TowerXchange’s Top 20 Tower Industry Executives of 2020

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group

  • Years in role: November 2020 – present day
  • Company tower count: 32,816*
  • Countries of operation: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines
    *21,067 are directly owned with 11,749 managed through a range of services provided

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. 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. Zukarlai Meor is our Director of Commercial and Ir Kumari Nalini is edotco’s Director of Engineering and Technology (Nalini having been named woman of the year in 2020). 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.

Our team also includes three Chief Regional Officers. Vijay Watson heads up the Bay of Bengal region covering Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan; Phillip Wong covers ASEAN North countries; and lastly 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?

edotco Group: In terms of our vision, 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 around 24,000 sites we are at today, to at least 70,000 by 2025. 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 operating 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 75% by 2025 as well as planting 50,000 trees by then. So far, we have contributed with around 20,000 trees so we are on the right path.

TowerXchange: 2025 isn’t that far away. What are the most imminent priorities to achieve your targets?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: What I have outlined are our aspirations but on a practical level, in 2021 we aim at regaining our revenue momentum. 2020 has been an exceptional year and we were all faced with an abnormal set of circumstances to deal with.

Everyone in the industry and beyond have been impacted, even when some data points don’t show it. Yes, data consumption did increase but the overall level of expenditure by customers as well as their business revenues have gone down. This has been the case for most MNOs and the impact on the towerco business is inevitable.

We are working to regain the growth momentum by focusing on a variety of initiatives. Immediate priority is to achieve more than a fair share of new build-to-suit opportunities as well as co-locations in our existing markets.

We are revisiting our strategy towards ensuring we are able to meet the needs of our customers in the short term while also targeting long-term, incremental growth, offering win-win solutions to our customers.

A key goal next year is to grow revenues from companies other than Axiata Group, reducing our dependency on them. Currently Axiata contributes around 50% of our revenues, by 2024 we are aiming for this to be around 30%. In order to do that, we need to secure new tenants, market our sites smartly and increase co-location on our single tenant sites. One key aspect will be to propose smart relocations to MNOs while rationalising our existing portfolios – in a nutshell, creating win-win opportunities for both. 

In order to achieve our goal of 75,000 sites by 2025, we also need to focus on M&As efforts, being more proactive and aggressive in terms of pursuing sale and leaseback transactions in our existing markets. We will continue our strategy of looking out for organic and inorganic deals (predominantly within Asia) which fit within our overall expansion goals. 

A big focus for us will also be on improving operational excellence. With MNOs under financial strain and under pressure to reduce the cost per GB, tower lease rates will be under pressure and a towerco with the lowest cost to serve will be at a competitive advantage. We aim to use technology and further digitalise our operations, using a lot of data analysis to help anticipate trends better and drive costs down. We will also use data analytics to identify sites with high co-location potential, something that will be valuable to MNOs as it will help them identify areas with high revenue potential. 

Last but not least, we will future proof the organisation with new services; with the move from 4G to 5G a lot is happening in the technology space impacting towercos. We have invested a lot in this area, carrying out a number of trials and pilots with many vendors. 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, site as a service (SaaS) as well as network as a service (NaaS) are all dimensions and opportunities we are actively exploring.

TowerXchange: edotco is viewed as one of the world’s most innovative towercos, can you explain some of the areas that the company is currently exploring that will become increasingly relevant in a 5G era. In which areas do you see the most immediate and the most significant opportunities for the company?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: The shift towards 5G is possibly our priority in terms of innovation. 5G isn’t an imminent reality in all the markets in which we are active, but it will eventually redefine the way networks are being rolled out.

With 5G, sites will need to be closer to each other and this will require a very smart use of street furniture and other types of urban architecture to densify cities. It’s a completely different network infrastructure design than the macro-tower. Currently, edotco is engaging with city and state councils to secure access to their urban furniture. It’s only a matter of time before they will be in demand and we are working to ensure we have a strong competitive advantage in this area.

Another key area for us is in terms of structural design for sites. edotco has pioneered many sustainable designs which focus on reducing cost of development whilst ensuring the durability of the tower is maintained. We have also championed the use of alternative materials and renewable energy in design. 

When it comes to 5G, maintenance is one of the most relevant aspects to keep in mind. 5G is all about real time operations – driverless cars, healthcare applications and so on. They all have onerous needs in terms of speed and latency and will require 99.9999% uptime. To achieve this, we need to use data to be more predictive in our approach to maintenance, rather than reacting to occurrences.

Building a 5G business case is a new challenge to MNOs. To build this, MNOs need to reduce their cost per Gb and increasing the amount of sharing is central to this. With software defined networking it becomes easier to share, plus as you move from hardware to software defined network, your cost also goes down by a significant amount. With all this sharing going forward, towercos – as neutral parties – are in a sweet spot to facilitate this and play a major role. In addition, with OpenRAN and new technologies, there is an unbundling of hardware and software creating new opportunities. Historically MNOs have been dependent on a handful of vendors which could dictate prices, with OpenRAN, towercos and other parties can now play a role where they could not previously – we are entering a new mobile era.

There are lots of exciting new opportunities and it is important for us to focus our efforts correctly.

TowerXchange: Can you tell us a bit more detail on the work that edotco has been doing with OpenRAN?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: We are involved in a few POCs with Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and we are expanding upon that to assess the opportunity of a multi-MNO trial in Malaysia. It would be a great trial to showcase the sharing capabilities of OpenRAN and we hope to get it live by next year.

There’s a natural evolution occurring not only for towercos but also for solution providers and we are continuously discussing trials and projects with them. It’s a very exciting opportunity and we are eagerly assessing its viability.

TowerXchange: What is the openness of MNOs towards towercos getting more involved in the active side of networks?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: This varies a lot depending on the maturity of the market as well as the awareness and openness of each player.

In Malaysia, we found a great response when initiating a conversation about MOCN sharing. It is in fact already happening as we speak, and it is going to be a trend going forward. Other markets such as Pakistan and Myanmar are maybe three to five years behind, but we are building awareness, demonstrating the evolution of the sharing model while enhancing and showcasing our capabilities.

We also found that some of the newest, less mature markets are actually the ones more open to sharing, markets such as Myanmar, where the entrance of towercos coincided with the opening of the telecom industry. So I have no doubt they will be eager to test new ideas, when the right time comes.

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. Newcos might come up 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. 

View source version: TX-Top-20-Report-NEW.pdf (towerxchange.com)

 

For media enquiries, please contact:

Annushia Balavijendran
edotco Group Corporate Communications
Tel: +603 2268 6014
E-mail: annushia@edotcogroup.com

TowerXchange’s Top 20 Tower Industry Executives of 2020

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group

  • Years in role: November 2020 – present day
  • Company tower count: 32,816*
  • Countries of operation: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines
    *21,067 are directly owned with 11,749 managed through a range of services provided

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. 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. Zukarlai Meor is our Director of Commercial and Ir Kumari Nalini is edotco’s Director of Engineering and Technology (Nalini having been named woman of the year in 2020). 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.

Our team also includes three Chief Regional Officers. Vijay Watson heads up the Bay of Bengal region covering Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan; Phillip Wong covers ASEAN North countries; and lastly 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?

edotco Group: In terms of our vision, 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 around 24,000 sites we are at today, to at least 70,000 by 2025. 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 operating 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 75% by 2025 as well as planting 50,000 trees by then. So far, we have contributed with around 20,000 trees so we are on the right path.

TowerXchange: 2025 isn’t that far away. What are the most imminent priorities to achieve your targets?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: What I have outlined are our aspirations but on a practical level, in 2021 we aim at regaining our revenue momentum. 2020 has been an exceptional year and we were all faced with an abnormal set of circumstances to deal with.

Everyone in the industry and beyond have been impacted, even when some data points don’t show it. Yes, data consumption did increase but the overall level of expenditure by customers as well as their business revenues have gone down. This has been the case for most MNOs and the impact on the towerco business is inevitable.

We are working to regain the growth momentum by focusing on a variety of initiatives. Immediate priority is to achieve more than a fair share of new build-to-suit opportunities as well as co-locations in our existing markets.

We are revisiting our strategy towards ensuring we are able to meet the needs of our customers in the short term while also targeting long-term, incremental growth, offering win-win solutions to our customers.

A key goal next year is to grow revenues from companies other than Axiata Group, reducing our dependency on them. Currently Axiata contributes around 50% of our revenues, by 2024 we are aiming for this to be around 30%. In order to do that, we need to secure new tenants, market our sites smartly and increase co-location on our single tenant sites. One key aspect will be to propose smart relocations to MNOs while rationalising our existing portfolios – in a nutshell, creating win-win opportunities for both. 

In order to achieve our goal of 75,000 sites by 2025, we also need to focus on M&As efforts, being more proactive and aggressive in terms of pursuing sale and leaseback transactions in our existing markets. We will continue our strategy of looking out for organic and inorganic deals (predominantly within Asia) which fit within our overall expansion goals. 

A big focus for us will also be on improving operational excellence. With MNOs under financial strain and under pressure to reduce the cost per GB, tower lease rates will be under pressure and a towerco with the lowest cost to serve will be at a competitive advantage. We aim to use technology and further digitalise our operations, using a lot of data analysis to help anticipate trends better and drive costs down. We will also use data analytics to identify sites with high co-location potential, something that will be valuable to MNOs as it will help them identify areas with high revenue potential. 

Last but not least, we will future proof the organisation with new services; with the move from 4G to 5G a lot is happening in the technology space impacting towercos. We have invested a lot in this area, carrying out a number of trials and pilots with many vendors. 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, site as a service (SaaS) as well as network as a service (NaaS) are all dimensions and opportunities we are actively exploring.

TowerXchange: edotco is viewed as one of the world’s most innovative towercos, can you explain some of the areas that the company is currently exploring that will become increasingly relevant in a 5G era. In which areas do you see the most immediate and the most significant opportunities for the company?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: The shift towards 5G is possibly our priority in terms of innovation. 5G isn’t an imminent reality in all the markets in which we are active, but it will eventually redefine the way networks are being rolled out.

With 5G, sites will need to be closer to each other and this will require a very smart use of street furniture and other types of urban architecture to densify cities. It’s a completely different network infrastructure design than the macro-tower. Currently, edotco is engaging with city and state councils to secure access to their urban furniture. It’s only a matter of time before they will be in demand and we are working to ensure we have a strong competitive advantage in this area.

Another key area for us is in terms of structural design for sites. edotco has pioneered many sustainable designs which focus on reducing cost of development whilst ensuring the durability of the tower is maintained. We have also championed the use of alternative materials and renewable energy in design. 

When it comes to 5G, maintenance is one of the most relevant aspects to keep in mind. 5G is all about real time operations – driverless cars, healthcare applications and so on. They all have onerous needs in terms of speed and latency and will require 99.9999% uptime. To achieve this, we need to use data to be more predictive in our approach to maintenance, rather than reacting to occurrences.

Building a 5G business case is a new challenge to MNOs. To build this, MNOs need to reduce their cost per Gb and increasing the amount of sharing is central to this. With software defined networking it becomes easier to share, plus as you move from hardware to software defined network, your cost also goes down by a significant amount. With all this sharing going forward, towercos – as neutral parties – are in a sweet spot to facilitate this and play a major role. In addition, with OpenRAN and new technologies, there is an unbundling of hardware and software creating new opportunities. Historically MNOs have been dependent on a handful of vendors which could dictate prices, with OpenRAN, towercos and other parties can now play a role where they could not previously – we are entering a new mobile era.

There are lots of exciting new opportunities and it is important for us to focus our efforts correctly.

TowerXchange: Can you tell us a bit more detail on the work that edotco has been doing with OpenRAN?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: We are involved in a few POCs with Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and we are expanding upon that to assess the opportunity of a multi-MNO trial in Malaysia. It would be a great trial to showcase the sharing capabilities of OpenRAN and we hope to get it live by next year.

There’s a natural evolution occurring not only for towercos but also for solution providers and we are continuously discussing trials and projects with them. It’s a very exciting opportunity and we are eagerly assessing its viability.

TowerXchange: What is the openness of MNOs towards towercos getting more involved in the active side of networks?

Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin, CEO, edotco Group: This varies a lot depending on the maturity of the market as well as the awareness and openness of each player.

In Malaysia, we found a great response when initiating a conversation about MOCN sharing. It is in fact already happening as we speak, and it is going to be a trend going forward. Other markets such as Pakistan and Myanmar are maybe three to five years behind, but we are building awareness, demonstrating the evolution of the sharing model while enhancing and showcasing our capabilities.

We also found that some of the newest, less mature markets are actually the ones more open to sharing, markets such as Myanmar, where the entrance of towercos coincided with the opening of the telecom industry. So I have no doubt they will be eager to test new ideas, when the right time comes.

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. Newcos might come up 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. 

View source version: TX-Top-20-Report-NEW.pdf (towerxchange.com)

 

For media enquiries, please contact:

Annushia Balavijendran
edotco Group Corporate Communications
Tel: +603 2268 6014
E-mail: annushia@edotcogroup.com