The Missed Opportunities: How Telecom Companies Failed to Adapt and Thrive in the Digital Era

Chandan Mishra
3 min readApr 30, 2023
The Missed Opportunities: How Telecom Companies Failed to Adapt and Thrive in the Digital Era

A long time ago I had a chance of getting interviewed by a VP of a telecom company and he asked me what we should do to secure the future of the company. I told him either the company should become an enterprise business company or a media communications company.

The analogy I gave him was of a supermarket. Imagine a road, a supermarket right in the middle of the road with an open market after the supermarket. The telecom companies of the world think they are a supermarket and they should charge for the products they sell inside a supermarket what they are actually selling is access to the road which leads to an open market.

To enter the supermarket you have to take the bandwidth of 2 gigs at x price. Usually, this price is huge but customers still paid the price only to find that the supermarket sells nothing. Rather it brings various sellers who sell their own products which they have access to in the open market as well. The problem with this model is the open market is accessible only through the road where the supermarket is and they have blocked the road. So essentially a customer is paying access to the road to reach the open market and the supermarket is a sham and nothing more than a toll gate.

If the supermarket sold products, the people would have come and sold the products there but being a gatekeeper is a more lucrative business. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy with my answer and I didn’t get the position. Now comes the interesting part.

If the telecom company thought like a media company, they would have produced a lot of Tv shows, would have their own channel, and would have got some cinemas too. Basically a complete entertainment house. That position is taken over by Prime and Netflix later. The company watched the show and did nothing.

They tried becoming video-on-demand by sourcing content from open markets and companies but that position is taken over by YouTube.

Had they been an enterprise company, they would have jumped into the cloud business which is again a lucrative market, that position is taken over by AWS and Azure.

Another opportunity was to become an end-to-end infrastructure company and could have managed telecom or other businesses infra since it was part of their core expertise, but that position is taken over by the likes of Kyndryl

Another opportunity was to become an internet calling company, but Telecom didn’t take the call and that business now has Skype, Whatsapp, and Zoom.

They tried becoming at last a music company or a payments company but couldn't become anything since only listing millions of music labels isn’t everything. Needless to say, they failed again.

They could have become an API company but again Zapier and Postman did a better job.

While the world moved along the supermarket, the market is still charging access to the road to the market. There is only one reason I could sense. A typical Telecom company thinks they own the customer. The fast is no one owns the customer, no one ever has, and no one ever will.

Companies today collaborate with people to create new-age content, without community and people no company can become successful. Even after all this, Did you hear of a Telecom company hiring a community manager?

The lesson is clear: to secure a successful future, companies must be willing to step out of their supermarkets and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead in the open market. In this age of digital disruption, businesses need to stay nimble, collaborate with their communities, and evolve with the times, or risk being left behind in the dust.

What do you think, will the supermarket change and become an open market player?

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Chandan Mishra

Marketing Strategy and growth Consultant with various Companies.