Adlan Tajudin: How edotco will grow to at least 70,000 sites by 2025
CEO recaps 2021 and looks ahead to share towercos ambitious strategy to more than double site count.
TowerXchange: Please can you introduce yourself and your path to becoming CEO of edotco Group?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: I spent nine years in Indonesia as CFO of PT XL Axiata, before joining edotco. In my role at XL, I obviously got quite familiar with the tower business, although from an MNO standpoint. We did a number of tower transactions over those nine years and sold 9,000 of the 10,000 sites in XL’s portfolio, in three separate deals.
Clearly, during my time at XL, I was able to really grasp the benefits of infrastructure sharing from the MNO perspective as well as their pain points. Now that I am on the towerco side, this experience and understanding enables me to better serve our customers, defining a strategy that will add value and deliver results.
While at XL, I also played a key role in the XL and Axis merger in 2014 and the successful integration of the operations. Another area I was heavily involved in during my time at the operator was in driving our operational excellence initiatives, working towards a lower cost structure and driving the cost per GB down.
Prior to my role with XL, I served in various roles at Celcom, starting at the company in 2003 before transitioning to CFO in 2005 and then to CCO in 2008. During my tenure there, I was responsible in managing the enterprise business, strategy, regulatory, international business, partnership, product innovation, devices and content. Earlier in my career I also worked at Arthur Andersen & Co in Assurance and Business Advisory.
TowerXchange: Can you introduce the management team supporting you?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: edotco’s leadership team brings a wide range of experience and skills to the table. Annis Sheikh Mohamed serves as CFO and holds relevant experience not only from his previous role with Axiata as Chief Corporate Development Officer but also with Citibank and Macquarie.
Gayan Koralage is our Director of Strategy, and is one of the pioneering members of edotco Group. Gayan is responsible for long term strategy, pricing and master lease agreements, analytics and our entrance into new markets. He has 20 years’ experience in Axiata Group in corporate finance, business transformations and M&A. (Gayan is joining TowerXchange Dragon's Den - find out more by looking at the agenda)
Ramon Chelvarajasingam is the company’s Chief People Officer – a role I see as particularly key as people are our number one asset. Ramon joined edotco in 2019 following a career with PwC, helping organisations towards their path to being an employer of choice. Megat Mohd.
Megat Mohd. Zukarlai Meor Zailan is our Director of Commercial and Abdul Yazid Kassim is edotco’s Director of Group Engineering and Technology.
Azizee Abdul Aziz is our Director of IT and Operations, today IT is becoming a very important aspect in our operation as we move further into digitisation and automation in a bid to drive efficiencies across our operations.
We also have a few new faces to the management committee team - Azzahraa Annuar joined us as Director, Group Risk, Regulatory and Compliance, Anthony Kersauson as Director, Group Mergers and Acquisitions as well as Kevin Chong, Director, Group Digital and Analytics.
Our team furthermore includes two Chief Regional Officers. Phillip Wong covers ASEAN North countries; and Wan Zainal Adileen is our CRO for ASEAN South, which includes Malaysia and the Philippines. Part of the role of the CRO is identifying and opening up opportunities in new markets for us, and they also manage a team of Country Managers responsible for running operations in our existing markets.
TowerXchange: What is your strategic vision for the company?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: We aim to be among the world’s top five towercos over the next three to five years. This is a bold ambition which requires us to take a leap from more than 24,000 sites we are at today*, to at least 70,000 by 2025.
Our strategy is to blend organic growth, through BTS and colocations, with carving out towers from MNOs in existing markets as well as opening up new markets. Our strategy is to blend organic growth, through BTS and co-locations, with carving out towers from MNOs in existing markets as well as opening up new markets.
On top of this we want to be the towerco of choice, delivering value to our customers in terms of price, efficiency and productivity, working with MNOs to enhance their revenue generation potential. We want to be the first towerco that MNOs want to work with, and we are working hard to develop our brand and earn that position.
We also want to be the leader in innovation. We are currently looking at digitising and automating our processes, enabling new technologies and rationalising our capex and opex as much as possible. We are investing heavily in this area as we believe this is going to be one of the key drivers for us, improving the efficiency of our operations, delivering more value to our customers and offering the lowest cost structure of all our competitors.
A core priority for edotco is to be a global sustainability champion. This includes our goal to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2023 as well as planting 50,000 trees by then. So far, we have planted more than 38,000 trees so we are on the right path.</p?
*TowerXchange league table reports owned and managed sites so figures may vary
TowerXchange: 2025 isn’t that far away. What are the most imminent priorities to achieve your targets?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: The pandemic has shown that although mobile data usage has experienced significant growth, MNOs have struggled to cope with the demand due to dark spots in suburban and rural areas. People have been working from home in these areas for the past year but underinvestment in the network has caused challenges for operators to keep up. As a leading telecommunications infrastructure provider, edotco’s first and foremost priority is to connect the unconnected and under-connected population within our footprint.
We are predicting a post pandemic boom for all economic sectors, and this would benefit the telecommunications industry due to the pandemic highlighting an increased importance of having a robust mobile network - as demonstrated by the pandemic. The 5G network would represent new challenges for MNOs and towercos due to need for sites densification, increased power load, fiberisation of sites and a “five-nines” uptime (99.999%) before a 5G network could reach its full potential, hence building an effective next gen towerco would be our target to achieve and continuing delivering value to our stakeholders.
Despite data use increasing further in 2021, the pressure remains on MNOs to expand their network coverage and capacity while at the same time managing their costs. This in return has impacted the towerco industry with slower rollouts and increased commercial pressure from the MNOs. However, we do also observe that some markets are starting to experience an economic recovery, and are also restarting their 5G network rollout. This will present new opportunities for infrastructure rollout due to the need to expand coverage and capacity to cater for the 5G network.
Traditionally, towercos focused on towers, energy and co-locations, but the towerco of the future needs to look beyond passive infrastructure and focus on the opportunities available in the active space too. Fibre, antenna as a service, in-building solutions, small cells and site as a service (SaaS) are all dimensions and opportunities we are actively exploring.
edotco is also looking to complete our presence within the Southeast Asia and South Asia market by expanding into three new markets within the next few years. This expansion is necessary to ensure edotco continues to deliver scale and solidifying our foothold within the region and to solidify our position as the leading pan-Asian next gen towerco.
As edotco expands as a company, it's crucial we maintain operational excellence and operate as a data driven organisation. edotco is currently undergoing aggressive digitisation efforts to streamline our processes and deliver efficient and effective services to our customers. We collect a massive amount of data from our asset portfolio, and we are aiming to fully capitalise on this by using it to get a 360 degree view of the portfolio and site and revenue management. This will allow us more transparency and accuracy in our day-to-day operations.
edotco, as a responsible corporate citizen in our markets, is also committed to upholding ESG principles. edotco has recently been accepted as a signatory member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) as the first step towards fulfilling our ESG commitments. As a signatory, edotco will be supporting ten principles on human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption as part of the company’s strategy and culture moving forward. On the environmental aspect, edotco has deployed over 2,000 sites with solar hybrid solutions covering mainly our off-grid sites, planted more than 38,000 trees in our reforestation programs and performed Lithium battery replacement program as part of our green initiatives.
TowerXchange: How open are MNOs towards towercos getting more involved in the active side of networks?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: We foresee that towercos would naturally evolve to gain capabilities in the active infrastructure elements. Although such developments in acquiring capabilities and regulatory approvals to operate active elements are rare in the regions that we operate, we are seeing developments in the US and European markets, where towercos are evolving into infracos through acquisition of infrastructure companies with active elements and mass deployment of Small Cells. Being the leading pan-Asian towerco, edotco aims to be the pioneers in the active element of infrastructure in this region through active engagements with regulators and MNOs and at the same time building our capabilities.
Small cell, especially multi-tenanted and sharable small cells, would be a key focus for edotco to kickstart our journey into gaining capabilities to manage active network elements. We predict that small cells will be in high demand from our customers in the coming years due to the need for network densification and capacity increase in urban areas. Having sharable small cells would allow for a cost effective rollout model that would be a win-win situation for both edotco and our customers.
OpenRAN has also been gaining traction among the telecoms industry, and more MNOs are actively engaged in OpenRAN testing, including Axiata subsidaries across its footprint. OpenRAN would be a game changer as it would allow for the democratisation of the network and will significantly drive down the cost per GB for the MNOs.
TowerXchange: Do you see the competitive landscape changing as edotco explores new areas?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: I believe that many towercos are shifting towards becoming infracos and will populate this space in the years to come. New models might be established as well, as entrepreneurs and investors start eyeing opportunities in the sector. Investors are giving higher multiples to towercos and infracos, and so one can anticipate that this is an industry that a lot of people will look to venture into, hoping to make a quick gain.
We do expect this to become quite a competitive landscape moving forward but we are in this to stay and want to bring real value. We are investing in innovation, new technology, digitisation and automation - this will differentiate us from the rest. We can also mobilise operations rapidly in new markets, thanks to our expertise, standardised systems and processes, giving us a competitive advantage. On top of that, we are continuously working on upskilling and reskilling our team, to cater to our customers with always enhanced know-how and expertise.
TowerXchange: Do you see other forms of infrastructure becoming more significant than macro-towers for edotco in the future?
Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: Macro-towers are the backbone of our industry and will remain such no matter how technology evolves. But it’s inevitable that the industry is evolving and changing every day – with small cells, light poles and street infrastructure gaining in importance. Our anchor will always be macro-towers, but even the structure of this part of the business may change as technologies evolve.
In our mature markets we see other forms of infrastructure starting to play a more significant role, but it is important to remember that in other less developed countries, we are still rolling out 3G and 4G networks, rolling out macro-towers in the process. It’s paramount to remain relevant and adopt new solutions as I can foresee that overtime, they will become an increasingly important source of income for edotco and towercos as a whole.
Are you interested to hear more about edotco's journey in 2021 and Adlan's predictions for where the next few years will take the towerco? Make sure you join Meetup Asia 2021online between 6-10th December by registering now!