MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN NEWSLETTERS
Excited to be Here
By Aurette Bowes
Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry® solution, recently appointed Alexandra Zagury as Vice President and Managing Director of its operations in South Africa and Southern Africa. Although she is the first woman to hold the position in this country, Alexandra does not believe gender is an important factor in determining success.
“I am aware that the telecommunications industry in South Africa has traditionally been male-dominated, but I don’t foresee this
being an issue for me and I am looking forward to overseeing all of RIM’s operations, sales and marketing efforts in these regions,” she says.
Alexandra joined RIM more than four years ago and was responsible for the regional strategic planning and business operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa while based in the United Kingdom. She then became the company’s first managing director in Turkey, where she successfully grew RIM’s business.
“Before I joined RIM, I was privileged to be part of the Web 1.0 revolution at Citigroup and was instrumental in the evolution of media and search advertising at Yahoo! Europe,” she relates. “When the opportunity arose to take up a senior position at RIM in the United Kingdom in 2008, I jumped at it because I truly believe that mobility is the future of any activity online.”
According to Alexandra, there is a strong correlation between the rise in mobile technology and the increase in women-owned companies in many parts of the world. “Research from Kronos shows that, in 1972, for example, 97% of businesses in the United States were owned by men. Today, with technology as the enabler, women own a third of businesses in that country.
“The benefits of being in touch wherever you are and carrying your office in your pocket are enormous for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen,” Alexandra continues. “Mobile technology has freed people from the shackles of their desks, allowing them to better manage the sometimes conflicting demands of their home and work lives.”
Alexandra first became enthralled with the world of computing at the age of 10, when she was given a ZX Spectrum as a Christmas gift. “Since then, I have been passionate about the way in which technology continues to reshape the world, and especially with how it empowers people – from the farmer in Kenya who can receive a microfinance payment via a mobile phone, to the new mother who starts a business on her BlackBerry® smartphone.
“The mobile telecommunications industry is changing the way people live, work and play, especially in emerging markets such as Africa, by giving them access to electronic banking, e-mail, social media, and a range of other services for the first time. Indeed, according to Internet World Stats, of the 13.5% of Africans who are connected to the Internet, the majority connects through a mobile device. We believe that many more of the unconnected 86.5% could be brought online by offering the right combination of services and devices.
“The technology industry is unique in that it is one of the few sectors experiencing double-digit growth in the current economic climate,” Alexandra adds. “Being at the centre of this enables one to acquire an unparalleled set of multidisciplinary experiences.”
According to Alexandra, one of the major trends consumers and business professionals should watch out for in the coming months is the migration of mobile applications (apps) and services to the cloud. “This will deliver a wealth of cost, flexibility and productivity benefits to consumers, business users, application developers and network operators in the years to come,” she says.
Something else to keep an eye on is the continued growth of the applications market. “The hunger of mobile consumers and professionals for applications on the run has created a massive new industry that will be worth more than USD35-billion by 2014, according to International Data Corporation’s projections,” says Alexandra. She predicts that mobile applications will become even more powerful, rich, integrated and interactive in the future, especially as they make more sophisticated use of technologies such as Near Field Communications (NFC) and location-based services.
Consolidate and Grow
Research by GfK Retail and Technology reveals that BlackBerry smartphones accounted for 7 devices out of the 10 best-selling smartphones in South Africa in May 2012. “While our position in this young and dynamic market remains strong, I still see tremendous opportunities to grow the number of BlackBerry smartphones in this region,” Alexandra declares. “I will also focus closely on customer retention by listening to customers and addressing their needs with the right services and products.”
She is, however, aware of the challenges posed by the current sluggish economy and is prepared to meet them head-on. “The market is constantly changing, which requires us to be continuously looking at ways to strengthen our competitive position and bring new products and services to market that exceed customers’ expectations. For example, we recently launched more flexible and affordable BlackBerry® service plans for entry-level smartphone users, and will also be introducing the next-generation BlackBerry® 10 operating system early next year.”
“Our value proposition in the range of devices and services we offer is unrivalled,” Alexandra continues. “Our smartphones, which range from full-featured, entry-level devices through to premium smartphones, give our users an extensive array of choices suitable to their lifestyles and budgets. This is backed by a selection of affordable and transparent, always-on data packages that are tailored to the lifestyle requirements of different BlackBerry smartphone users. These BlackBerry service plans mean that our customers can use mobile e-mail, Internet, instant messaging and social networking at a rate they can afford. Our brand is also built on the data efficiency of our devices, which enables users to have a great experience, even on a slower EDGE connection. This is a big selling point in many parts of Africa.”
“The rapid pace of change and the constant evolution of commercial models are exciting to me,” Alexandra adds. “This dynamic unlocks your ability to drive from creation to execution at record speed. It’s the type of environment in which I thrive.”