Interview

AITech interview with the CEO, KORE – Romil Bahl

Romil Bahl, President and Chief Executive Officer talks about IoT concerning innovation, with rising opportunities and focus on consumer behaviour

1. Tell us about your role at KORE Wireless. How much of your typical day is involved in innovating IoT-based tech for your customers?

At KORE, we pride ourselves on the ability to craft IoT enablement solutions based upon direct customer feedback. Customer centricity – indeed customer obsession – is a core value at KORE, and I lead from the front on this dimension. I am heavily involved with key customers and key pursuits. I am convinced that only by being truly customer and market-facing for at least half of one’s average day, can a leader really help a company innovate solutions that customers want. It is this customer-obsession that  drives the ongoing development of our deep industry knowledge and expertise. As CEO, I personally host our Customer Advisory Board which is one of the most successful ways I have seen of connecting our executive leadership team directly to the key customers to whom we are providing services and solutions. Based on the insights gleaned from working with these customers, we identify and prioritize our innovation ideas, some of which are co-invested in by our customers, others are incubated in the KORE Innovation Labs, which is the entity that most recently launched the multiple award-winning product, SecurityPro, which is helping us deliver the most secure IoT Connectivity on the Planet.

2. What are the applications or rather opportunities you seek to have with your product?

The IoT is an interesting term – the Internet of Things.  It has become a well-recognized term in industry and yet, it extends well beyond what most people think about, because it is everywhere.
 In fact, most of our customers do not necessarily believe they are in the “IoT business”!  They believe they provide Remote Patient Monitoring solutions, or manage Clinical Drug Trials, or Fleet Management solutions, or mobile Personal Emergency Monitoring services.  And many companies are looking to enable their own processes, or “take their Digital Transformations out to the Edge” as I call it, and hence look at IoT as the next wave of process improvement, gathering better insights faster, etc.  So for all these needs and many other IoT-enabled solutions in many industries, KORE provides a holistic set of services across Connectivity, Solutions, & Analytics.

The goal of our services is to take the myriad complexities  of IoT and make it accessible to all organizations and companies who want to utilize it. Building out an IoT strategy and plan is no easy feat. Pulling together the connectivity, hardware, equipment, and professional service providers takes a lot of effort, and more often than not, a large budget. But with KORE’s ability to perform as a one-stop shop, so to speak, we do the heavy lifting to the exact business specifications of our customers. It is always our mission at KORE to simply the process of IoT to help maximize success in deploying, managing, and scaling technology solutions.

So to summarize, KORE is the world’s leading global independent IoT solutions enabler:

  • What we do: Deploy, Manage & Scale (IoT Applications)
  • How we do it: Connectivity, Solutions & Analytics (Managed Services)

3. How did you define the vision of KORE Wireless? How did you approach your first 100 days at KORE Wireless?

When I took over KORE in late 2017, it was an IoT/M2M connectivity business.  Given this is my 3rd CEO stint, I had a well thought through approach and plan for my first 100 days.  I immediately launched several key initiatives including: (i) getting to know my team, starting with a global all hands video conference on my first day to introduce myself, and then meeting with key leaders and starting travels to various offices; (ii) getting to know our customers, with a goal to meet our top 20 customers on each side of the pond, which actually took the second 100 days to complete, just given the logistics; and (iii) launching a growth strategy project with our top leaders engaged globally, identifying near term “no regret actions” that we could launch even as we were crafting our long term strategy.

A very long story short, we emerged in the first quarter of 2018 with a set of new Vision and Mission statements, Company Values and Goals to unite what was a set of different teams from the various acquisitions that had been completed prior to my arrival, and a set of 5 Strategic Planks to guide our future.  Without getting into the details of each of the Strategic Planks, and the 3 Key Strategies under each plank that we execute to every day, the new “One KORE team” set out on our current strategy and multi-year transformation plan late in 2018.  This included a significant recapitalization of our debt structure to allow for a massive investment into our envisioned transformation.  Our 5-year transformation plan had three major phases to it, but the overall goal was clear: to simplify the complexities of IoT, to make it easy for our customers to adopt and scale their IoT applications by providing a myriad of managed services and enablement solutions, to inject innovation back into the fabric of KORE, and to create a unique, one-of-a-kind company – a global enabler of IoT for what is sure to be the “Decade of IoT” ahead, i.e. from 2021-2030.  Our transformation and our growth prospects given the industry tailwinds in IoT are breathtakingly exciting!

4. What are some of the unique lessons you have learnt from analysing your customer behaviour?

For KORE, there is nothing more important than the Voice of the Customer (VoC).  We have a world-class VoC program, ranging from our Customer Advisory Board, to an annual Net Promoter Score process to onboarding surveys and Quarterly Business Reviews processes.  Through the direct and indirect insights we gather from these conversations, and from the patterns we recognize from our customers’ successes and failures, we are able to meaningfully improve our customers’ chances for success with IoT and with their Digital Transformations overall.

Many times, when prospects reach out to KORE, they have hit a particular roadblock in their journey to IoT implementation. Which is not surprising given almost two-thirds of all IoT projects fail at or before the proof-of-concept phase. As I see KORE pave through these roadblocks time and again, it reinforces how the work we are doing is both impactful and mission-critical. There are so many stages and, and layers of complexity in each major stage, to an IoT deployment that many customers do not even realize how difficult it can be. But then in steps KORE, with our dedicated and passionate solution architects, engineers, customer service advocates, and we find a way. It is empowerment of the Internet of Things, simply put, and that is our goal.

5. What are some of the distinctive features of KORE Wireless’ services? And how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

Looking around at other IoT services providers, KORE can truly say we are the only holistic, end-to-end IoT solution enabler. We do not stop with just hardware or connectivity, we follow through with our managed services. From configuration services to end of lifecycle care, we do all this plus regulatory compliance for a true global solution. To say anyone else can help an enterprise deploy an IoT solution from start to finish, whether it is in North America or the Netherlands, all within our price point – it just can’t be found anywhere else but KORE.

Further, within each of the elements of our portfolio, we are working to differentiate our services every day.  Let us use the example of Connectivity, from our portfolio of Connectivity, Solutions & Analytics Services.  Connectivity is exceedingly complicated because of the fact that MNO networks end at the borders of the country said MNO is based in, and because of the constantly changing external factors such as network sunsets and the proliferation of new technologies.  An enterprise that wants to provide a service in say 5 countries could need 12-15 carrier partners to ensure connectivity.  Manufacturers of connected products – and which product is not connected today or will not be soon – who ship to 40 or 50 countries will need 100 carrier partners.  It is clearly near impossible for these companies to stand up the armies of lawyers needed to contract with over 100 MNOs, or operations people required to log on to 100 portals to manage connectivity and order SIMs, or billing people to reconcile 100 bills per month. The alternative, using roaming on one ‘home carrier’ is of course too expensive for most IoT use cases, and is fraught with risk since most carriers frown upon ‘permanent roaming’ which puts the very solution at risk.  This is where KORE steps in – we have relationships with over two dozen major carriers and through them, can connect devices in 190 countries via over 500 carriers.  More importantly, we aggregate the data to our own global network and seamlessly provide said data to our customers applications in the cloud or on their premises and enterprise data warehouses.  We provide one bill, one number to call for help, and world class customer support.  Further, we are the global leader in eSIM technology and are leading the charge to simplify our customers’ supply chains by using one SKU for their connectivity needs: one KORE eSIM with the ability to update carrier profiles over-the-air, hence providing the entirely unique service of ‘connectivity out of the box, for the lifetime of the device’.

6. KORE recently partnered with Leash IT to Track and Protect Critical Assets. Can you elaborate more on the same?

I am very proud of our partnership with Leash IT. They came to us needing connectivity enablement for their asset tracking solutions. Leash IT wanted to provide an emergency service for healthcare institutions to keep employees and customers safe. Our response time in bringing this solution to market quickly – amidst a pandemic –shows just how effective KORE is as an expert, trusted IoT partner. Sourcing the connectivity options by themselves, it would have taken much longer for Leash IT to bring this potentially life-saving solution to market.

7. KORE recently partnered with Dexcom to Bring Innovative Solution in Response to Global Pandemic. Can you elaborate more on the same?

This is another fantastic partnership that really highlights the empowerment of our customers. Dexcom had the fabulous idea of remotely monitoring diabetes patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. By monitoring them remotely, they saved healthcare providers the use of PPE – which was in critical demand at the time – and importantly, limited risk of COVID exposure to the healthcare worker. To provide this remote monitoring, Dexcom needed to pair its G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring system with handheld devices to read the data. KORE provided Dexcom with fully certified and ISO-compliant devices and connectivity solutions in just over a week.  To the differentiation question you asked above, this is a great example of KORE being the only company in the IoT industry who could have pulled this off.

8. What are some of the common pain points that your customers commonly approach you with?

Most of our customers come to us knowing that they need an IoT solution. But there are many pain points. They may need help with a business case for their Digital Transformation ‘out to the edge’ which can only be provided by implementing IoT solutions.   They may need help selecting the technologies and devices and networks they should use for a certain use case.  They might need a global deployment, which requires multiple carriers, resulting in multiple contracts and bills and so on. Or they need embedded or remote devices that run on cellular connectivity but worry about return on investment when cellular connectivity networks sunset or carriers change. They are concerned about securing their IoT stack, especially with mission-critical devices in industrial or healthcare. KORE has expertise in managing these pain points through our many solutions, services, and partnerships.

9. What advice would you like to give to the upcoming IoT-based tech start-ups?

Great ideas and great passion are the ultimate drivers of business success. KORE has worked hard to find technology experts throughout the company to fuel our company with the kind of knowledge and passion that nets major results. We like to think that everyone at KORE is equipped with the unique kind of zest that gives a company staying power. When starting a company, often times it feels like there’s more failure than success, but passion and a high-performance culture is what can keep a company going, hand-in-glove with a great idea, a great strategy.

10. Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the upcoming product upgrades that your customers can look forward to?

Our CaaS (Connectivity as a Service) and CEaaS (Connectivity Enablement as a Service) is going to see dynamic demand as the many connectivity options continue to expand. 4G LTE, 5G, Cat-M, NB-IoT, LPWAN – and these are just cellular – add on unlicensed technologies like LoRa and Sigfox, add on satellite and other bearers of connectivity, and a connectivity management expert like KORE is a “must have” partner for most companies.  Not only is choosing the right connectivity solution  difficult, so is network control and security. Our SecurityPro service partnered with our ConnectivityPro service will see massive growth over the coming decade of IoT.  In summary, KORE ties together all the aspects needed for a comprehensive, global, and future-proof connectivity solution that is uniquely tailored for each individual business case.  

11. Which is the one IoT-based tech breakthrough you will be on the lookout for in the upcoming year?

One great breakthrough opportunity for IoT is leveraging artificial intelligence. Through advanced analytics, especially machine learning and AI, organizations will have the ability to leverage streaming IoT data with technology that can actually extract and act upon insights for true benefits. Just like Fleet Management has already showcased, Connected Health, Asset Monitoring, and Industrial IoT are industry sectors where we will see AIoT really shine in the future

12. What is that one quote that has stayed with you throughout your professional life?

“All else being equal, the company with the best strategy will always win.”

For more such updates and perspectives around Digital Innovation, IoT, Data Infrastructure, AI & Cybersecurity, go to AI-Techpark.com.

Romil Bahl

CEO of KORE

Romil Bahl serves as CEO of KORE. He brings almost 30 years of consulting, information technology, professional services, and IoT experience in high-growth and turnaround environments. Throughout his career, Romil has been instrumental in enabling breakthrough growth in technology and services organizations. He has risen to complex challenges where he has crafted growth strategies, tapped new emerging markets and energized global teams. His leadership approach reflects deep expertise in developing strong client relationships and creating teams that are driven to innovate and excel in a high-performance culture.

Prior to KORE, Romil served as President and CEO of Lochbridge, a leading technology solutions provider in the IoT, connected car and digital enablement space. Before that, he was EVP and GM of Global Industries for CSC, leading the industry go-to-market dimension across the entire ~$9 billion commercial business unit, creating global growth strategies and expanding CSC’s global footprint into offerings such as cloud, cybersecurity and big data. Earlier, Romil was CEO of a data analytics-focused public company and had leadership roles at A.T. Kearney, Infosys and Deloitte Consulting.

Romil earned an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Directorate of Marine Engineering & Technology in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Related posts

AITech Interview with Emmanuel Olivier, Worldwide Chief Operating Officer at Esker

AI TechPark

Interview with Eyal Arazi, Security Product Marketing Manager at Radware

AI TechPark

Interview with Pierluca Chiodelli, Vice President Engineering Technology, Dell Technologies

AI TechPark