Mr. Balázs Révész, CEO of Vodafone Albania and Chairman of the FIAA Committee on Digital Economy

Mr. Balázs Révész, CEO of Vodafone Albania and Chairman of the FIAA Committee on Digital Economy

November 6, 2023
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“Turning Albania into the most important digital hub in the Western Balkans it would require coordinated efforts from business, the government, and universities”

FIAA: Mr. Révész, this year you were appointed CEO of Vodafone Albania, following a successful career in Vodafone Hungary. What are the experiences that you bring to Vodafone Albania?

Mr. Révész: I was born and raised in Hungary, although all of my professional experience of over 15 years was spent into a multinational environment. During the first 12 years of my career, I worked for Procter&Gamble, a well known multi brand, US based company. My latest role with them was Heading the Commercial Operations, responsible for 9 countries in the Central European region. During my tenure with them, I mastered brand management, P&L ownership, marketing, commercial management, and leadership in a highly diverse, multinational corporation.

In 2015 I was invited over to Vodafone Hungary, where I have supported the organization in various roles, starting with Head of Marketing, later Consumer Business Unit Director, and Deputy CEO.
Joining Vodafone was one of the wisest  decisions i made in my career path. Vodafone offers a highly professional environment, it is a truly, innovative company that impacts lives everyday, the lives of our customers, businesses and the entire society in its transformative journey to digital technology.

Vodafone Hungary was fiery in the past decade, as it acquired the fixed operator UPC from Liberty. I had the opportunity  to take on a leading role,  integrating the mobile and fixed businesses, steering  Vodafone Hungary through a complete IT and business transformation program.

Early 2023, I was proposed the role of Vodafone Albania CEO, a role which I gladly accepted.

What are some work differences between Albania and Hungary?

At Vodafone Albania I found a professional, highly experienced, and motivated organization, comparable to any of the Vodafone teams in Western Europe. I would go further and add that the team here is more effective, as we have learned how to deliver outstanding results with a much leaner organization than many of the large operations in big European markets. Albanians are creative, efficient, politically, and economically literate and highly adoptable, and it is to no surprise that we are exporting great talents to so many other Vodafone operations in Europe & Africa.

What is your vision for further developing Vodafone Albania? Any new products and services that you are planning to launch soon, and you would like to share some insights about?

I came to Albania at a truly exciting time. As the country is preparing for EU accession in the years to come, the economy will go through major transformations. Although, preparing to fully join EU will bring plenty of opportunities, at the same time, business competition will be fierce. In this view, I strongly believe that embracing and progressing the digitization journey of the country, will strongly prepare Albania to become an equal player in the big competitive field of the unified European market.

We believe that Vodafone can be the key partner in digitalizing Albania and turning it into the digital hub of the Western Balkans. The journey towards digitizing Albania has already started as we are offering the best 4G network in the country, although these are only the first steps. With the soon to come auction of 5G next year, Vodafone Albania will be offering gigabit connectivity for every customer in the country. In addition, in the next 3 years, we will upgrade our entire fixed network to fiber.

Further, we will focus building an even stronger presence of Vodafone in ICT, system integration, and IOT, so that we can offer a full range of digital services to both the government as well as enterprises in the areas of cloud computing, cybersecurity, software-defined network, and even tailormade IT solutions. Vodafone is and will remain Albania’s trusted digital solution provider.

Vodafone Albania is a FIAA founding Member and has been a member ever since. How does FIAA support Vodafone’s mission to connect and expand business in Albania?

Vodafone is one of longest standing Foreign Investors in Albania, marking 23 years of investment to date. Vodafone has invested over 1.3 Billion Euros over the years employing over 3000 people directly and indirectly.

Our partnership with FIAA has seen a long and successful journey indeed.

FIAA has provided a great platform for all Foreign Investors in Albania to network and build connections within the industry, often facilitating partnerships and collaborations. Further, FIAA has been a great advocate for policies and regulations, that benefit the telecommunication sector. Often FIAA has helped Vodafone engage with local and national governments to represent the interest of Vodafone Albania.

Vodafone Albania, on the other side, has been a great advocate of promoting Albania into the foreign investors’ community worldwide.

We are looking forward to further the cooperation with FIAA.

A few days ago, you were appointed Chairman of the recently established FIAA Committee on Digital Economy.  Can you share some thoughts on the vision that this Committee will adopt in the next two years?

Albania has made great progress in terms of digitalization in the past years, thanks to the Government and their brave initiatives to digitalize the business sphere and public administration (e-Albania), to focus on IT education, and also thanks to the support of EU, funding digital capabilities and start-ups.

However, despite the great progress, Albania’s digital development level is still behind that of the European Union: the DESI Index (Digital Economy and Society Index, a key tool of the European Union to measure digital readiness) counts for 30 in Albania, compared to 50%+ average of the EU.
Our vision with the Digital and Telco Committee is to create a forum where the foreign-background businesses involved into the sector, together with the government, can exchange feedback, ideas, or even concrete recommendations that can accelerate Albania’s digitalization. We believe that with our international experience coupled with the resources of our companies, the Committee can contribute to turning Albania into the most developed digital hub of the Western Balkans.

What would in your opinion be some necessary steps to be undertaken by the businesses, the government and universities that would turn Albania into potentially the most important digital hub in the Western Balkan region?

Turning Albania into the most important digital hub in the Western Balkans it would require coordinated efforts from business, the government, and universities.

Businesses should invest in technology and digital solutions to enhance their operations and services. Further cooperation with start ups is a must, specifically for large business to foster innovation and support the growth of the digital ecosystem.

It is applaudable that the Albanian government already has a digital strategy, and that digital investments are a priority of the governing agenda in the years to come. Nevertheless, support with investments in digital infrastructure, together with a regulatory framework which encourages investments and protects privacy and security should be a government focus to achieve the expected results.

It is also necessary that the Albanian Universities update their curricula to include courses on emerging technologies, data science and entrepreneurship.

Only by aligning the efforts of the above, Albania can become the prominent digital hub in the Western Balkans.

And now we want to focus on you as a person. What is a motto that drives you in life and in career that you would like to share with the audience of FIAA? What is the best psychological advice that you would give to your younger self?

Around 15 years ago I heard one of the previous executive leaders of Procter & Gamble say that a great leader should have a cool head, a warm heart, and dirty hands. This simple expression set with me, becoming my motto further in life. It keeps reminding me that my role as a leader is to shape a vision and engage the entire organization to that vision, with clean prioritizations and tasks.  Yet, I may be able to guide, but the success comes from the team.  Leading and coaching the team is where results will derive.
A tip to my younger self? Dare to dream big and take risks to achieve it!

Your family accompanies you in this new journey in Albania. How have they accommodated themselves and what have you seen of Albania so far?

In only 6 months we are calling Albania Home, and we are indeed enjoying it very much. My wife, Anett, is working as a chief dietician at a private clinic in Hungary:  we are ripping the benefits of digitization as she is privileged to continue her consultations online.
My 2 teenage kids have adjusted quick, as they are pursuing their high school studies in one of the international schools in Tirana. Albania is a fantastic country with amazing nature, a Mediterranean vibe, great cuisine, and friendly people. The only struggle is the language, it is super difficult, but I accept it as a challenge. 🙂