Centili: monetising digital experiences
As the digital landscape continues to shift, companies can often spend so long fixating on the trends of today that they forget about the potential innovations of tomorrow. Centili is a company which manages to reconcile both perspectives; a fast-paced tech company with its finger on the pulse and its eyes on the future. Founded in 2011, it is a business focused on global monetisation opportunities and driving growth through its superior customer experience and cutting-edge mobile payment solutions. Helping its clients unlock heretofore unrealised revenue streams, customer opportunities and value, Centili is a driving force in the creative movement to monetise the modern digital experience.
Part of the digital investment industry for over 25 years, Zoran Vasiljev embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of a genuine thought-leader. Having secured several executive posts at several firms within the tech and telecoms sectors, and even founding his own (Affinitiv Consulting) in 2005, Vasiljev says that he recognised Centili as a “logical next step” in his career. “I’ve always felt that it's a company that has a great story and great potential. One way or another, I wanted to be involved with it; I actually first attempted to acquire the company at my previous firm. When that didn’t work out I decided, if I really believe in the organisation, then I'll have to go and join it.” Never content to simply ‘play it safe’ throughout his career, Vasiljev states that he’s become used to taking chances and exploring the frontiers of the industry. Adept at finding new opportunities and developing value in emerging global markets, he finds the pursuit of overcoming challenges to be both enriching and rewarding.
Taking on the role of CEO in March 2020, Vasiljev’s disposition stood him in good stead to meet perhaps the most significant logistical challenge of the present century: the COVID-19 pandemic. Refusing to cling to preconceived ways of operating, he says that his first few months of leadership have been exacting but that establishing a clear vision has seen the company navigate the most difficult aspects of disruption. “We have everything we need to take control of the situation and understand what is causing problems for the industry. There will not be a time when business will suddenly revert back to how things were in December 2019; that will never happen. However, Centili has developed a strategy to expand the company, motivate employees and demonstrate why our industry is fortunate enough not to be affected as some others might be.”
Centili itself is also well-poised to meet this goal. After all, it is a company motivated by creating a difference in the market and projecting what its partners, customers and ecosystems might need up to 12 months from now. Its credentials as a leading innovator are well established. In both 2018 and 2019, Centili was rated as a Tier 1 DCB vendor in an independent annual survey conducted among MNOs (mobile network operators) from around the world by the research company ROCCO. More recently, it came forward as the best rated carrier billing company in its Innovators 2020 report. Regarding this industry recognition, Vasiljev added, “It's really rewarding to see the curiosity and the continuous conversation that is being triggered by customers themselves, both existing ones and potentially new ones, signaling that they would like to do business with us.” However, whilst certainly an innovator, Vasiljev clarifies that any new developments are always tempered with intelligent consideration as to whether it will benefit customers directly. Blockchain, for example, is seeing some interest in the payments sphere, yet Centili has not explored its use because, at least for the moment, the technology is not ready. “There's a lot of potential for blockchain in some sections of the verticals we are serving. But, at this moment, we’re observing and considering, ‘Where does this fit and how does it really add value?’
Driving the future of the company is its ‘Shifting Gears’ growth strategy, launched shortly upon Vasiljev’s arrival. An ambitious reimagining of Centili aimed at progressing the company beyond being a payment gateway and towards being a true digital orchestrator, Vasiljev says that this new roadmap also serves the purpose of gaining expertise in the industries which Centili serves every day. “What are the pain points in gaming, video and music?” he asks. “What are the pain points in entertainment, FinTech and ePublishing? By understanding the frictions that exist in these industries and resolving them with our service offerings and platforms, Centili can build trust, relevance and become a ‘go-to’ company.” The frequent daily use of personal electronic devices (smartphones, tablets and computers) by customers means that data analytics has grown in importance as the company strives to achieve optimal digital monetisation, as has using AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms to help anticipate market changes at a faster pace. “We truly believe that a combination of conversations and payments is something that will explode technologically. People use their phones for two reasons: entertainment and conversation. If you are able, in those conversations, to actually embed monetisation and payments with instant booking, instant betting, instant buying, instant redemptions and so forth, all in one experience, I think that could be huge.”
Another innovation championed by Centili is the move away from monolithic payment structures and towards smaller, more flexible micropayments. “A lot of transactions happening through Centilli are micropayments,” continues Vasiljev. “In the gaming environment, for example, the whole industry revolves around micropayments.” The company is also cognizant of developing emerging markets where large swathes of the population might not even have a bank account; micropayments can help create an ecosystem within which the “unbanked” can be empowered and looked after. “There's a great role for us in the industry because we recognise and cater to these niches with services. Real financial inclusion is about being part of the process and recognising that maybe we can jump in and lend somebody a hand.”
Currently partnered with over 280 MNOs, operating in 80 countries and connecting with over 4bn mobile users globally, Centili has already made a significant impact just under a decade since it started. However, when asked how the company intends to maintain a roadmap for further success, Vasiljev’s boundless ambition becomes apparent: “We’re just getting started; there’s still 400 operators that we aren’t connected to yet.” Indeed, it could be argued that growth is Centili’s raison d'etre; if it stopped being hungry for further expansion, the company would probably cease to exist. As it continues on its quest to achieve an entirely frictionless payments experience, Vasiljev makes it clear that Centili doesn’t dwell on its latest achievements for too long (such as being featured in the ROCCO 2020 Innovation Report), rather it simply composes itself, assesses where the next challenge or competition may emerge from and then sets to work on improving its services for customers. “The continuous involvement and renewal of our platform, our ability to be flexible and adapt to the market's needs means that, instead of taking two years to develop a specific model or feature, we can get it done within weeks.”
Keeping its eyes on the future, as always, Centili launched ‘Fusion’ in August 2020, a flexible, hassle-free solution for bundling apps, services and other associated products. Customers pay for the bundle through a prepaid or postpaid telco account, which then enables MNOs to add value to their service via entertainment and learning packages, as well as providing merchants with an additional marketing and user acquisition channel. “The inspiration for Centili Fusion was a result of our continuous conversation and understanding about what’s happening in the telco industry,” Vasiljev explains. “It was very important to launch a platform that allows for quick access to those relationships in order to bundle specific offerings for the operators’ user base.” For some companies, 2021 is getting closer and closer, but Vasiljev is still focused on what needs to be accomplished in the last quarter of 2020. “2020 was nothing like what we originally planned and I think there's still a lot of learning to come. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to get a headstart for 2021, which is going to be the year where Centili will be able to apply everything it’s learned with a lot of rigor and conviction.” Indeed, it’s clear that his ambition for Centili to become a global force in driving digital monetisation will propel the company energetically into its next great challenge. “Growth is one of our key words and digital monetisation is a playground,” he concludes. “It's important for us to spend a lot of time anticipating what the next disruption might be, because monetising the evolving digital experience is what Centili is all about.”