Today we are going to get to know Ricardo Fioretti a little better, a former student of our International MBA and currently the Product Innovation Marketing Manager at Telefónica, a position he has held since December 2015. His previous positions include Global Team Leader at PWC and Senior IT Security Consultant for Ernst & Young. However, he has not always worked for large companies. Between December 2007 and December 2010, he was an entrepreneur, heading the operations of his own company Imataca Inc, which specialized in integrating security and network solutions for companies.
What is the everyday routine like for a Product Marketing Manager?
It is a job that really requires you to have a vocation and aptitude. There may be days on which you have to speak in three or four different languages with multidisciplinary teams. For instance, you have a meeting in Spanish in the morning with the development team, then a meeting in Portuguese with the rollout team, another one in Italian with some digital service provider, then one in English with the legal department, as well as others in Spanish with QA and technical support, and probably another one with the finance team. That would be more-or-less a ‘normal’ day. The problem arises when you lose your grip on a certain issue and then you start having problems with conflict resolution and timing issues that then get passed on from team to team.
It is a profession that requires a great deal of creativity, a good helping of problem solving, negotiation skills, a certain amount of philosophy and lots, and I mean lots, of stress management. Philosophy is needed to be able to visualize the use that the users will make of your product. If you do not naturally have good people skills, I advise you to look for another option, particularly if you want to work in a global company in which many problems are resolved through a conversation over a couple of cups of coffee, as long as you know the right person. If you don’t know how to manage stress properly you will end up burning out very quickly or you’ll get anxiety attacks, as your sleep will be affected straightaway due to the way you use your brain to work in several languages to solve multidisciplinary problems.
I have seen a couple of excellent product managers burn out due to stress or have a really bad time because of cultural shocks. That is why I decided to write a couple of things in my LinkedIn profile that I have learned over the last few years with respect to stress management and working in multicultural environments. I recommended reading them to anybody going through a similar experience.
What made you decide to work for a giant such as Telefónica?
As an entrepreneur, I am passionate about creating. I have always wanted to generate products that transform the current market, focusing on innovation and usability. Right now, Telefónica has lots of projects underway in many fields in relation to innovation, particularly with respect to the internet of things and loads of extremely cool confidential innovations that I wanted to be part of. Starting your own entrepreneurial venture is a great experience but taking part of various innovation projects that will transform the future of technology and communications as we know them today is really fantastic.
What challenges does the company face as a brand?
The main challenge is transforming from a conventional Telco, which will end up being just commodity, to become a Digital Telco. Not only are we striving to become the number one in telecommunications, but also we want to be able to create and roll out digital services with contents that contribute value in the everyday lives of our users at a global level.
How has the recession affected the telecommunications sector?
Its impact has been that, in order to be really competitive, you always have to roll out the best technology of the highest quality. However, as the recession gets worse and the competition gets tougher in economic terms, we have found that what the end customers value most is the possibility of reducing their monthly expenses, even if this means sacrificing quality or even digital services that could improve their lives in terms of communication.
All of this also affects the country’s technological evolution, as the competition is based on offering a package at a lower price, rather than competing with a faster internet service, better infrastructure, higher quality digital services or innovation. To sum it up, the longer the recession goes on for telcos, the greater risk we face of becoming a commodity and the longer the return on investment will take, so you end up with a situation in which a country’s communications soon become obsolete instead of having cutting-edge technology.
What about advances in ICTs?
With respect to advances in information technologies, I think that, in the short term, there will be pretty much more of the same, smart phones with curved screens and better cameras, larger, curved televisions, etc. What would really change the market would be batteries that last much longer than current ones. We are reaching the point now that the battery in a device can’t cope with the user’s requirements.
In terms of advances in communications, Telefónica is working on rolling out innovative technologies that I find extremely exciting, as they will improve the speed and use of current systems.
Does the SMB market represent a business opportunity for large companies?
If there is business to be done, let’s do it. If we look at the specific case of Telefónica, the SMB market in Spain alone is worth several million euros. If we add in the entire footprint of Latin America and Brazil, we soon realise that the SMB market is a large portion of our business, especially considering that if they have Movistar at work and they are happy with the internet services, they are more likely to end up contracting the rest of the services at home, which increases mass market revenue even further. Now if we imagine the case of Santander, BBVA or any other large company offering services to SMBs and what the opportunity that a country like Spain represents to them, there is a greater focus on generating revenue through service provision rather than creating new products.
I would really like to address the flipside of that question though Do large accounts represent a good business opportunity for SMBs? I have witnessed first-hand how startups and SMBs are affected when they start providing services to large accounts, as they find themselves banging their heads against an enormous wall of bureaucracy that they are not normally able to manage, facing significant financial impacts due to the fact that things drag on so long and they feel that they are wasting time on procedures that they consider useless. However, it is precisely these review, QA, legal processes etc. that keep the large companies on top. So if any of the readers are a CEO of a startup, I advise them to have good financial backup and a great deal of patience when doing business with large companies. Because, if the company can hold out and the deal comes to fruition, the return can be astronomical.
Which products are going to set the trend in the field of telecommunications?
I think that we are aware that "telecommunications" are venturing far beyond the terrain of communications and much further into the realm of contents. This is the differential factor at the moment.
However, I would dare to predict that telecommunications is set to be one of the best business in the near future as there is currently pretty significant growth in terms of the technology and everything depends even more on the internet, which puts us in a really good strategic position. If there is growth in e-health (all of the devices that measure the user’s health), smart homes, smart cities, games consoles, etc., the company in best position will always be a telco because, without having to do anything, users need a better internet service for their new devices and they will be prepared to pay a higher price for it.
The best of luck in the future Ricardo and thanks for the interview!