vision for the future Digitalisation of Cambodia.

A regular keynote speaker at telco and ICT events, his presentations are delivered with impact as he cements Cellcard and indeed Cambodia as a shining light in the ASEAN region.

He has been at the helm of the Cambodian telco industry contribution to GDP, helping fuel the 36% growth in mobile connections in 2018 and again in 2019.

Cambodia last year achieved one of Asia’s fastest-growing GDP rates of 7%, moving the country from a low-income economy to a middle-income economy.

As a long-standing telco leader, he has held C-Level positions in Orange across different global markets before moving to Cambodia to head up Refresh Mobile and then taking on CEO role of Royal Group’s Wing Money – Cambodia’s leading specialized bank.

He currently is CEO of both Cellcard and the Royal Group ICT Division which consists of telecommunications, an ISP, digital payments, broadcasting, and digital TV.

“We’re focused on delivering around how we use digitization, 5G, and other data networks to improve people’s lives. We’re going out into the provinces, the remote villages, and building this huge data network, so no matter where you are, you’ve got a connection to super-fast mobile data,” says Ian.

 Cellcard’s taglines, ‘Proudly Khmer’ and ‘Cellcard is for Everyone Everywhere’, has been an important part of the company’s success story to date. This strengthens our belief to put Cambodia at the peak of the mobile network excellence and to provide access and affordability to every single Cambodian.”

Into The World of 5G

Cellcard is actively collaborating with the Cambodian Government on 5G initiatives. No other telco in Cambodia shares Cellcard’s strong position to lead the introduction of 5G and the digitization of Cambodia. As part of the Royal Group of Companies ICT Division, Cellcard has the leverage of its sister company’s infrastructure, services, resources and importantly local knowledge to move to digitalization.

Cellcard is the only operator with the spectrum ready to deliver 5G services with a total bandwidth of 170 Mhz. Cellcard already owns more than 50% of the spectrum allocated for 5G.

For Ian, it’s about enabling Cambodia’s digital economy, delivered across a 5G network.

“I firmly believe, for Cambodia, 5G will be the lever for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, for the full Digitalisation of the Cambodian economy,” he says.

The Best Among The Rest

Cellcard’s strategy from which to build for the future has always been centered on accelerating mobile data usage and smartphone penetration across every single province and community in Cambodia.

The strategy saw Cellcard having the foresight to commence its impressive 4G LTE roll-out with the Kingdom’s most affordable mobile data plans.

In so doing, Cellcard was prepared to our progress before profit to prepare the market for the future and to educate and engage with new digital channels and content services.

The company also achieved a dual strategy of inspiring the mass market with easy to and simple services but also attract and retain the digital-savvy urban youngsters whose digital lifestyles and needs are vastly different from those older customers living in more remote areas.

It is not good enough to just offer the biggest numbers to entice consumers, the willingness and openness to deliver on promised value is of more importance as is knowing the customer and tailoring products for their different needs.

“As one of Cambodia’s top three brands, we have built our reputation on trust and reliability and are known as the steadfast operator with Cambodian family values at its core. We offer a comprehensive range of services that include voice, data plans, tourist and roaming packages, and a full range of enterprise and business solutions. We have led the Cambodian market through 2G, 3G, 4G offering the widest and most affordable mobile data offers tied with the biggest and most reliable network. Now, we are leading the introduction of digital services around the introduction of 5G with a range of new and exciting products and services in key locations. We are focused on delivering around how we use digitalization, 5G, and other data networks to improve people’s lives.”

A Prime Use Of 5G: Giving A Solid Structure To The Community

A prime use for 5G is to automate its factories. Cambodia has numerous garment factories and automation allows a tremendous opportunity for growth. Food manufacturing will also be at an advantage from automation as well as logistics to help transportation and import and export.

Smart city use cases aim to build safer, cleaner communities that need integration with industry and governments. Besides this, virtual classrooms can meet basic needs for all ages and remote surgery. 5G will be able to connect rural communities to critical services and create jobs and business opportunities.

With the rise in internet services, there will be increasing online commerce platforms, a rise in online learning tools, increasing digital payments and transactions, and much more. All of this directly improves education, creates jobs, and benefits the economy overall. Cellcard’s mantra is to drive GDP growth through mobile data acceleration – on the basis that for every 10% increase in mobile data penetration contributes between 0.6 – 2.8 percent in GDP.

“If we can show the socio-economic costs related to some of our current issues that impede growth, then the justification for 5G investment can be made,” says Ian. “It’ll bring benefits to all Cambodians; whether it’s a business, an SME, a corporate or an individual in areas such as education and health care. There’s a whole new host of relevant services that we can deploy across Cambodia. At the end of the day, we’re a business, but we will help improve people’s lives. As we build one of the world’s best data networks, part of that is to help Cambodians in their day-to-day lives.”

Connecting Cambodians

With an aspiration to become the most favored telecom service provider, Cellcard, in 23 years of operations, rose to the pinnacle of accomplishment and continues to lead. Consumers have certainly been the clear winners, as the cost of sending and receiving data wirelessly has been significantly low.

“When you see what we’re contributing to Cambodian society, it makes it that much easier. To give you an example, we introduced a new, state-of-the-art billing system three months ago. We worked 24/7. It was tiring and stressful, but when we saw the following weekend, people saying how much easier it is to do business with Cellcard, that itself eases the stress.”

The list of awards Cellcard has achieved under the leadership of Ian Watson is extensive – local, regional, and global.

 “We might have won 26 awards. But it’s not the accolades which concern us”, says Ian, “Rather they show us that people are recognizing what we’re doing as a company to change this country. We class ourselves as one of the pioneers of the digital revolution here in Cambodia. And as such, we’re looking at building a world-class innovation and experience center next year to showcase our technologies from AR and VR to smart cities, connected homes and virtual classrooms,”

Business Is Ultimately About People

The work environment is extremely important in determining how productive and enjoyable the work is.

“We work towards building a strong, committed, and diverse team, which will subsequently control and guide the transformative effects of the core team says Ian. Also, as the Captain of the ship, I bear the burden of taking tough decisions regarding the abilities of the workforce, gauging whether an individual has the motivation to make the journey. We foster female empowerment in our culture and ensure that everyone has the chance to share their ideas. I believe it is vital for management to be visible and approachable. Thus, I run the company with an open-door policy and spend time talking to my team members and customers. In order to facilitate our continuous development, it is important for us to have weekly meetings to ensure every team member is on the same page. These meetings have proven to be a cornerstone of our success as a team and make sure we share one common vision and goal for the company.”

Futuristic World

The industry won’t standstill. Nor will the customers. To stay ahead one has to be creative. Yes, Cellcard has created a buzz and built a demand for its 4G services. The telecom company has been quick to predict the demand for the future and is already working towards creating 5G services. All of these are just the beginning. A leader like Cellcard needs to maintain the pace and ensure it keeps servicing the growing demand and providing new products and services as customers’ data needs evolve.

“I see myself continuing to build what I believe to be one of the best and biggest telecommunications companies in the global marketplace. There is no end in sight for what we can achieve in the future. We are planning to introduce the best services across the world at affordable prices. We are preparing a huge number of new innovative products and services ready for the digital world. Our focus will soon shift to 5G services to deliver superfast broadband, premium, and priority broadband products for the full range of Consumer and Enterprise segments.”

Words of Wisdom:“Build a good team’. You’re only as good as the team that you have. Make sure every day you spend time mentoring and building team spirit and a good rapport. To guide them, to help them, and also to learn from them. I’m not a guy who knows the answer to everything. I learn new stuff every day from the team. They come to me with new ideas, new ways of doing things. So what I give as a takeaway is the key to building a successful company is bonding and working with the right people around you.”


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