Top 5 ways telcos can adapt to the virtual cultural shift

Top 5 ways telcos can adapt to the virtual cultural shift

Top 5 ways telcos can adapt to the virtual cultural shift

 

5th of May 2020

Telecommunications today is more essential than ever. Data and mobility have taken on a pivotal role across sectors like healthcare, education, transportation, smart cities, oil and gas, utilities, and more. Now, there is unprecedented demand on networks with cultural shifts due to the pandemic. Given the unpredictability of the future, and with many companies considering the possibility of permanently adopting remote work, the focus is directed to network contingency plans. One thing is clear: service providers with digitally advanced systems will adapt more easily to this cultural shift. And to enhance their systems, these are the top five factors they need to focus on:

Maintain high-performing and scalable networks

More people around the world are working from home due to lockdowns, and those isolating and in quarantine are spending more time on high-bandwidth streaming services such as Netflix, Youtube, and other entertainment channels, further increasing the network load. To serve this surge in demand and long-term cultural shift, telcos must invest in robust AAA infrastructure that is highly available, scalable, and stateless. Operators facing network challenges can transform AAA seamlessly and virtually, ensuring zero impact on their existing IT systems and integrations.

Automate workflows and processes

As their customers do more from home, telcos should also aim to reduce manual and in-person touchpoints. An advanced digital business support systems (BSS) stack helps automate business processes, including complex and repetitive tasks, freeing up network resources, and minimizing errors. Telcos can create, launch, deliver, and manage communications services entirely through a digital-first customer experience, keeping them ahead of the competition. Operators can introduce innovative plans, bonus policies, cashbacks, and targeted offers on-the-fly as the market evolves. Increased digitalization and personalization keeps customers engaged and loyal to the brand.

Digital transformation facilitates rapid implementation and customization as it possesses the following features:

  • Cloud-native services
  • Open APIs and standardized workflows
  • Automated provisioning, fulfillment, testing, chatbots
  • Microservice architecture

In addition, better internal processes and automated workflows mean higher productivity and efficiency in interacting with customers and vendors, while maintaining high operational excellence.

Deliver a digitally-advanced experience

It is crucial for telcos to adopt a digital-first approach to their business, not only because the majority of young consumers prefer interacting with brands through smartphones or online, but long-term cultural shifts due to the pandemic demand a rapid change to conducting business and serving customers virtually.

For example, customers prefer visual assistance to solve their problems. Vodafone has capitalized on this and uses the power of video to relieve the burden on their call centers that used to receive a staggering 5.2 million calls for technical assistance per year. They are now able to resolve customer issues remotely using AI and AR, helping their agents interpret and visually guide the customer, resulting in faster and more accurate problem resolution.

The main areas of focus for digitalization include:

  • Shift in-store customer experience to a digital channel
  • Reduce physical contact through virtual troubleshooting
  • Automate customer touchpoints to improve customer experience
  • Have IT systems that can support the cultural shift

Provide omnichannel support

With an increasing number of digital channels and a growing focus on customer experience, operators need to adopt an omnichannel strategy to keep pace with the expectations of customers. And its applications are two-fold.

For one, omnichannel engagement options extend a seamless, consistent, and unified shopping experience to customers across all touchpoints, whether they are shopping on the operator’s portal or through an online marketplace, physical stores, product catalogs, social media platforms, or chatbots.

Second, omnichannel self-care plays a significant role in the operator’s customer experience strategy, helping customers to play an active role in managing their accounts. Customers can manage their plans and services, create friends and family groups for special calling rates, and control data usage. The added transparency and increased ability to monitor accounts improves customer satisfaction and helps build trust. Automated and intelligent interactions through the web, mobile, and multiple social media channels further enhance the digital experience and empower customers with:

  • Automated digital onboarding
  • Simplified purchases
  • Automated support
  • Multiple payment modes
  • Swift complaint redressal
  • Gifting options
  • Parental controls

Move to SaaS to relieve IT

With the long-term shift to working virtually, a huge strain is put on a company’s IT infrastructure. SaaS software can relieve a huge burden on the IT infrastructure and ensure connectivity and reliability. One of the top priorities for all service providers must be shifting their infrastructure to the cloud because it lets them focus on digitization opportunities with limited investment. SaaS BSS architecture provides the telco with advanced modules, preconfigured fixed and mobile broadband plans, and 24×7 managed service operations, while a dedicated customer success manager ensures faster return on investment and reduced time-to-market. It also helps with reduced expenditure on hardware, infrastructure, maintenance, and more. The SaaS solution helps operators rapidly transform and adapt their business to modern technology trends that facilitate back-office process automation and digitize customer experience for their staff and subscribers.

Conclusion

To capitalize on cultural shifts and surging demand in data, telecom providers need to concentrate on a digital makeover, either as a complete network overhaul or a phased digital transformation. This includes not just offering better network capabilities but also implementing innovative tools and strategies to enable process automation and enhanced customer experience. Service providers must consider investing in digital technologies to build next-gen offerings and streamline business and IT operations, using SaaS software and agile methodologies to analyze and understand overall market demands, business requirements, customer data, and real-time delivery needs. It’s certain there is opportunity for companies to evolve in these challenging times.

Anand Ramani

Anand Ramani

Director R&D

A senior professional with more than 20 years of experience in the telecom BSS domain, Anand is passionate about adapting newer technologies and building digital products. He heads the company’s R&D activities for core products such as Digital BSS, WiFi, and AAA.

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Why every telco’s CX strategy should include omnichannel self-care

Why every telco’s CX strategy should include omnichannel self-care

Why every telco’s CX strategy should include omnichannel self-care

 

25th of February 2020

What do customers want? This is a million-dollar question – customer experience (CX) tops the list of differentiators that will give communications service providers (CSPs) an edge – and the answer’s constantly evolving. What’s indisputable is that digital transformation has meant customers are savvier and more self-reliant than ever, and they expect more control over their accounts. They want to manage all facets of their accounts using the social platform/s and apps they find most convenient, not necessarily legacy channels like IVR. Most importantly, they will remain loyal to a service provider that delivers a simple, interactive, seamless, personalized, digital, omnichannel self-care experience.

Research reveals that companies with robust omnichannel engagement boast an 89% customer retention rate; for companies with weak omnichannel strategies, on the other hand, that number is merely 33%. And customer retention is only the tip of the iceberg. Offering omnichannel digital engagement also means increased automation, workforce optimization, lower marketing and sales spending, reduced burden on call centers, and accelerated inbound leads – all of which improve revenue.

The evolution of self-care

More conventional forms of self-care such as SMS, USSD, search options on the website and FAQs have been around for years, and almost all operators offer at least one of these. However, their scope is limited and they do not support personalized responses based on the customer’s unique issues. IVR with live agents and email support address this limitation, but resolving issues takes hours, sometimes days. Customers no longer want to wait indefinitely for a response from customer care agents. In fact, in a survey conducted by Nuance Communications, 67% of respondents prefer self-service versus speaking directly to a customer care representative.

Customers today expect their concerns to be addressed immediately and like to follow the progress of their requests in real-time. Modern self-care solutions let operators respond automatically, any time of day or night, using cost-efficient AI chatbots. These chatbots have the capability to converse in multiple languages, and they use NLP to recognize and demonstrate human emotion. They are available for channels like live chat, web self-care, mobile apps, popular voice assistants like Alexa and Google, social media platforms like Whatsapp, Skype, Viber, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Omnichannel experience means not only seamless switching but also smart channel integration, such as directing to IVR in a mobile app when customers are unable to solve problems and to follow-up when promised response times are exceeded. Customers can also choose between a chatbot and a live agent.

Self-care also includes advanced analytical tools that ensure a personalized experience for customers.

Some self-care operations include:

  • Digital self-onboarding with digital KYC
  • Number selection
  • Personalizing plans
  • Activating connections
  • Purchasing add-ons
  • Paying bills, even for others
  • Gifting and sharing balances
  • Viewing and managing rewards points
  • Real-time proactive alerts and notifications
  • Managing family members and parental controls

Of course, implementing modern self-care is enhanced by a modern digital BSS that defines automated workflows for each type of request, and can keep customers up to speed with the progress of their complaint through notifications on multiple channels.

How customer self-sufficiency spells success

Modern automated self-care may be considered a customer-focused offering, but operators benefit just as much as their subscribers do. It significantly reduces costs compared to phone-based self-service. Recent statistics show the benefits of AI-powered chatbots versus traditional IVR systems in resolving customer queries:

  • 80% of routine questions are answered by chatbots, freeing up agents for more productive work
  • 30% reduction in customer service costs
  • 50% decrease in call volume

And early entrants are already seeing results. Vodafone Italy, for instance, has reported that after introducing its conversational chatbot, 66% of its customer contacts were automated, reducing human contact, lowering the average number of times a customer contacted them by 15%, and 19% year-on-year reduction in customer operations costs.

Top 6 benefits of omnichannel self-care for operators

Automated Processes
Modern self-care means automation, and automation means lower costs. Chatbots and automated self-care reduce customer calls to CSRs, lowering call center operational costs. Automated self-onboarding lets customers use their mobile devices to create an account, upload their KYC documents, sign an e-contract, activate services, and track delivery of their SIM. The entire process can be completed in just a few minutes and is paperless, reducing costs and simplifying customer acquisition. By accelerating inbound leads, operators can optimize their workforce, allowing them to focus on other aspects of the business.

Easy Account Management
Customers can keep track of their digital interactions and self-manage their accounts, including plans, services, and groups, which reduces reliance on CSRs and/or walk-ins to physical stores. Further, this feature increases transparency, improving customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Personalized Promotions and Offerings
Intelligent analytics and machine-learning techniques aid in subscriber profiling and monitoring conversion rates, content usage trends and network activity. Detailed insights into the customer’s behavior and preferences enable operators to promote offers tailored to the subscriber’s needs. CSPs receive detailed reports about the percentage of customers who like or dislike offers proposed to them and can also determine which customers are happy with their network offerings. These insights, when further processed, are often converted into mobile campaigns and help operators in targeting customers effectively on a large scale, helping reduce sales and marketing costs.

Easy Purchases and Payments
Contextual advertisements help target the right customers. UI-focused self-care also displays all available services, offers, and promotions clearly, making it easier and quicker for customers to make purchases and renewals. And the purchasing experience is simplified by offering multiple payment options using secure payment gateways. Consumption data enables tracking customer groups that are high-maintenance versus those that can serve themselves, those who are price-sensitive, those who upgrade their plans frequently, and so on. With these reports, operators can offer incentives and discounts, and implement cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

Customer-Centric Use Cases
Customer-centric offerings put the customer in the driver’s seat, enabling them to purchase plans, top-ups, value-added services like unlimited and tiered plans, bandwidth on demand, data gifting, parental controls, personalized incentives, loyalty rewards, and more. Having more control over their accounts boosts customer experience both before and after the sale and drives repeat business, ensuring customer loyalty and improving overall business growth.

Multichannel and Multilingual Support
The importance of enabling customers to engage with their service providers using their platform and language of choice cannot be stressed enough. Customers can address queries and ensure swift complaint redressal, as well as receive proactive alerts and notifications, through the channel that’s most convenient for them. And while this enhances customer experience, it also reducing reliance on more conventional methods like CSRs and physical stores, helping reduce sales, marketing, and operational costs.

Differentiation and Personalization are Key

To conclude, service differentiation not only includes delivery and customer service but also letting subscribers access, manage and configure plans or services from anywhere and on any device, through an experience that’s been customized based on their needs and preferences. Omnichannel self-care stands out amongst the top offerings for operators to stay ahead of the competition.

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Product Owner, Digital BSS

Pankaj Garg is a telecom and FinTech expert with over 14 years of experience in the software industry. Handling digital BSS offerings is among the many hats he wears at Alepo. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

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Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

 

10th of February 2020

One thing is certain in 2020: if telcos want to embrace new technologies that promise to revolutionize the industry, they will need to invest in infrastructure that enables them to support and monetize these technologies. According to a recent global EY report, telcos will pump more into overhauling their conventional IT infrastructure, making digital transformation a major driver this year.

This new infrastructure paves the way for a host of advanced customer-focused technologies: 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), to name a few. Which ones are right for you and how can you maximize your chances of success? There’s no one answer: the key is finding the right mix of offering relevant to your market and context.

 

mobile money profitability

An analysis from Telecoms CAPEX: Worldwide Trends and Forecasts 2017-2025 shows that digitalization and 5G will be the key drivers affecting CAPEX growth.

Technologies transforming telecom

Here’s a roundup of the year’s biggest trends and what they could mean for you:

5G
Higher speeds and lower latency mean that 5G supports use cases like immersive content (augmented reality, virtual reality) and high-resolution video, helping CSPs deliver an unmatched customer experience to gain a competitive edge. As 5G progresses towards large-scale commercial viability, service providers have begun trials of new use cases, and the results are encouraging them to readily adopt the next-gen technology. As more devices and use cases become viable, the revenue potential continues to grow along with the need for flexible IT systems to support them.

Cloud Computing
Cloud computing in the telecom sector relies heavily on the adoption of data and logic separation principles, SDN/NFV, DevOps, microservices, and more. It gives telcos the flexibility to acquire the corresponding services – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), which extensively increases scalability, standardization, self-service automation, and reduces operational costs. Telecom players should adapt their IT processes and prepare for related security implications such as identity theft, unauthorized access, relinquished governance and compliance policies, data security and breach of privacy, as well as inconsistency across on-premise and cloud platforms. A recent Telecoms.com report predicts that 5G will mean wide-scale adoption of edge computing. The market is quickly evolving from a centralized to a distributed cloud, and it is expected that this year, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be processed outside of centralized data centers.

Artificial Intelligence
From virtual assistants and chatbots to knowledge engineering, smart machines, and autonomous vehicles, AI has the potential to replicate human cognitive capabilities. It will help telecom service providers offer a transformational customer experience while they manage, optimize, and monetize their infrastructure using different business models. Use cases include network optimization, predictive maintenance, virtual assistants, RPA, and many more.

Blockchain
Blockchain is a gamechanger for securely conducting business with third-parties while reducing costs and increasing revenue. CSPs can leverage blockchain to offer new services using tamperproof transaction management and automated contracting. Applications include 5G enablement, mobile financial services, data management, fraud management, identity management, instantaneous connectivity and transaction, IoT connectivity, number portability, roaming, and more.

Internet of Things
IoT will, in conjunction with 4G and 5G, change how people communicate and interact with technologies opening up new revenue streams for service providers. It is an essential part of capturing and transmitting data to power smart city use cases like smart lighting, smart grids, heating, and lighting. Telcos are applying IoT to home automation and wearable devices to enhance their overall customer experiences. In the coming years, IoT smart sensors will be implemented in gaming environments, healthcare, personal fitness goals, sports, and more.

Cyber Resilience
The telecom industry has always been the most vulnerable target for cyberattacks given the vast amounts of sensitive data stored on various complex networks. A few years ago, for instance, one of the more significant attacks compromised the personal details of 157,000 TalkTalk customers. 5G brings its own set of security threats, and telcos need to prepare for any kind of direct or indirect cyber attack. This means building adequate IT infrastructure and pairing it with talent and processes to support resiliency. Effective cybersecurity must include the implementation of threat detection, incident response methods, and prevention methods.

How to seize these opportunities

Start your digital transformation journey now

A recent report predicts that the OSS/BSS market is expected to grow from USD 2.77 billion in 2019 to USD 8.78 billion by 2026, indicating a significant potential for telcos to support diverse digital services than limited traditional services. To ensure successful digital transformation, CSPs need to upgrade to digital BSS, which can be implemented in phases to pace out investment. This helps operators seize data opportunities as the market evolves and ensures quick time-to-market, monetization, and smooth management of the latest communications services. A next-gen digital BSS stack also facilitates high-value 5G use cases, including IoT (management and offers), and experience-based charging.

Invest in 5G infrastructure
As 5G permeates, mobile operators will need to invest significantly in 5G infrastructure to deliver high data speed, low latency, and to support billions of connected devices. Besides the billions being spent on 5G RAN, the 5G Core is an important investment. 5G Core with cloud-native features expands the service capabilities of telcos; provides scalability and agility; supports 5G network protocols including extensive use of REST APIs and eases migration to service-based architecture.

Ensure strict regulatory policies
According to Statista.com, the number of devices connected to the IoT is expected to reach 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025. IoT-enabled networks are more vulnerable to major cyber invasions and crimes. Insufficiently protected devices such as laptops, tablets, routers, webcams, smartwatches, automobiles, and home security systems can be turned into weapons by hackers, cybercriminals, or hostile organizations and states, so it’s essential to implement adequate cybersecurity measures.

Overcome network coverage issues
Having reliable 5G network coverage will require a massive investment of time and finances. Operators can resolve network coverage issues by taking these measures:

Infrastructure sharing alleviates network coverage issues and helps operators deliver better connectivity and network performance by pooling resources to maximize coverage buildout.

The open radio access network (O-RAN) movement is separating the software and physical layers of RAN, eliminating vendor lock-in and allowing budgets to go much further in procuring equipment.

Network monitoring tools remain a powerful mechanism to resolve network issues. These tools provide real-time alerts to the concerned teams when there is downtime, device unavailability, performance issues, or any deviation from an accepted network baseline. Further, network configuration management tools help track any changes in settings and send alerts in case of unauthorized changes while providing a mechanism to roll back to earlier settings.

Also, Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi)/WiFi Calling helps overcome the challenges faced by subscribers due to poor or no network coverage. VoWiFi helps customers make calls and remain always-connected, increasing the quality of services and customer experience.

Automate inventory management
One of the major challenges operators face with 5G is managing billions of IoT devices. Further, with evolving technologies, the CSPs having diverse partnerships require constant efforts to manage and allocate resources and inventory. Inefficient management could lead to complicated and faulty invoices, increased risk of fraud, data breaches, insecure network endpoints, and revenue losses. To avoid these complications, CSPs should have a universal system with legacy and new automated inventory tools, which also maintain an inventory of virtual networking components and logical networks like network slices. Subsequently, deploying a next-gen inventory management system provides real-time inventory information with factual and predictive data, helping make quick allocation decisions that ensure the conservation of investment and help gain an edge over competitors.

Manage partnerships efficiently
CSPs need real-time billing and policy control capabilities to seize and monetize opportunities that all-IP 5G means new devices, use cases, partnerships, business models. This calls for diverse partnerships inherent in wholesale and 5G networks. With growing complexities of managing diverse partners, it multiplies the challenges to efficiently manage several partners like wholesale, interconnect and roaming partners, OTT/content players, distributors, MVNO, affiliates, and agents. Deploying end-to-end partner management and settlement solution (PMSS) helps operators smoothly and flawlessly manage the complete partner lifecycle and support distinct agreement policies, revenue models, and settlement modes. PMSS plays a vital role in the 5G business and has the highest potential to launch innovative 5G billing use cases like network slicing, device-based experiences, converged offerings, and more.

Digitize customer experience
A Walker study suggests that by 2020, customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Enhancing and digitizing the customer experience should top the list for every forward-thinking telco. 5G and IoT will likely emerge as the new battleground, with operators keen to employ new digital business models. And as expectations cross industry boundaries, telcos must remain focused on redefining the CX with more innovation, such as deploying AI-based tools and omnichannel support.

Be prepared for what’s next

5G is expected to significantly change the face of telecommunications. The three main use cases of 5G – Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine-type Communications (mMTC), and Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) – promise to deliver superfast wireless connectivity, lower latency, and digital innovations. And while it is expected to revolutionize the customer experience, 5G will stimulate the demand for next-gen devices, adding to severe network densification. With this forecast, CSPs have huge revenue potential from their retail and enterprise clients by digitalizing the customer experience. Additionally, they can offer B2B and B2C clients an enhanced spectrum of services such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and a host of other leading-edge next-gen services. Operators can unveil the monetization opportunities that 5G promises and achieve a high-level of orchestration and automation with a robust 5G Core solution along with a modern digital BSS stack.

Rani Shanmugam

Rani Shanmugam

Marketing Content Writer

Long story short, Rani writes about the workings of telecom networks. Short story long, she has a rich and diverse background as a developer, business analyst, and technical writer for broad-spectrum solutions across various industries, and is now focused on telecommunications marketing. She unwinds by painting with her toddler son and loves to whip up elaborate meals fit for a feast.

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How digital BSS can be turned into a telecom business profit generator

How digital BSS can be turned into a telecom business profit generator

How digital BSS can be turned into a telecom business profit generator

23rd of October 2019

We all know that functionalities such as billing, rating and charging, customer experience, customer care, CRM, fulfillment, and revenue management are handled by Business Support Systems (BSS). A digital BSS stack goes beyond these functions to facilitate enabling, monetizing and managing a new class of digital services and partner collaboration. It helps transform a communications service provider (CSP) into a digital service provider (DSP) and is essential for the transition to 5G. Here, we analyze how a robust growth-enabling digital BSS solution can become a profit generator.

Predicting customer churn

Telecom companies can leverage advanced analytics to seek value from data residing in the BSS, OSS, and CRM, among others. By leveraging data gathered from customer usage, transactions, complaints, billing, and social media, predictive models can be built to identify potential churners. This, in turn, helps telecom companies roll out offers, promotions, and services to win and keep loyal customers.

Promoting a personalized customer experience

Digital users accept nothing short of unique, personalized experiences. By implementing a digital BSS stack, telecom companies can capture interaction data and create targeted customer interactions. Whether it is the need to address network issues, reward loyalty, or recommend offers, they can leverage AI and deep learning to meet real-time customer demands. Additionally, BSS data, network data, and performance data can be integrated to get a 360-degree view of the customer, giving them the necessary insights to create targeted offers that increase both ARPU and customer satisfaction.

Establishing innovative service lines

Cloud-based services are an increasingly important part of any provider’s offerings. Not only is their appeal becoming clear to consumers, but businesses are increasingly utilizing cloud-based services to enable ease of communication to employees across the globe. A robust BSS offering allows operators to bundle cloud-based services into more traditional offerings easily, ensuring that providers can both increase ARPU and be seen as innovative operators.

Promoting agility and increased efficiency

A robust BSS solution that is itself cloud-based can offer businesses the agility necessary to support emerging technologies. For IoT and M2M systems, for example, a cloud-based BSS allows providers to effectively sync and juggle the multitude of partnerships entailed in these complex new systems. As emerging business opportunities emphasize agility in a shifting and complex marketplace, a cloud-based BSS solution presents the only way to allow businesses to manage and create partnerships and products the instant opportunities arise.

In a rapidly evolving marketplace, characterized by shifts in technology and consumer lifestyle, successful companies will seize opportunities the moment they arise. In order to do so, they must utilize a BSS solution that can effectively extract insights from network intelligence by leveraging real-time data analytics, allowing providers to identify and respond to market trends as soon as they arise.

Retaining profitable customers

The cost of acquiring new customer accounts is substantial. Service providers need time to recover these acquisition costs, making it important to retain profitable customers now more than ever. And to do so, it is vital that providers have a complete view of customer habits and history. By integrating BSS and OSS applications, telecom companies can gain a comprehensive view of the customer to make convergent billing, tiered rates, and applicable discounts possible. This way, it becomes easy to analyze the value that customers bring to the business. This empowers the service provider to differentiate offers.

Constantly enhancing average revenue per user

The constant demand to improve ARPU drives telcos to deliver new services that meet customer demands. By integrating customer-facing systems, specifically BSS, with the other systems as well as service delivery mechanisms, telecom companies can inject speed into the launch of new services.

Whether it is a need to accelerate service provisioning, introduce innovative service lines or enhance the customer experience to enhance the bottom line, telcos can leverage a robust and modernized BSS to make these objectives a reality.

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Product Owner, Digital BSS

Pankaj Garg is a telecom and FinTech expert with over 14 years of experience in the software industry. Handling digital BSS offerings is among the many hats he wears at Alepo. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

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