Since it was first established in the early 90s, Melita Ltd has grown to service over 75 per cent of our nation’s households with high-speed internet, high-definition digital television, fixed telephony or 5G mobile. As its CEO, Harald Rösch understands the mammoth responsibility that Melita has to its customers – both now and in the future – as well as the importance of its own people when it comes to delivering on that responsibility.
Melita Ltd is one of Malta’s greatest homegrown success stories – a company that found its feet with a niche goal in the early 90s and which has matured to become a household name and powerhouse of innovation today.
As CEO of that powerhouse since 2016, Harald Rösch says his focus is very much on the people that have contributed to Melita’s success: its team. In fact, his drive, he says, comes wholeheartedly from leading his team to ensure that everyone in the company can and does contribute according to their capabilities and ambitions. “Our team is critical to us,” he stresses. “There is nothing we do today that can be achieved by any of us alone. So, what I enjoy most about that fact is the knowledge that working together can achieve incredible things for the company, and for our wider society.”
His is an approach that Harald has honed across his career so far – a career that has given him extensive experience in the international telecommunications sector. “This route just happened for me,” he says, reflecting on the 20 years since he joined the industry. “My first role was with McKinsey & Company as an external consultant, and I then decided to join them in an official capacity. I instantly loved the telecoms industry because of how quickly it evolves, and how central it is to people’s lives.”
Having entered the sector in the late 90s as mobile phones and the internet became increasingly significant, Harald has witnessed momentous changes since then. “Back then it was about customers talking, not customers using data,” he recalls, charting his own progression into roles that have included being CEO of Blizoo (the largest cable operator in Bulgaria), CEO of Kabel Baden-Württemberg (the third- largest cable operator in Germany), CEO of HanseNet (the fourth-largest broadband operator in Germany), and the Head of the Internet Division for Telecom Italia.
“You can imagine how much things have changed over that time!” he smiles. “This is a sector that transforms at a rapid pace and reacts quickly to enable people to do new things – whether that’s texting a message or instantly uploading a video to social media. The COVID-19 crisis has further emphasised that evolution and we’ve seen even more technology requirements come into play as a result. Reacting and adapting is very exciting, and it’s one of the many things that keeps me so in love with the sector.”
Melita Ltd itself also has a very exciting history – starting with its initial role to increase Malta’s choice of TV channels by introducing cable TV in 1992. Once that was successful, the company developed into a fully-fledged telecommunications operator servicing the island’s voice and internet needs. “Today I think most of Melita is about connectivity and connecting people,” says the CEO, who accepted the role when he moved to Malta from Hamburg. “Along with our objective to always do things better and better, creating connectivity is really what drives us all to do what we do.”
Asked which milestones he believes have most shaped Melita since its inception, Harald specifies the company’s ability to contribute to society by giving people the best- possible ways to interact. “That’s what differentiates us today,” he continues. “We are the only operator in Europe to provide nationwide gigabit fixed internet and 5G mobile coverage, and that’s what sets us apart. Malta is currently ranked number one in Europe in terms of broadband coverage and, going forward, we expect to see big jumps for 5G on these rankings too. It’s these facts and figures that make me so proud of the company and what’s been achieved.”
That said, despite these clear nuts-and-bolts accomplishments, it’s actually the human side of the business that makes Harald proudest of all. “Having happy and committed employees is essential to me; if you don’t have that, then it becomes impossible to deliver the kind of customer satisfaction we strive for. After all, it’s only if your employees really believe in the company that they can pass that belief onto your customers. As a result, providing our team with a great environment to work in and showing our commitment to their success is essential. With that in mind, I am thrilled that we have boosted employee satisfaction over time in a truly substantial way, and we have gradually improved to become one of the top companies in Malta for employee satisfaction and we intend to keep investing in that side of the business going forward.”
Having engaged and committed employees has, of course, also been critical to Melita in the last two years, as the company battled to keep up with the demands placed on it by the pandemic. Internally, Harald and the team were able to move very quickly, and the team virtualised their operation at lightning speed in March 2020. “Most people had to shift instantly to a work-from-home model, including our call centre,” explains the CEO. “And that could have been challenging but, fortunately, proved to be very efficient and effective. This meant we were able to keep up with the increased demands placed on us when internet usage skyrocketed – and all thanks to the head room we had planned into our infrastructure well in advance. Yes, there were lots of challenges to overcome – such as working out how our technicians could do their job remotely – but we managed them. Now over 30 per cent of our installations are done virtually, and this works brilliantly. It’s just one of many positive examples of ways the pandemic has helped to move certain things forward for our business.”
And while he doesn’t think COVID-19 has created opportunities for the telecoms sector as such, Harald does acknowledge that it has made its service offering more essential than ever. “Most people spend more time online today than they ever did before,” he explains, “So demands have shot up.
“But, to be honest, there have been more disadvantages than advantages when it comes to wider market opportunities in our industry because, if the economy suffers (and it has), Melita also suffers. That said, we have been resilient; yes, there was cost-cutting and yes, our growth rate was slower in 2020 and 2021 than it was before the pandemic, but we have been very resilient – and I am very proud of our team for that fact.”
Looking ahead, though, opportunity does abound. “Security is going to become increasingly important in our line of work as we are seeing people experience more threats and attacks online, so we are gearing up to protect our people and our customers,” Harald says. “Early last year we launched our cloud services and, since then, we have invested heavily in our Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities and our mesh WiFi offering to further improve our home WiFi experience. There’s lots in the pipeline, and lots for our customers to look forward to.”
Personally speaking, the CEO says he is very excited about the possibilities created by IoT, which he believes will make the world more sustainable in many ways. “For instance, we already have a client using it in their sector – public waste management. Using IoT, it is now possible for them to know when their bins are full, which has three advantages – one, by reducing the need to keep driving to check if the bins are full; two, by keeping the bins empty enough for people to use; and, three, by reducing costs for the client. It’s a win-win, and I hope this kind of technology could make a huge contribution to the climate challenge we all face.”
It’s this kind of drive and sense of enthusiasm that have doubtlessly helped Harald achieve his success so far, as well as so much success for Melita. Now, his sights are firmly on continued improvement, as the company continues to deliver innovation to the business community and connectivity to wider society.
But Melita also has a very specific objective for 2022 and beyond: significantly increasing its business beyond the island’s shores. “So far, we have predominately generated our revenue in Malta. But, going forward, we can see very viable opportunities for us to do more overseas. In fact, I very much look forward to 2022 being the first year when we start to see Melita as a truly international company, driven by melita.io and our IoT offering,” the CEO concludes.
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