ADL : disrupting the digital transformation journey in the Telco industry

Thushera Kawdawatta, Chief Executive Officer, Axiata Digital Labs

With a phenomenal growth rate, ADL looks to be the disrupting force in the future of the telecommunications industry.

Chief Executive Officer at Axiata Digital Labs, Thushera Kawdawatta reveals how Axiata Digital Labs (ADL), achieved such massive progress within the telecommunications industry in such a short time period.

ADL is the technology hub of the Axiata Group which is one of the leading telecommunication groups in Asia Excerpts of the interview are as follows

Could you give us a brief introduction to ADL, its progress and what is it ADL set out to achieve?

ADL is an Axiata Group company headquartered in Sri Lanka that predominantly focuses on telecommunications and adjacent industries like FinTech, HealthTech, Media & Entertainment.

We largely look at two areas; product development and services, which is a unique combination that IT companies struggle to achieve.

Most of the companies largely focus on one of the two, but we have both, which allows us to think R&D, innovation, and release the best possible products into the market.

ADL supports the larger Axiata Group which spans across six countries, six major telecommunications providers, and 10 different subsidiaries that focus on the industries I mentioned.

As a product organization, we have two world-leading products; one being the Apigate AXP which is an open source telco specialized middleware platform, and the other being ADL-DTE which is an enterprise grade micro services development platform allowing digital transformation at rapid pace.

We want to be the disruptor in this Telco industry and adjacent industries which we will achieve through some innovative products that are to be released in the coming years.

Could you tell us about your background and what drew you to ADL?

I started in 1996 with my company, Impact Computer Systems, which I was successful at running for one and a half years, but I realised I need to learn from the industry to improve.

I joined PalmWare Software in 1997, which developed a global award-winning product.

In 1999 I joined Virtusa, and for almost 20 years, led the technology side and a part of its growth from 50 employees to a billion-dollar organisation with around 25,000 employees.

With product development and services being two sides that I, or any IT person for that matter, would love to do, ADL presented the best of both situations.

This, in combination with the focus on technology, Axiata’s strength in the region and the team of skilled individuals I had to lead, was too attractive to miss.

With ADL looking to disrupt the Telco space, how does it differ from its peers and how do your clients benefit from this?

There are a multitude of reasons why in which we differ from our peers. One is the deep Telco domain knowledge we have, which is unparalleled to any other service provider.

The other is that are our teams possess superior technical experience, and we have world-class engineers as a part of this team.

Apigate AXP is an open-source, Telco middleware; potentially the only one available in the market, and this competes directly with one of the giants in the industry.

Because of our deep Telco knowledge, we have developed our Digital Telco Enabler (ADLDTE) where we have partnered with some of the world’s largest Telco providers in disrupting the core telco BSS echo-system.

What have you achieved in your tenure at ADL and what challenges have you had to overcome?

Through our solutions within the first year, we delivered numerous key projects in a short time with unparalleled quality. Within 20 months, we could increase our growth four-fold, which enabled us to deliver greater value for the group.

The biggest challenge we faced within our industry was inducting the best of the best people. But thanks to our merits, we were able to attract a large number of extraordinary talents in a short amount of time.

We achieved this by transforming the way we did things; our processes were increased and our culture had to be well placed.

We did this to make sure that the organization is sustainable and that there would be no weak links since we are growing at a rapid rate.

How has the industry changed in 2020 and what is the future of ADL within this new landscape?

The telecommunication industry has taken the driving seat in this digital transformation journey. One thing would be the connectivity; plus, the massive amount of data we deal with.

ADL has taken on data science & engineering to offer comprehensive and meaningful solutions to the users. From the user perspective, we are trying to deliver a more intuitive user experience.

From the industry/operator perspective, we are looking at achieving the massive operational efficiencies in order to lower the TCO. To achieve this, we are implementing the right ecosystem to speed up the digital transformation.

What you have today can change tomorrow, and with the influx of new technologies coming in and around 5G, we are aligning ourselves with that and making sure we are at the centre of disrupting the Telco space.

The end goal will be to get the entire telecommunication industry together to deliver the best solution to our end users, at the lowest cost.