Harald Roesch has been the CEO of Melita since 2016, at the helm of the telecoms firm which boasts a 30-year history in delivering communications and entertainment solutions to the island. Today, he stands ready to continue strengthening the company’s customer service, widening connectivity and investing in the internet of things, as well as fulfilling the business’ ESG goals.
Harald Roesch is a man who is constantly thinking ahead. He landed in Malta in 2016, having been appointed CEO of Melita – one of the island’s most recognisable brands – and he quickly got to work, setting the agenda, defining goals and ensuring the team had what it needed to reach its objectives. He knew the telecoms industry’s continually evolving nature and ensured the firm was able to keep introducing cutting-edge technology.
“There’s always going to be an improvement in the quality and performance of the products we sell – but that is always going to be an imperative for this industry,” he says.
Melita was founded in 1992, with the goal of introducing cable TV to the island – “some would say we brought colour to TV,” Harald smiles – and, indeed, this was a landmark moment in Malta’s media history, for, before the early 1990s, there was a limited choice provided to audiences who, starved of variety, consumed Italian television in their hundreds of thousands – the only option they had available.
“We brought MTV to the islands,” he recalls, going on to explain the evolution of the company. “Over time, our business has changed substantially. Now, our focus is on connectivity. We still offer TV services, of course, and we’re market leaders here, but our most important services are now internet and mobile.”
The decision to enter other product lines has served the company well. Today, Melita is the only company in Europe that is able to deliver Gigabit internet to all households in the country within which it operates. “Our technical assets are important, and this is what differentiates us from our competitors even on the continent,” he attests.
Indeed, as a result of this investment, Malta places well in studies on connectivity commissioned by international institutions. As a case in point, according to a recent report published by the European Commission entitled ‘Broadband Coverage in Europe in 2021’, Malta, as of June 2021, remained the only country to have recorded complete Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) coverage, as well as universal combined FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1 coverage. Moreover, the island was the only European country to register universal coverage by broadband services capable of providing at least 1Gbps. “What differentiates us from other telecom firms in Europe is our network; and this is why Malta remains at the top of the European league tables in terms of internet connectivity,” he explains.
Another area of priority for the CEO is the firm’s invigorated focus on customer service. “This was not always the case with Melita, and we clearly don’t have a history to be proud of on this,” he states, frankly. However, Harald has poured a lot of energy into ensuring it was remedied. “We have improved the situation over the years to a level where we’re confident enough to say that our customer care service is among the best in Europe. It was not part of our historical DNA, but it’s become a core part of the identity of the company,” he explains. And, it seems many agree with him, for Melita has recently placed first runner-up for the Malta Business Award in Customer Care Service Excellence, given by the Malta Chamber of SMEs, together with Malta Enterprise.
Harald’s leadership expertise was honed across years building an international career. He started out working at the global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, at their Italian office in Milan. This gave him, he says, “a good, solid background” in the skills he would later continue to develop. Following this stint, he was appointed CEO for various firms, including a German telecoms company called Kabel Baden Württemberg, which was vital in shaping his perspectives and vision.
Today, he sees his role as centred around his staff. “It’s important to communicate and meet your team members,” he says – and his typical day revolves around sessions with his leadership team, half of whom, he proudly asserts, are women. “This is also part of our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments; 40 per cent of our management are women, and we want to expand that to make sure the workplace at Melita continues to improve,” he explains.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of his role is, indeed, the interaction necessary to achieve the company’s strategic goals. “You must collaborate with others, which is one of the nicest parts of this job. However, being CEO also gives you the possibility to continually create something new.”
Herein lies the challenge, of course, he admits. “This is an industry that is constantly changing. Think back 20 years, when the internet had just been created; now, it’s a fundamental part of our lives and the tech has evolved considerably,” he explains. Over the years, Harald has worked to contend with the demands of the sector, and, as a result, he has learnt the vital importance of emotional intelligence in managing teams. “I’ve spent years coming from the rational fold, so I’ve had to learn a lot of emotional skills and, now, I can say this is one of my strengths.”
Looking ahead, Harald insists that dependability will continue to be valued by the industry, and its customers. “Reliability is a priority; in other words, you need to make sure you always have service and, if anything happens, we need to work fast to get it back,” he says, adding that the security and safety accorded by the projects will also remain highly prized, due to the rise of internet crime, so “customers need to be assisted and protected.”
Over the next few months, the CEO hopes to make further progress on the company’s most important objectives, centred around the continual improvement of their customer service experience; the enhancement of their product line; expanding Melita’s Internet of Things project further overseas; as well as making more headway with their ESG priorities.
“These are our four main objectives. With regards to our customer relationships, we’re always improving our systems to help us address any issue. In terms of the products we’re launching, one of our focus areas is home connectivity, and we’re intent on improving the Wi-Fi experience inside the home,” he explains.
Melita is also committed to capitalising on its IoT investment. “Last year was a very important one in that we scaled up this part of our business and internationalised. Indeed, today, 95 per cent of our IoT customers originate abroad, in Europe or the US. This year, we have a lot of exciting projects ahead with some big foreign clients; so, the objective for the next few months is to onboard between three and five international companies, who will use us for the IoT connectivity,” Harald states.
Finally, the CEO points to the firm’s dedication to key ESG goals, including the reduction of carbon emissions. “We want to build solar farms to generate the electricity needed by our network, to produce our own sustainable energy,” he concludes, underlining Melita’s commitment to future-proofing the industry, and the firm itself.
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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