Partner Content: Q&A with Infobip VP of strategic partnerships Veselin Vuković

Josh Budd
clock • 8 min read
Partner Content: Q&A with Infobip VP of strategic partnerships Veselin Vuković

Infobip discusses its growth journey, plans for $200m+ funding and channel growth strategy for next 12 months

What does Infobip do?

All brands face challenges when it comes to reaching out to their customers and holding contextualized conversations. On top of that, the digital revolution - accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic - has diversified the playing field faster than anyone could have imagined. Modern-day customers have access to a massive and growing selection of channels, which means that traditional strategies are no longer adequate. This is where Infobip comes into play; a global cloud communications platform that enables businesses to build connected customer experiences across all stages of the customer journey.

Accessed through a single platform, our omnichannel engagement, identity, user authentication and contact center solutions help businesses and partners overcome the complexity of consumer communications to grow business and increase loyalty.

Infobip offers world leading CPaaS across channels like SMS, WhatsApp, Viber and email.  It also provides a range of customer engagement SaaS solutions to add context to the channels being deployed.

This includes Moments, our cloud-based customer engagement hub with advanced personalization and automation capabilities, enabling businesses to better orchestrate their communication across digital and mobile channels.  It helps companies to improve customer engagement and loyalty. Conversations is a cloud-based contact center solution that empowers agents to efficiently manage cross-channel communication with complete view of relevant data. Answers is our cloud-based chatbot building platform where customers can easily create and deploy rule based or AI chatbots on a variety of channels.  It's Mobile Identity verification solutions are also used by businesses and operators to protect customers, improve user experience, and increase engagement - a hassle-free method for user verification via a person's mobile phone number.

Infobip partners with many companies, including Microsoft Azure, Adobe and Oracle, as well as operators like O2 and BT to deliver the best communications solutions possible to customers. In fact, we're connected to over 650 telcom networks globally.

Companies can reap the benefits of Infobip's Partner Connect Program to broaden their communications and collaboration portfolio, increase the value of platforms through consolidating communications; grow their consulting services; expand and monetize their professional services through custom development and integrations, and work with the best engineers for technical support and training, as well as dedicated customer success teams.

You were founded 15 years ago. Can you talk us through your growth journey up until now? 

Infobip started offering messaging services for businesses back in 2006, when our CEO Silvio Kutić's idea of using mobile phones for group messaging took off. The initial project was effectively a way of having group communications via SMS, where the first collective message took the form of a Christmas text message, which was shared from the town hall to Vodnjan's far-flung diaspora. But Kutić realized that the technology wasn't scalable, so eventually migrated to building a communications platform. In 2006, Infobip was founded.  

Infobip grew organically (and rapidly) for 14 years. In 2009 we signed our first MNO agreement and within five years, our platform had 1,000 clients. 2010 saw the APAC and Americas market open, as well as the first global data center. By 2016, the client base had grown to 5,000 and more than 300 MNO agreements had been signed. 

So, here we are in 2021. Infobip processed 107 billion messages last year, working with businesses in traditional sectors, such as retail and banking, as well as new-age domains such as on-demand services and e-commerce. Our deep regional presence gives us the competitive advantage of reacting faster and holding daily interactions with our customers. We provide solutions based on proven global best-practices that are adapted to specific needs and local requirements. 

Our Partner programme forms an integral part of this growth journey, and we're delighted to be working with technology partners like Microsoft Azure and Oracle and operators like O2 and BT to deliver the best communications solutions possible to customers. 

You received $200m+ in investment last year. How will the funding accelerate your growth plans? 

The purpose of this investment from One Equity Partners (OEP) is to accelerate Infobip's growth in North America, while also showcasing our world-class SaaS-enabled communications platform, which is available over the widest range of programmable channels, to more regions across the globe. 

We acquired Open Market, a leading provider of mobile messaging solutions, in November 2020, merging OpenMarket's scale in the US with Infobip's strengths outside the US to process more than 14 billion monthly customer interactions across the full range of communication channels. This was followed by the acquisition of the number one SMS firewall service provider Anam Technologies in May this year, strengthening Infobip's position as the first choice for mobile network operators through enhanced product and service offerings.

In the wake of a global pandemic that left so many isolated, connection has never been more important. The need for conversational user interfaces has transformed, not only the way we interact with people, but with business and services. We're headed towards an era of digital interaction, where connections will be at the heart of communication. The investment and subsequent acquisitions have enabled us to be at the forefront of this industry shift, building our engineering powerhouse by hiring exceptional developers and engaging in M&A to drive further consolidation within the customer experience and engagement industry.  

How has the Covid pandemic changed the communications industry? 

As the world begins to recalibrate after a year of uncertainty, businesses have endured an irreversible shake-up of the status quo. The pandemic, while unprecedented and challenging, has offered radical insights into what it takes to keep a business running virtually.  

Modern-day consumers have access to a massive and growing selection of channels, for example email, WhatsApp and SMS, which they expect to be able to communicate through at a time that suits them. Plus, the pandemic has seen a wave of ‘digital laggards'; those who have been forced to switch to digital channels due to reduced in-person operations, and who want their online experience to feel as easy and ‘normal' as shopping in store. Customers have become fickler. If a business does not provide a good experience, customers will not shy away from dropping that brand in search of one that does. In fact, our research found that almost a third (32%) of consumers will not spend with a business that provided a poor service during lockdown again. 

Many brands rushed through digital transformation projects to help cater to fast-moving consumer needs, but as the new, or perhaps more appropriately coined, "never normal" continues, this represents only the first phase of changes needed to deliver an exceptional service. Now is the time to think about the digital tools available to you to make operations more efficient, to empower any staff working remotely, and to ensure customers don't lose out on personalised, human interaction when using digital channels. 

What do you consider to be your main USPs for customers and partners? 

Through its connections, Infobip can reach people in more than 200 countries, the largest number of connections available on the planet. In fact, almost two-thirds of the world's population interacts using Infobip's platform. This worldwide presence allows us to act fast, while our local competence results in solutions tailored to our clients` needs and local requirements. 

When it comes to partners, there is a huge opportunity for businesses in the communication industry given omnichannel is now a must. Enterprises are looking to implement digital omnichannel strategies to be more agile, and to maximize reach and engagement across the channels we know consumers are using.   

Infobip offers a single, integrated platform in the cloud - combining multiple features and capabilities. Our Channel Business model provides tailored options such as "sell-with", based on revenue share from Infobip's SaaS and CPaaS solutions, and "sell-through", where the partner owns invoicing and contracting with the customer, and receives a discount on the solution pricelist. This gives our partners the freedom of choice to shape a business relationship and solutions portfolio that works for them.  

Infobip's Partner Connect Program leverages partner's monetization opportunities, from one-time revenue to recurring revenue streams, offering a wide set of additional benefits: tech and sales trainings, certifications, business support, professional services and co-marketing funds. [LB1] 

These benefits are backed up by our new Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform that gives our partner program an interface where partners can gather information about best practices, access the latest sales, marketing materials and programs, education resources and product updates.

What is your current channel footprint in Europe, and what's your strategy to grow/evolve your channel over the next 12 months? 

Honed from 15 years' experience as an industry leader, Infobip has a community of highly engaged people who are empowered by helping partners provide the best CPaaS solutions to customers possible. What's more, our global reach means consulting and technology partners have the opportunity to extend their services and solutions to reach many different markets with the local nuance we know customer's value.  

This continues to be a focus for us for the year ahead, where our intention is for partners to expand the communications solutions and channels they offer to customers, and to open the door to new relationships. Customer experience is about listening and meeting customers where they are, then accelerating them to where they want to go. This requires partners who embody—trust, flexibility, agility, intelligence, and innovation. Our cloud-based solutions and channel portfolio help partners - from system integrators, digital marketing agencies and master service agents - rapidly transform their clients customer engagement, improve internal collaboration, and deliver new services. 

What is the greatest opportunity - and challenge - in front of your business over the next 12 months? 

When it comes to building connections with customers, every gap, every misstep in communication causes incremental friction.  When a response to a customer query is delayed, it adds friction. When a customer has to open a special app, an app they would normally not use, to receive communication from a company, it adds friction. Our mission over the next year is to continue growing, building and improving our "next generation" communications platform. We want to empower companies to use technology to both streamline efficiencies and forge stronger relationships with customers.  

Another focus for us is ensuring security and trust forms an integral part of the customer experience. Mobile Identity, which forms part of our communications stack, means we can verify customer identity, authenticate accounts with 2FA, identify suspicious activity when it arises and simplify payment authorizations. We have an empirical record of success for some of the largest and most innovative companies across the globe. 

In the aftermath of a global pandemic, companies have had to redesign their customer engagement strategies from the ground up, and it has become increasingly clear that friction in these interactions has never been more costly. We're here to help.

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