For telecommunications organization Copel Telecom, 2020 marked a huge shift – a rebirth of sorts caused by the until-then Paraná government-owned company being privatized for the very first time. It was an immense but long overdue change for Copel Telecom, and at its helm, CEO Wendell Alexandre Paes de Andrade de Oliveira proudly led the troops.
But while Wendell admits that it was a necessary step, the transition was not without its challenges. "There was no road map that we could follow – we really needed to build our own path, our own way," he tells The CEO Magazine.
Wendell was brought on board in January 2019 to oversee the privatization process of Copel Telecom. He brought with him a wealth of knowledge, garnered over a decade at mobile phone company Siemens, as well as roles with energy providers General Electric, Rexel and Romagnole. "All my background and mindset comes from the private world, so when I started in a government-owned company, it was totally different," he explains.
"I really had to learn patience, tame my anxiety and set realistic expectations. Initially, I could only achieve about 10 per cent of the things I wanted to do because processes tend to be exceedingly complex when something is public."
We need to show the market that we can perform much better now that we’re a private company.
Wendell says he wasn’t able to dismiss any pre-existing staff, so he had to determine how to get the best from his employees. "It’s like a soccer game where I have a team – I can’t move anyone out, but I also can’t bring anyone new in. I have to be very smart about extracting the best out of everyone. This can be very challenging. But in this challenge, you learn to understand people; understand their needs and competences in order to make sure that you’re putting everyone in the right position.
"It’s about trying to listen more to people and be much more collaborative than even I used to be in my other functions as a CEO. Managing a government-owned company’s employee is a very different animal."
With the privatization process now well underway and expected to be finalized by June 2022, Copel Telecom is looking towards a brand-new future – a bigger, better and superior offering of the brand that clients already know and love.
"We need to show the market that we can perform much better now that we’re a private company," Wendell points out. "We need to show our customers who recognize the importance and quality of our services that things are going to be even better now."
With considerable growth and strategic plans, as well as the aim to move from "being a telecommunication company to a technology company" that offers much more than just internet to its customers, Copel Telecom is on track to revamp its reputation.
At the same time, though, Wendell is conscious that the expansion can’t be at the expense of its already well-established service quality. "We have to put a very strong focus on operations – being a private company means it will run much faster than it used to," he says. "So we must have a flawless process to make sure that we are keeping the same quality, the same time to market and the same level of service to our customers. Today, Copel Telecom is one of the most famous brands in the region, but we need to build a new brand."
Copel Telecom is performing very well, financially – the net debt we have is very low, there’s strong potential to leverage the company and make the right investments.
Integral to this new era of Copel Telecom will be its reliance on leading technology providers and suppliers, with whom it can work. "Now that we’re being privatized, we’re going to be much closer to our main customers," Wendell points out. "It’s about determining what our suppliers can offer us to increase our productivity and our sales while reducing costs.
"I think that having strategic suppliers like Huawei and Nokia is vital. We believe that they help us to keep not only our infrastructure up to date, but also to make sure that we’re applying the latest technology overall. Having partnerships with these big guys is a way that we can ensure we’re offering the best products and technologies."
With more than 7,000 employees, and a presence in the entirety of the State of Paraná, Copel Telecom is leagues ahead of its competitors. But Wendell explains that while it’s aware of the company’s established advantage thanks to the hard work already put in over the years, now post-privatization, it’ll have to be even more vigilant than ever before in order to retain existing customers as well as grow clientele.
"The biggest challenge in the short-term is to make sure that we are doing the integration very successfully without compromising our service," Wendell shares. "One of the major assets we have is the perception of quality of Copel Telecom – it’s recognized as one of the best, if not the best internet company in the State of Paraná."
As Cope Telecom prepares for this exciting new chapter, its employees, and Wendell in particular, are ready and raring to go – to see all that this company is able to achieve. "Copel Telecom is performing very well, financially – the net debt we have is very low, so there’s strong potential to leverage the company and make the right investments," he says. "We have very good ingredients, and now we just need to cook it well.
"The level of technical expertise here is amazing. We have very smart, very skilled and professional people. I believe that this company has a brilliant future – it’s a rough diamond that we just have to polish."
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