Brightstar Corporation: Leveraging procurement power to deliver affordable communication worldwide
The use of mobile devices in the last 10 years has grown exponentially, influencing the way in which we live, work and communicate. A recent report by the GSMA has shown that the number of people utilizing mobile services exceeded 5bn in 2017, and the number of unique mobile subscribers is also set to reach 5.9bn by 2025 which is equivalent to 71% of the world’s population.
Such growth has placed increased pressures on the telecommunications industry.
Owned by Softbank Group, Brightstar is an international mobile service provider that is a significant player in the wireless industry. The company simplifies the wireless world, making mobile technology accessible to everyone.
To do this, Brightstar looks after every stage of a device’s lifecycle, from the moment it’s manufactured to the moment it’s time to trade it in and re-market it around the world. Whilst it consistently competes with competitors to deliver exceptional, bespoke products and services amidst a complex minefield of consumer buying behaviors, the company has built a solid foundation from which to drive customer engagement.
Serving carrier, retail and enterprise customers across 80 countries, Brightstar’s integrated services have enabled it to deliver one of every 23 wireless devices across six continents.
Seamlessly linking with its customers’ businesses has seen Brightstar gain a significant edge over competitors to become the provider of choice on a global scale.
“Brightstar is known for innovation and helping customers solve problems. We listen to our customers to understand what kind of issues they’re facing in servicing their customers, and we innovate a solution to solve their problems,” explains Antony Harrat, Global Vice President of Indirect Procurement and Real Estate at Brightstar.
“It’s never been easier for customers to vote with their feet. Customers are researching and evaluating their purchase online before they step into a store and, in many cases, continue to do so within the retail estate. Working with customers proactively to start to predict their customers’ next moves before they make them – potentially with another operator – is one way we’re enabling the industry to address these challenges.”
Witnessing the evolution of its customers’ demands, the millennial generation in particular has created a raft of opportunities for Brightstar. The desire for choice and an emphasis on budget remain strong drivers in the development of affordable and flexible buying or leasing options.
“Millennials have been associated with ‘Generation Rent’. They’ve been reluctant to buy items like cars, music and movies. Instead, they’re turning to new types of services that provide access to products and experiences without the burden of outright ownership,” notes Harrat.
“Millennials no longer want to own their device. They want to own their data and photos, but they also want a new device as soon as it’s released. Generation Rent has given way to leasing plans where the buyer never owns the device and can return it for an upgrade after a contractual time. If wireless carriers can move customers to a lease model, the upgrade mentality is more important than ownership.
“We see opportunity in affordability solutions such as device leasing and financing through our Brightstar Flex service, for example, which gives consumers access to the latest devices and lower cost of ownership, and with device protection via our Brightstar Halo service.”
There are approximately 80mn high-end used devices globally, and Brightstar manages up to 15mn of them. With such significant market share, the company has also transformed not only the way it collects devices, but the way in which it grades and returns them to market.
“Brightstar enables consumers to trade-in their used devices for a discount on a new smartphone, which makes devices more affordable. In turn, used smartphones are wiped clean and remarketed around the world at an affordable price,” says Harrat.
“We also offer innovative payment solutions so consumers can purchase or lease a device using affordable monthly payments. Making technology accessible also includes protecting consumers’ investments in phones by offering insurance, protection and warranty coverage.”
Its Echo service therefore grants the opportunity for buying back used devices in-store, online, via apps or over the phone, where customers can receive the best value on used devices through its global re-marketing network.
By looking deeper at the enterprise market, Brightstar analyzed all available statistics to further appeal to this segment.
Published research by Penn Schoen Berland for Dell and Intel highlighted that 42% of 18-34-year-olds are likely to quit a job with sub-standard technology, in stark comparison with 25% of employees aged 35 and over. 82% of this category would also consider the use of technology on offer when considering whether to take a new job, the research found.
In light of such findings, Brightstar undertook its own research and identified that up to 40% of enterprises lack a strategy for mobile. The recent launch of its MobileLife solution seeks to close this gap. Built specifically for enterprises, it gives employees the ability gain access to wireless devices, anytime, anywhere.
“Companies are always looking to operate leaner and need to make difficult decisions around emerging workforce technology demands without the headache of managing allocation, in-life management and recycling in-house,” observes Harrat. “Another way we’re saving companies significant amounts of money is through selling or leasing certified pre-owned phones.
“Leasing also gives the end consumer the device they really want for an affordable monthly fee. This does not necessarily mean the ‘latest and greatest device, as even pre-owned devices can serve customer demand. The key to success in a saturated market is consumer choice, after all.”
Brightstar has become increasingly innovative in its bid to deliver comprehensive, personalized mobile services, tailored specifically for its respective markets and customer demographics.
“Some trends are clear. There are different kinds of phones sold in different kinds of stores, but others are less so,” adds Harrat.
“Phones that perform better from a network coverage perspective do better in the metropolitan fringe areas where coverage may not be as good as in the central areas, and those areas are constantly changing. We develop algorithms to understand the choices people are making when buying a handset.
“It’s a very complex purchase when consumers go and sign up to get a new phone. They choose the operator, pre-paid or post-paid plan, make a choice about what sort of store or retailer experience they want to have, online or through a call center,” he continues.
“At Brightstar, we use algorithms to train statistical models to make predictions about what an individual customer is likely to do so that retailers can understand and navigate all these nuances and reap the dividends.”
Its vision to make mobile technology accessible to all is fully underpinned by its procurement division, where it has transformed outdated business models to drive a fully integrated, end-to-end customer service.
“We are not solely focused on indirect procurement, it is about supporting the business to operate wherever possible. From computers, to software and office supplies and anything else of that nature – it is important to have an impact.
“The money we save by getting the best vendor not only helps us save money and improve our profitability, but we also get to find the best vendor for our clients.”
Looking at further areas of potential, Brightstar will continue working to provide exceptional value by launching innovative and products and services for employees. Its decision to centralize its use of travel agencies to one travel management company which will work across its global functions, is one such example.
“With the development of an expense management tool, not only did we reduce our costs and increase compliance as a result, but we reduced thousands of hours spent completing expense reports by scanning receipts that were taped to a piece of paper,” says Harrat.
Another important aspect of internal collaboration is working with champions.
“These are the experts and final users of the services and/or products we need to buy,” Harrat continues. “Involving them at an early stage helps us understand our requirements, the market and key players. Then, it’s the communication about the benefits for compliance and the benefits for our employees.
“We also benefit from the expertise of our shareholders, some of whom are real technology visionaries.”
Additionally, Brightstar promotes cross-collaboration to enhance not only within communication, but also boosts transparency across its divisions. Both the procurement and legal team consequently work in tandem, providing a number of advantages for the business at large.
“Our internal approval process for contracts includes the business owner and our procurement and legal teams. This was initiated not only to have a better control over cost, but also for procurement to bring its added value in becoming more strategic in the way we spend our money and in our collaboration with the business,” explains Harrat.
The implementation of a new contract management system, in addition to reshaping the approval process, has provided Brightstar the ability to retain all of its agreements, which will work to support both its procurement and legal teams.
“It makes us aware of the expiration dates of these agreements, where we can decide to renegotiate or extend, avoid lapses in services, and often use the same master agreement,” reflects Harrat.
“The legal team is tremendously important for procurement in particular. Many companies make the mistake to think about vendor risk management through the value of a contract, when in fact it is not about the value – it’s the liability for the company that is most important.”
“’Partner’ is a very important word and it’s extremely hard to find vendors that have a long-term goal to work with you. For example, thankfully we consider Newmark Grubb Knight Frank a partner for our real estate transactions,” Harrat says.
“Real estate is probably the most collaborative category and the one commodity where a procurement team needs the help of its broker on projects that can take many months to complete. Our relationship is global and goes from disposition of asset(s) to leasing new space or even subleasing existing space. They have access to our existing portfolio and help us with market information and how to anticipate and make the best decision for our locations globally.”
Furthermore, Brightstar’s strategic sourcing capabilities have enabled it to reinvest increased capital, which will provide further room for innovation.
“When you become strategic and have opportunities that show real value, you are empowered to transform the way you source your products,” comments Harrat.
“For example, you can’t get by for long with day-to-day buying without visibility. As a result, all of our IT teams across six continents buy computers through a single portal. Using consistent hardware and ordering processes saves our IT team a significant amount of time.”
The rise of platforms from other industries will also motivate Brightstar to seamlessly deliver products and services which consumers want.
“The rise of Amazon is a clear sign of the way people buy and how smooth that process should be for employees purchasing what they need for their respective offices,” observes Harrat.
“It should be easy, user-friendly and the internal approval process should be managed on the back end for managers to quickly and easily approve or disapprove purchase requests. We are looking for a platform, but what we’ve seen so far is that providers are US-centric and not global, which will not work for a company as international as Brightstar, so we will continue looking.”
On the business development side, the company views untapped potential in countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where it can gain a further foothold.
Nonetheless, by taking full advantage of its global reach, the company is now able to anticipate issues which may be emerging in one region that have already been addressed in another. This will no doubt provide a competitive advantage to Brightstar.
Fully enhancing the value of its services, and ensuring its products remain tailored to respective markets at affordable prices, will ensure Brightstar succeeds in its long-term vision to provide accessibility for all, both now and in the future.