Alcatel-Lucent is the result of a merger of two telecommunications giants that have a long history in Europe, the Americas, and Asia Pacific. Alcatel was a French conglomerate of companies specializing in telecommunications, satellites, and submarine cables whose predecessors date back to the late 1800s; Lucent Technologies was a US-based inventor and manufacturer of telecommunications products that was born from the divestiture of AT&T in 1996. The two companies merged in late 2006. Alcatel-Lucent’s president of Latin America and the Caribbean and growth markets, Osvaldo Di Campli, says the company is now focused on building innovated networks to increase connectivity. Di Campli walks HE through Alcatel-Lucent’s global growth strategy.
Hispanic Executive: Give us an overview of Alcatel-Lucent’s game plan for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Osvaldo Di Campli: We’re focusing on the three fundamental challenges our customers face: connectivity, reducing the complexity of their networks, and monetizing their investments. For that, we’re using the innovations from Bell Labs to increase connectivity through our ultra broadband strategy, moving network traffic at the lowest cost per bit, and introducing the benefits of virtualization and the cloud. And through our diversification, we are helping large enterprises in the health care, financial, manufacturing, and retail—among other vertical sectors—leverage a combination of telecommunications and IT technologies to improve their businesses, better serve their customers, and build their future.
HE: How is your experience helping the company achieve these goals?
OD: I joined the company from an affiliate in Argentina in 1993 and have since worked in the United States, several countries in Latin America, and Europe, so I know the region extremely well. I have always been focused in turning business challenges into opportunities, and [I] manage risks and uncertainty in a creative way to deliver growth and positive results.
HE: What is the importance of the region for the corporation?
OD: From a macroeconomic perspective, I call Latin America the “worldwide citizen” because, while it doesn’t generate the revenues per subscriber that you might have in North America, the revenues aren’t as low as you might see in India, Africa, and other emerging markets.
HE: What has your presence in the region meant for its population?
OD: There’s a clear correlation between increased broadband connectivity and gross domestic product. A 10-percent increase in broadband connectivity leads to GDP increases in the range of three percent. And governments in the region are using telecommunication as a vector [to grow], eradicate poverty, and bring new health care, education, and other critical
HE: What have been some of the challenges Alcatel-Lucent has faced in operating in LatAm and the Caribbean?
OD: The various global crises over the past five to seven years have impacted the region, and there are particularly challenging macroeconomic conditions in certain markets. There is a need for governments to create a regulatory environment that promotes sustained investment. And we also have to build an ecosystem of selected partners and strategic alliances to grow our reach into new segments and deliver superior value to fast-growing markets. But Latin America has managed to maintain average growth rates of three percent to five percent. And with more than 600 million people and a growing middle class, the region offers major opportunities to leverage innovation and technology to achieve sustainable growth and unleash the potential of its people.
HE: What are your methods or philosophies for tackling these challenges?
OD: To help you face challenges, one of best things you can do is build strong teams. I believe in developing and betting on talent, moving people out of their comfort zone, and working across boundaries. You have to foster a culture of collaboration, teamwork, and openness in which people can tell you what you need to hear, whether you like it or not. You also have to be proactive in anticipating market dynamics and plan “what if” scenarios for unexpected situations such as mergers and acquisitions. Finally, go with your instinct: As a leader, you need to make tough calls, and people will tell you different things, but at the end, you have to own your decisions and follow through.
HE: You took on the leadership role in 2009. How has the company’s role in the region evolved since then?
OD: The year I took on my current role was unfortunately a bad time due to an economic crisis and a number of other issues that affected our business significantly. With full profit-and-loss responsibility, I decided to make changes in our organization and focus on our customers. As a result, I’m glad to report that I’m still here, and 2010, 2011, and 2012 were three of the best years we’ve had as a region, with double-digit growth, improved profitability, and a very solid team. During 2013 and part of 2014, we had a slow-down in the region, but we have focused on executing our company’s transformation and our diversification strategy. So, we’re back in a growth path and are very excited about the opportunities ahead of us. When things go well, it’s easier, but you prove yourself on the challenges.