Mark MacGann is VEON’s Group Chief Corporate & Public Affairs Officer and leads the Group’s Communications, Regulatory and Government Affairs functions. Before joining VEON (former VimpelCom), Mark was Senior Board Advisor and Head of Public Policy EMEA at Uber, where he built and led Uber’s public policy organization across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In prior roles, Mark led government affairs and public policy for the New York Stock Exchange, as Senior Vice President, Head of Government Affairs & Public Advocacy.
He has also headed global and regional government affairs functions at Alcatel, the global telecom technology provider, and was an associate partner in New York, London and Paris offices of Brunswick Group. Mark holds degrees in politics and economics from the Insitut d’Etudes Politiques, France and Kingston University, London.
BR Research sat down with Mr. Mark MacGann and Jazz Team in Lahore after the launch of VEON to understand platform and its objectives. Edited excerpts from the conversation are provided below:
BR Research: What made you launch VEON in Pakistan?
Mark MacGann: Jazz has a vision to digitize Pakistan, and VEON is a manifestation of that journey. We want to bring technology that is adoptable and user friendly, and VEON aims to bring that to its customers. Coming to a country with a population of over 190 million is an opportunity in itself.
We thought it was about time a service like this was brought to the market, where Internet usage is becoming an integral part of the lifestyle. We truly believe that VEON platform is a tool for digital empowerment of Pakistani people, especially the younger population. And since internet penetration in Pakistan is one of the lowest in Asia, VEON can actually help the country address this issue.
Also, it made sense to come here because Jazz, the largest and the leading telecom service provider, is part of the VEON Group, one of the world’s largest integrated communications and technology company.
BRR: Could you please elaborate what exactly is VEON and what kind of disruption are you bringing to the market? How different is VEON from WhatsApp or other such communication apps?
MM: VEON will be Pakistan’s most advanced personalised internet platform that has just been launched by Jazz’s parent company, VEON Limited. Jazz is VEON’s first telco partner, but it is a nonexclusive partnership.
VEON is not just communication application. It is a complete platform. We promise to completely revolutionise the digital landscape of the country and how Pakistanis communicate. We aim to disrupt the market and redefine the personal internet experience by offering diverse services to our subscribers like access to information and services and engage with the world even when they are out of balance. VEON will create its unique position in the market in the months and years to come.
BRR: Do you see VEON spurring the 3G/4G subscriber base growth that has somewhat hit a plateau?
MM: With so much competition and media scrutiny, which is desirable, we are very cautious with metrics and giving projections. This platform will lock in the customer base that we have and lead to greater customer loyalty. Our ambition is to develop a complete internet ecosystem in the country. So yes, VEON will be a great boost in terms of customer stickiness and in terms of attracting other cellular subscriber to our platform.
BRR: Mobile financial services are picking up staggeringly in Pakistan. Can VEON help in addressing the financial inclusion issue?
MM: I absolutely think VEON can. For a country where banking infrastructure does not serve the entire nation and only 15 percent of the population have bank accounts, there is always an opportunity. Pakistan is one of the leading nations of the world in mobile financial services, and Jazz is already a strong player there. Already through Jazz Cash Mobile Wallet, 8 million people are empowered to transact without a bank account. And Jazz Cash Mobile Wallet is already integrated with VEON.
How will VEON help in bringing services to the unbanked? It will streamline and simplify the procedures by providing a single platform to the customers where they can manage their accounts make payments, access their data, etc. Hence, the platform will act as a catalyst to boost the efforts of a great solution that already exists. We are lucky that with biometric verification system, the mobile financial services have become one of the most secure financial mechanisms based on identity. And we would like to replicate the success here to some of the other markets as well.
BRR: When you say that VEON can partner with other cellular services, how will Jazz keep abreast with the competition?
MM: Partnering with VEON is open to every mobile service company. From Jazz’s parent company point of view, Jazz has already invested in the best network in Pakistan, and continues to invest. It has successfully completed a transformational merger in the sector where the company is trying to provide better service. In addition – thanks to the Pakistani government – we have divested our tower portfolio. We get to reinvest a lot of the proceeds from the divestment - around a billion dollar. So Jazz without VEON will continue to be the market leader, and VEON will be one of the strongest components, but not the only component.