Atanas Raykov: Viber Planning to Increase Customer Base in CEE by 25-30%
It is quite challenging to deliver truly glocal experience to millions of customers in Central and Eastern Europe when it comes to communication, Atanas Raykov, Viber's General Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, has told Novinite.
Mr Raykov is among the nominees in our annual Personality in the News poll where voting will continue until February 20.
Having worked in the telecoms industry for ten years, he was offered a position at Viber in 2015, as the latter was setting up an office in Sofia.
What is the most specific feature of the market in Central and Eastern Europe, the region you are in charge of, compared to the rest of Europe or the US?
It’s one of the most diverse regions in the world in terms of language, culture and heritage – the 13 countries that we cover speak more than 10 languages, have different heritage, culture, predominant religion and underlying social specifics. This makes it quite challenging to deliver truly glocal experience to these millions customers when it comes to communication. Because the communication with the closest ones, where Viber is undisputed leader in CEE is the most personal and local part of the life of our users. We have strived to work only with local partners, to learn from them and to deliver services that our communities really appreciate.
You once said Viber would become "the most Bulgarian" communication platform. Could you elaborate on that and how far are you from achieving it?
I can confidently say that we have made quite a big progress over the last year. Viber now has a team of 7 Bulgarians managing a whole region, who however pay a lot of attention to the local market as well – we have launched more than 30 sticker packs fully translated in Bulgaria, which have been used more than 50 Million times! This is something that no other messenger can even compare to. We’ve partnered to deliver free access to Viber with the biggest telecoms, the leading companies and media in Bulgaria already have interactive chat bots that deliver services to their customers through our platform. In 2016 we also launched several new features of Viber first in Bulgaria before anywhere else, so our customers here can be ahead of everybody else. And this is just the start.
Have you observed over the past few years any interesting trends you have observed in how Bulgarians use instant messaging platforms?
The Bulgarians are very tech-savvy, enjoy testing new things are very much into chat with a special focus on stickers and picture exchange. Our users in Bulgaria are sending two times more pictures and three times more stickers than the global averages.
What are your business expectations and growth forecasts for 2017?
We are planning a major expansion of our B2B capabilities, which shall attract a lot of attention from the brands and merchants to Viber. As a result a we plan to multiply several times the revenue that we make from the region and to increase our customer base by 25 to 30%.
Many have pointed to corruption and lack of skilled labor as the biggest drawbacks of doing business in Bulgaria. What is your take on this?
Doing business is not always easy even compared to the other countries in the region, despite the immense potential of our country. Corruption is certainly a serious problem, but it’s related to the lack of trust even on daily personal level, which has to change if we are to develop into a prosperous society – we have to learn to help each other, to share our success and our burden and not to be egoistic in the way we do business and operate in the society. By doing this we’ll not only retain our young people but also stimulate them to develop freely. I’m happy to share that we are trying to do our small share in this respect and we have members of the team that have come back to Bulgaria after living and working many years abroad in places such as Berlin and New York.
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