Big Interview

Michel Guyot, Tata Communications: Taking the lead

The next generation of wholesale needs good leaders, combining vision with operational aptitude, says Michel Guyot, president of global voice solutions at Tata Communications. But what sort of landscape will they be operating in?

Wholesale telecoms was never seen as sexy. But it remains as rich a seam of opportunity as ever for the right carrier, believes Michel Guyot, president of global voice solutions at Tata Communications.

“Wholesale comes with its challenges too,” he admits. “They are challenges that are always changing as the market evolves. It is certainly a more fragmented market than it used to be, thanks to the multitude of devices that are now in use, the multiple network layers out there, traffic that’s on-net, then off-net and then on-net again, and all without people even being aware of it.”

Tata Communications’ service provider customers must battle to keep up with their customers, says Guyot, not least because of the multitude of apps they flit between. But Guyot believes it is this very complexity that crucially affects and informs the wholesale world and ensures its relevance to the communications world. In fact, the very complexity of the customer needs of tomorrow play well with the strengths of a wholesaler like Tata Communications, he claims.

“Cloud, social media, Big Data and video all have implications for how capacity is used and how customer expectations can be met,” he says. “We’re also seeing changing patterns in terms of where video originates and is consumed. It can be produced in the developed world and watched in the developing world, or produced in Asia or Latin America and consumed in the US.”

Platform diversity
The most basic value that a wholesaler can offer is to ensure the interoperability, security and efficiency of multiple solutions, says Guyot: “To do this, wholesale must adapt to the changing landscape and not simply stay as a conduit for cheap voice minutes. Wholesalers must create platforms that others can use – service providers, OTTs or others.”

Traditional wholesale no longer represents an opportunity for the future, and wholesalers must therefore change their approach to business, he believes.

“At Tata Communications we, for example, have taken what we offer on the voice side and have evolved it into ‘voice business apps’,” he says. “What we offer now is a hosted, managed suite of applications that voice providers can use easily. A new operator that perhaps does not have the scale to build from scratch can now plug and play and get access to all sorts of services, like billing and routing. In this way, a wholesaler can shift from connectivity provider to solution provider, all while allowing their customers to better control their business operations.”

Guyot says he continues to be inspired by the possibilities for technological innovation: “I’m always amazed at how the world just gets more and more connected,” he muses. “We’ve seen the growth of M2M, but now we’re going beyond that, to O2O or object to object. It’s not just about machines any more. Sensors can now be fitted to so many things, bringing them onto the network. I was watching TV yesterday and they were talking about putting a sensor in the car to monitor how you drive and basing your insurance premium on that.”

Guyot cites wearable technology as another advance that is moving out of the testing laboratory and into people’s lives at incredible speed: “We’ll soon have technology that will be able to transmit information to your doctor,” he enthuses. “In future, there will be no need to visit a doctor’s office. There’s been talk about all this for years, and now it’s here.”

But where does this leave carriers? Are they marginalised by all this innovation? Guyot thinks not.

“All this represents an opportunity for a connectivity provider like us,” he says. “Carriers will play their part in how the internet evolves and how it can divide into different corridors for special functions. I’m an optimist, but even so I don’t know what all the opportunities are. But I do know that ultimately everything is about connectivity. Wholesalers can play their part in many ways, for example in building sector-specific applications.”

Not all carriers will be equal going forwards though. You need to be a global carrier to be assured of a future, believes Guyot: “A global carrier can deliver the interoperability that’s needed,” he says. “That’s a job for someone like us. The function of a company like Apple is create an ecosystem, and then what we do is to bring all the different ecosystems together, bridging different infrastructures. A global carrier like Tata Communications can connect the digital and voice technologies to create new real time communication ecosystems.”

Leadership material

Ushering in the next era of wholesale telecommunications will require vision and leadership. So what does Guyot think are the qualities required of such leaders? What does a successful senior manager in wholesale look like?

“I think personally that to be a strong manager you need a strong team,” he believes. “If, as a leader, you sit down with your team and find that you’re the brightest person in the room, then you’ve got a big problem. As a leader, you are merely one piece in a much bigger puzzle. It’s been my privilege to work with many great people, and if I’ve been at all successful then it’s largely because of that. The essence of leadership is the ability to put people together and create a multiplier effect, with different members of the team complementing each other.”

Guyot describes himself as “a practical person who also sometimes has ideas”. He believes a balance between inspiration and the more practical side of management is useful.

“I think as a leader you are either a visionary or an operational expert,” he suggests. “What’s really needed is a balance between those two poles. Steve Jobs was a visionary for Apple, but was he a great manager? A leader motivates a team and builds a common vision, and that’s something that you develop over time. You don’t wake up with it in the morning.”

This interview originally appeared alongside the findings from the 2014 Capacity Confidence, Innovation and Leadership survey. The full findings can be read

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