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MEET THE PEOPLE Aleksandar Drazic, VP product and innovation, Centili

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The world of Aleksandar Drazic, VP Product and Innovation at Centili, is the world of user stories, agile practices and constant pursuit of frictionless customer experiences. Starting his career as a software developer, Aleksandar moved to technical integrations upon joining Centili in 2013 and taking a position at their office in Kuala Lumpur. After returning to Europe, he headed platform operations for three years. In 2017 he took the helm at the Product development department, expanded the team and carried out major product launches.

Who are you and what is your current role?

Aleksandar Drazic, VP Product and Innovation at the digital monetization company Centili. I am heading a team of fintech product experts. We are responsible for our product planning and development, and a dynamic roadmap which is quickly adapting to feedback from the markets and customers we serve. These are mobile network operators, super apps and various digital services connecting to our monetization platform from all parts of the globe.

Which countries or regions do you feel represent the greatest opportunity for digital monetization?

Asia is an incredibly vibrant ecosystem, with social, messaging and entertainment apps taking things to a whole new level with each new quarter. The pace of developments in South East Asia, China and Japan is stunning. Many of the products originating in SE Asia gain popularity in other regions fast. With that comes the need to set up a global monetization ecosystem. This is where carrier billing and digital monetization platforms have an opportunity – if they can simplify integration and enable these fast-growing services to monetize among groups of users that would otherwise not pay. Middle East and North Africa seem to be underserved in terms of versatility of monetization solutions, despite the accelerated digital revolution they have embarked on.

Which content and/or applications do you see being the most likely to benefit from telemedia billing technologies?

I think the new kinds of e-learning and e-publishing apps and services could benefit a great deal from the telco-based billing. They have seen spikes in usage since the pandemic hit. They offer targeted education, often structured around KPIs and progression over time. With large portions of education shifting online, and the lifestyles of millennials and gen Z leaning towards self-improvement, e-learning and e-publishing have grown in importance. By enabling them for DCB, and by including them into their tariffs, MNOs could foster education in ways that could be highly relevant in the new normal. Besides e-learning and e-publishing, there are always “the usual suspects” such as music and video streaming, games and social apps. Some of them have developed outstanding capability in managing carrier billing over the years, as they added it to their carefully balanced monetization ecosystems. They were able to  improve gains from carrier billing tremendously.

Do you think that Direct Carrier Billing can become mainstream and in which markets?

I believe if done well carrier billing has the potential to solve lots of friction in the digital ecosystem. This is what we’ve seen and done in the last 10 years in this business. There is huge potential in making it top choice for certain types of purchases.

What are the key drivers and inhibitors for growth?

Fragmentation has long inhibited growth, as well as regulation, and bad debt issues. Still, the work of individuals and companies with ideas keeps producing great implementations. Telco payments are becoming easier to launch, spot, use and manage. By now, I believe that carrier billing has matured enough for companies to know the cycles, challenges and opportunities, and how to move things forward much more decisively in 2021. Technologies and platforms have matured, MNOs are looking for new opportunities, and the ecosystem has boomed in the times of Covid 19.

How likely is it that crypto currencies will become popular telemedia/mobile payment mechanisms for premium content, services and applications?

While crypto currencies certainly have potential in some areas of the digital economy, I don’t think they will gain huge popularity as a payment mechanism for premium content and apps. At least not in the next couple of years, or in their current format. They are still far from card or telco payments in terms of availability and stability. There is still a sense of uncertainty associated with crypto currencies among the general public, which I believe blocks wider adoption at this stage.

What have been the most significant effects of Covid19 on the market and have you taken any “positives” from such a challenging set of circumstances?

I would say that flexible and highly digitalized companies, operating on agile principles, were better able to use this challenging time for transformation and pursuit of new opportunities. We pivoted our business model, had several launches, hired 20+ people and realigned the organization – all since the pandemic broke out. Covid 19 impact was huge, and looking back, we’ve been able to use it as an opportunity. And 2021 will be even faster across the organization.

In the next 12 months what key technical developments or innovations do you feel will have the most positive impact on mCommerce (VAS/mobile payments/marketing)?

We see Monetization platform as a Service (MPaaS) as a delivery model that will grow in the upcoming years. At Centili, it is the collection of all our specialist knowledge shaped for use as managed service. Recent months have shown it has huge potential with aggregators, e-wallets, OTT providers, cable TV providers and MNOs. Several European MNOs have turned to this model to launch digital services quickly, and skip the long and expensive integrations on their legacy systems. VoD platforms and cable TV STB providers are starting to use it to add gaming content to their portfolio. Many other companies in the digital ecosystem have chosen it as a preferred way to engage and deliver services to their customers. Conversational commerce is another area I believe will be in focus in 2021.

Your words of wisdom: On a more personal level, what is the most inspiring piece of advice that has seen you through a life in business to this day and who gave that advice to you?

I was fortunate to work with world-class product owners and leaders at both Centili and its sister company Infobip. I’ve come to believe that flexibility and learning are key to personal and professional growth, and that you can never overstate the importance of role models. Technical aptness should come in combination with creativity and deep customer insight, if you want to build great digital products.

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