Building for a Brighter future

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Brightstar CEO Jaymin Patel tells Mobile News about his first year in the hot seat since replacing founder Marcelo Claure and how he is transforming the business

It’s been a very busy first year in charge for Brightstar CEO Jaymin Patel.

Twelve months ago, he sat before Mobile News in Barcelona just days after being unveiled as founder Marcelo Claure’s replacement – the ink on his business cards barely dry.

With a history in finance, most notably as president and chief executive for lottery firm GTECH, he was a virtual unknown, and by his own admittance, his knowledge of the mobile industry was limited.

Today, the impact of his appointment has reverberated from its Miami HQ around the 50 countries it operates in. For Patel is instigating arguably the firm’s biggest transformation since Claure set it up almost 20 years ago.

That transformation, as echoed by rival Ingram Micro, is designed to accelerate its transition away from its traditional distribution (box shifting) routes, to one focused on providing supply chain services across the mobile ecosystem.

Brightstar stand
Brightstar has shifted away from traditional distribution

Shifting resources
“This is long overdue,” Patel (pictured left) told Mobile News at the end of a busy day of meetings. “We are looking at every line of the business and asking ourselves why we have more resources in the parts of the business that don’t make any money and less resources in the parts that are very promising and make money. So it’s a shift in people into the higher growth areas.

“We are really trying to move the business to providing a whole range of mobile services to our carrier and retailer customers around the world. I’m trying to de-emphasise the importance of distribution in our business – because distribution is in decline. The margins and the value that the OEMs are willing to give us to distribute products is declining and has been for many years. So we hold all the capital, and you have low margins is not a very good business to be in.”

Retail focus
A large part of Brightstar’s strategy is centred heavily around retail, both online and in store. But this goes way beyond supply and logistics.

Examples include its Accessory Management and Vendor Managed Analytics services, designed to help customers select the right products to sell.

Patel said the firm uses its expertise and knowledge of the market to accurately forecast stock levels required, as well as reduce the risk of its partners buying stock – including handsets and accessories – which may not sell as well.
For example, Brightstar is working closely with US operator Sprint, headed up by Claure and owned by Brightstar parent SoftBank, to manage what handsets are sold in its stores.

Patel revealed they have reduced the number of models sold from around 50 to just 10 based on its analysis. The remaining 40 or so are instead available through its e-commerce store, and shipped directly from its warehouses overnight. Brightstar is also working closely with Vodafone in the UK to manage its entire accessory portfolio in store and online, a deal which is now in its third year.

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“I think distribution becomes a lot more relevant when we are providing supply chain services,” said Patel. “Supply chain services, for me, is all about how to order the right quantities of phones for the carrier, how do you range them in the store. It’s about making sure you have the proper sell through into the store, holding the right inventory levels, so you’re not holding too much working capital in the system and using technology to help push the right devices into retail points of sale.

“It is based on our knowledge of what products are selling around the world. You have to have immense collaboration with your customer because every region and every carrier is different. You have to be able to combine a physical inventory display with online availability. Just because you show 10 in store, doesn’t mean you only have 10. There’s a whole collaboration you need to have to define a strategy with your customer. That’s why you need to have people on the ground who know the industry and the market well to keep working day in day out.”

Sprint ahead
Another area being ramped up by Brightstar is its Mobile Lease Services  offering – which was again debuted through Sprint last year and is seeking opportunities around the world.

According to Patel, Sprint was the first operator in the world to begin offering the service, which essentially allows customers to rent a handset on a monthly deal, before returning it at the end of the contract.

The move has had a significant impact in America, with around 2.7 million customers now on its leasing plans, and helped Sprint post its first positive customer additions for the year (1.3 million) for the first time in six years.

“We are investing money in developing  and building on our leasing platform,” said Patel. “The technology platform which allows and enables the leases to be recorded is a Brightstar engine. We will be doing more work to make that available to more customers around the world.

“The impact it can have is huge. Marcelo announced they had added 1.3 million post pay subscriber in the last 12 months. That’s huge. These programmes are helping to revive growth in subscribers for Sprint and bring in some outside capital to fund the growth.”

International telecom veteran Benoit Scheen, who joined as its president of EMEA in October, confirmed he is seeking opportunities in Europe, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

“There are not many European carriers that offer leasing programmes, so the first thing is to convince them of the benefits to do so.”

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Consumer care
Brightstar has also teamed up with firm Mobile Care Experts (MCE) to offer additional services for consumers in stores when they have problems with their handsets, or needing help in transferring content to their new one.
Mobile News was given a demonstration of the service, which is controlled using a tablet in

Brightstar’s ‘Connected Store’ section of its stand. It showed how a device can be connected and receive a full diagnostic report on any faults, and can perform immediate remote repair.

Other service offered through MCE include content transfer – regardless of the model or OS – secure wipe, flashing, back up and restore and unlocking.
It is also working with a

Spanish company called Beabloo, which uses WiFi and video analytics to help enhance the customer experience and maximise selling opportunities.

The technology works by being able to detect a mobile phone (just the device, not the owner information), enabling it to study their whereabouts in the store (using heat maps) providing valuable feedback information regarding store layout and the most viewed products and for how long people spent there. In addition, customers will be targeted with specific digital marketing based on their movements within stores.

Screens will be displayed around stores, which will display information specifically based on what the individual customer had been viewing.

Beabloo is working with a number of customers already in the UK, including Asda and Sainsbury’s, although full details of each partnership was permitted.

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Brightstar’s ‘Connected Store’ gives a glimpse of the future of retail

Analytics
CEO and co-founder of the company Jaume Portell said: “With Analytics, Brightstar will know daily which parts of its stand receive the most visitors, where people stop for longer, and which products awaken the greatest interest.

“It will also know if there are recurring visits and more about how visitors enter and leave the stand. This information is key in optimising resources and correcting any possible errors. Beabloo ensures the success of marketing strategies by identifying and analysing the behaviour of customers’ visitors.”

Patel concluded: “My whole notion, and my thinking is about trying to define where we can really make our customers businesses more competitive and take some of the pain out of their existing businesses.

“So when we define the Brightstar of the future, it really is all about how we, with all of our services within the wireless industry, can make our customers more efficient, more effective in their cost structure, their supply chains and how we can make them more competitive at the point of sale.”

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