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MWC 2017: Brightstar throws down gauntlet to competition

Paul Withers
March 15, 2017

Company claims it is building the widest portfolio of mobile solutions in the sector

Brightstar has claimed that no other company will be able to compare with it in two to three years around offering the broadest range of mobile solutions.

That was the bold statement made by the company’s president of EMEA Benoit Scheen (pictured), who sat down with Mobile News at MWC to discuss recent growth and ambitions for the next few years.

Brightstar used the global annual conference to unveil the establishment of new brands dedicated to the range of lifecycle services it can offer its retail, carrier and large enterprise customers.

These are ‘Echo’ for reverse logistics for elements such as buyback, trade-in, device repairs; ‘Flex’ for device financing, including leasing and renting options; ‘Gear’ for accessories; ‘Halo’ for device protection; ‘Logic’ for supply chain services and ‘Omni’ for omni-channel services catering for its retail customers in particular.

Brightstar now has a physical presence in more than 50 countries where it has an office and distribution hub, and serves a total of 100 countries where it can serve a number on a crossborder basis.

In December, then UK and Ireland MD Jim Michel claimed Brightstar was now leaving its distribution rivals trailing, with the business that was in “disarray” three years ago now unrecognisable.

This has been driven by the award and renewal of existing contracts, as well as the range of value-added services it now offers customers. Scheen claimed Brightstar has now transformed itself from a distribution company to a solutions specialist, with several customers signed up for each one offered.

He is confident that with the company’s wide global reach, and ability to offer the whole suite of solutions as opposed to just some that it will continue to stand out in the market.

Standing out

“We have competitors in each of the solutions we offer but none of them provide the full lifecycle management than we do. That means we can better integrate all of these elements, be more competitive because we have the full suite.

“We can do it globally and not just in one country. Many companies have a bigger international profile than they once did so when a large enterprise, retail or carrier customer comes to us, and ask if we can do it in multiple countries, we can.

“Being global is not just about being able to provide that set of services in many countries, we can better leverage investments we make in platforms.

“If we have needs in Australia, the US or Europe, and we see these are quite similar, we can gather all these resources that we are planning to invest and ensure we have one platform and spend tens of millions in developing it to support our services and make them best in class.

Nobody compares

“If you would have asked me the question last year, some such of financing were in their infancy, but now we’re ready. Not only that, but we have signed up customers and have programmes up and running in several countries.

“We want to help them reduce complexities out of the business and are ready for that whole set to be deployed globally. We will concentrate on that over the next 2-3 years. How will we be able to compare ourselves to others when we provide the whole set because one will provide some competitive services but not the rest?”

SoftBank praise

Scheen also praised the efforts made by Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank, which purchased a 57 per cent stake in Brightstar for $1.26 billion in October 2013. This was to increase to 70 per cent over the next five years.

He said Brighstar wouldn’t have been able to expand globally with its value added services to the extent it has without the majority shareholder’s assistance, which has also opened new routes with customers, including Sprint, which it is also parent company of.

It launched a device financing programme with the fourth largest mobile operator in the US (59.5 million customers as of Q4 2016), with close to five million products processed so far.

“SoftBank has been extremely supportive towards us, added Scheen. “They are a global group and very strong financially, so it gives us the depth that we need from that perspective. That is very helpful, especially if you start investing in new domains.

“For example, in the US we have launched device financing with Sprint and we have close to five million devices processed in that programme. To manage that, you need $2 billion of capital so it is clear if you don’t have a company like SoftBank behind you, raising that investment might have been different or more difficult.

“The fact we belong to SoftBank gives us credibility and reach, which is extremely important for our global expansion. In other cases, we have relationships with other SoftBank entities, and Sprint is the best example of that, which opens doors.”

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