Dimitris Lioupis is a Chief Commercial Officer and Member of the Managing Board of Vivacom. He has over 25 years of experience in telecommunications. He has worked at major telecommunications operators in several countries, and has held senior positions in marketing and product and service development. Mr. Lioupis has been working in Bulgaria for more than 15 years now. He has occupied the position of Director of Products and Services and subsequently of Chief Marketing Officer at Globul, as well as Director of Products, Services and Solutions at Mtel. He holds a Master's Degree in Computer Science from Cardiff University, Wales, UK, and a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Reading, UK.
Mr Lioupis, how would you define this new situation in which the world is learning to live?
The situation is multi-layered and it is a test for the entire world in several aspects. In the first place, in terms of health - we are facing an unknown virus, which is a challenge to the healthcare systems of even the most developed countries. Combating it has led to such restrictions on the physical movement of people, closure of borders and travel limitations that modern citizens, especially within the EU, do not remember since a long time ago. And this is where the social test emerges: what our personal responsibility and consciousness is. But we are already beginning to feel the economic impact worldwide. And yet, I am optimistic that this hardship will allow for the emergence of new ideas and will open the way for proactive and creative people.
In recent decades, humanity has pledged a great deal on the development of communications. What have you learnt about them now?
I have been in the telecommunications business for many years and I have witnessed how they are constantly changing people's lives for the better. I am not a supporter of the thesis that technologies alienate people from each other, and this is especially obvious at the moment. If this pandemic had occurred 20 years ago, the result would have been devastating to the public - no opportunities to work from home, no permanent contact with relatives and friends, no distance learning or no variety during the days spent at home. The current state of development of communications helps us lead a relatively normal life in such extraordinary and extremely restrictive circumstances. In addition to working and studying from home, we can now virtually visit museums and galleries around the globe, watch concerts and performances which we would not be able to attend otherwise.
How was Vivacom affected by the situation, in which many of your customers started working from home or just stayed home and students started learning online?
The consumption of both voice and internet services has risen in a matter of days. We are accounting an increase in traffic on both the mobile network and the fixed network, as at peak times it has reached 50% above normal. But our network is prepared to provide it and we continue to provide services to our customers without any major difficulties. This is the result of many years of work focused on good network planning and modernization as well as of the efficient use of resources - technological, financial and human. The company has good experts in all areas and we have been able to quickly identify and respond to our customers' new demands in this situation.
What are the new things that you have applied in this new situation?
As always so far, the customer is our focus. We have offered many additional services to help our users feel good at home and continue their daily routine as calmly as possible during the state of emergency. We have provided a bonus of 10,000 MB of mobile internet at maximum speed, as well as another 2,000 MB every weekend. We encourage people to stay home and pay their bills online through the application My VIVACOM, for which we provide a bonus of another 2,000 MB. To enhance family entertainment at home, we offered free of charge access to more TV channels – all customers of satellite TV could watch over 145 and all customers of IPTV - over 230. IPTV customers also have access to multimedia content such as the MAXI movie package, which is normally paid for. Our iTraffic mobile plans are currently available with a double amount of megabytes for the entire contract period. We have also doubled the included MBs at maximum speed of the VIVACOM Mobix Plus optional package from 30,000 MB to 60,000 MB. For some of the most vulnerable users, those of our social voice plans, we have added 300 minutes free national calls. Even prepaid customers now have additional packages available with a three-fold increase of the minutes on our network. And our latest initiative is to increase fiber optic download speeds for all customers up to 500 Mbps. Thus, customers with lower tariff plans will benefit from higher rates during this state of emergency. There are certain requirements for the customers’ equipment, but all the information is available on our website. I believe that by these measures we help our customers stay home, accomplish as many things as possible online, and in doing so protect their own health and the health of others.
Vivacom is among the big donors as well. This is just a gesture of corporate social responsibility or ...
Our company has always been socially responsible, not only in times of crisis. But now society needs support and solidarity more than ever before, and we have organized several different initiatives. At the very beginning, we donated 500 tablets to the Ministry of Education and Science in support of digital education, since this is our cause for more than 6 years now. Together with United Group, we have also made a financial donation of BGN 900,000 which the Ministry of Health will use for the most urgent expenses in combating the pandemic. We have also managed to make our customers aware of our common purpose to address this situation more quickly by announcing that we will donate all monthly fees for new services activated in April. And for the services requested online, we have promised to double the amount of the monthly fees. We will donate medical equipment and funds at the total amount of BGN 300 000 to three hospitals in Bulgaria. As part of the donation St. Anna Hospital in Sofia will receive a modern disinfection robot as well as funds. Each of the hospitals - Dr. Georgi Stranski University Hospital - Pleven, and MHAT-Blagoevgrad, will receive a donation of BGN 100 000. I would like to thank all the users who joined our campaign in support of the Bulgarian medical professionals in April and made this donation possible.
And now it is the time for ...
… a non-standard approach and an innovative view of the circumstances so as to turn them into opportunities.