Cable & Wireless has been in Colombia for more than a decade and a half. After starting out under the Columbus brand in the wholesale world, it has expanded more and more over the years, and now has more than 1,000 clients in the country.
By moving into the financial services and education sectors, among others, the London-based telecom has found its place in a crowded market.
Photo: Luis Alfonso Estrada of Cable & Wireless sits down with Loren Moss of Finance Colombia at Andicom 2016 in Cartagena. (Credit: Loren Moss)
To detail some of the C&W’s plans for growth, Finance Colombia Executive Editor Loren Moss recently sat down with Luis Alfonso Estrada of Cable & Wireless. He walks us through the company’s history in Colombia and its plans for the future.
Finance Colombia: Can you tell me about the presence of Cable & Wireless here in Colombia?
Luis Estrada: We’ve been in Colombia for more than 16 years. We used to be called Columbus and we were just carrier-to-carrier. We gave services to carriers so that they in turn could integrate our internet connectivity into their portfolios.
From 2010 on, the company took the decision to enter into the corporate market, and that’s when we started to attend to clients directly. Nowadays in Colombia we have more than 1,000 clients in the direct market, ranging from education and banking to universities and industry — all of the niches of the market.
Finance Colombia: What provoked the change in strategy? Why did you leave the wholesale market to become more like a retailer in the corporate market?
Luis Estrada: At that time, the company saw a great opportunity to take a high-quality value proposition to the market, and that’s how we moved from wholesale into the corporate market.
We started out at that time, as Columbus, in Colombia, Panama, and Puerto Rico. And as the years went by we started to broaden the whole operation into Central America, including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.
Finance Colombia: Yes, Columbus already has its fiber-optics network and a presence in the Caribbean, in Trinidad & Tobago and even in Guyana, if I’m not mistaken.
Luis Estrada: That’s right. After all this there was something like a fusion with Cable & Wireless came about, because it had been Columbus and the coverage was broadened. We were no longer only in the countries that I mentioned, but in many other countries, mostly in the area of the islands.
Then also a brand name called Flow appeared, with which we got not only into the corporate market in the islands, but also into the household market.
Finance Colombia: So what is your point of view about the opportunity for growth here in Colombia? Which sectors, talking about your clients, do you see as having the greatest potential for growth?
Luis Estrada: We have been growing for these last six years a lot, and we can say that it’s supported by our value proposition, which is quality. That has allowed us, in six years, to have more than 1,000 clients in a market that was already captured by other operators.
We have grown very strongly in the education market. We have also been very well received in the financial market. Let’s say that they like the quality of what we’re offering. I would say that it has been in those two areas that there has been the most growth in the country.
Finance Colombia: Do you offer fiber-optics services here in Colombia or do you have other things in your portfolio?
Luis Estrada: Yes. We started out initially only offering connectivity and IP, but our portfolio began to grow. Nowadays we have not only connectivity but also infrastructure as a service, virtual offices, security, ethical hacking.
We do everything in unified communications. And that’s thanks to having good connectivity that allows us to go about adding more services very naturally and with quality onto our connectivity layer.
Finance Colombia: What are the challenges here specifically in the market in Colombia?
Luis Estrada: The challenge in a country like Colombia is to continue growing. We have been going along for the last six years with double-digit growth rates, and the interesting thing about the challenges we have in “Plan 2020” is to go on growing like that.
And how do we grow? With a good value proposition and with quality, which in the end is what makes the difference to the client with respect to our competitors. That’s our philosophy at C&W Business.
Finance Colombia: Are there legal or legislative barriers in the market? Are there any specific things that have to be changed in Colombia to improve competitiveness and the business climate?
Luis Estrada: I think that Colombia has evolved in the region in terms of regulatory questions. Compared to other countries, we’re moving ahead in that area.
Though, there are many laws that have to evolve at the same pace that technology is evolving, I don’t think it’s a barrier that’s putting the brakes on development at this time. It’s more like a normal maturing process that’s coming about as technology advances.