TRANSFORMING TELECOMS: The telecoms sector is diversifying – UKTIN support will help plug you into the evolving ecosystem

Abhishek Ghosh

Abhishek Ghosh is an experienced tech professional who has worked across the globe for telecom giants such as AT&T and Vodafone in various roles, including transformation architecture, supply chain management, and customer experience.

While working for these telcos, he had the spark of an idea for his own start-up after seeing a gap in the market for a business-to-consumer cybersecurity offering. 

We caught up with Abhishek, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of Praeferre, which offers multi-layered, world-leading privacy management solutions, about his experience of UK Telecoms Innovation Network’s (UKTIN) investment support and how the telecoms industry, in general, is opening up to innovation.

How did you come up with the idea for Praeferre?

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work in telecoms across the globe, including APAC in the US, and UK. Through this broad base of experience, I saw that the leading cybersecurity solutions were offered on a business-to-business basis and that there was clear market demand for a business-to-consumer product that would enable consumers to use all of their digital services freely and safely. So, I left my job in 2021 to concentrate on Praeferre full-time and haven’t looked back since.”

“We don’t want consumers to have to pay additional money for the security of their digital services. Our solution helps businesses comply with regulations around managing customer privacy in a centralised way whilst helping their consumer manage their digital privacy universally and seamlessly from a single window. That’s our key selling point.”

“Telecoms is a key market for us as it offers many digital products and services to consumers for the home, smart places, and smart cities, which will introduce many new digital touchpoints for the consumer which need to be protected.”

How has your start-up journey been so far? 

“We’ve been very fortunate to get the right support from the right people at the right time. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are now in just three years.”

“We built the product using grant funding and were recognised early on by the UK Department of Science, Innovation and Technology as one of the most innovative cybersecurity start-ups in the UK. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) selected us for the UK and Japan 5G mission, which enabled us to go to Japan, where we initiated conversations with leading telecom companies. Last year, we were also selected for the UK and Australia cyber corridor to have high-level conversations about cyber policies and the vision going forward for both nations and how we can build a robust ecosystem for consumers to manage their digital privacy.”

“Now we’re engaged with UKTIN, which is playing a vital role in plugging us into the telecoms sector.”

Are you starting to get some market traction?  

“We’re currently working on pilot projects, aiming to launch commercially at the end of 2024. In the lead-up to that, we are developing user cases based on three key markets – telecoms, banking and retail.”

“It’s an exciting time to be working in telecoms. It’s moving quickly towards diversification and developing partnerships to build smart ecosystems, smart cities, industry 4.0 and beyond.”

“The sector is diversifying to meet consumer demands and doesn’t want to limit its offering to being a managed service provider offering landline, fixed line, mobile phones, and internet access. They want their customers to use them for all their digital services.”

“The sector is increasingly looking to start-ups to provide these solutions. It’s easier to onboard a start-up than reinvent the wheel every time within an organisation with many bureaucracies and decision-makers. They can test products with different customer segments to gauge the response and then quickly scale it further.”

Do you have any competitors offering products similar to yours?

“We do have competitors from Singapore and the US, but our competitors’ platforms are limited to manual workloads, whereas we provide a platform with an easy plugin, so we’re expecting the uptake to be high due to there being no major IT changes required.”

“In terms of the consumer market, many privacy products are restricted to browser-based services. Studies suggest we only spend 8% of our mobile time in the browser. So, we don’t see securing the browser as a holistic solution. That’s our key USP and market advantage.”

How has UKTIN supported your journey so far?

“We took part in UKTIN’s investment support and were selected to take part in an investor briefing immediately after that.”

“We’ve only been engaged for a few months, but it has already opened up so many useful discussions with investors and potential customers that we can take forward and is helping generate interest in our solution. That’s provided validation for us in terms of the telecoms sector, and we want to continue that further.”

Would you encourage other start-ups who have applications in telecoms to take part?

“Absolutely. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to plug into the ecosystem with the decision makers who actually can buy your product and can help you take the first step in terms of market validation within telecoms. That’s also been key for us, starting with participating in the programme and continuing the conversation. That’s why we highly recommend it to other start-ups.”

Why is telecoms an exciting sector?

“All other industries start from the telecoms sector. Be that the internet, be that 4G, 5G, or 6G – telecoms originate all this data and the internet ecosystem. It is the backbone of managing all this bandwidth data information flowing worldwide. It’s exciting to be part of the network.”

What are the next steps for Praeferre?

“We’ve already initiated a few conversations and are looking forward to onboarding our key customers from the telco sector, with support and contacts from the UKTIN programme, and then we will take it forward to scale further beyond the UK.”

“The investment landscape has not been very promising since the near collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last year and post-COVID, but overall, the start-ups that are surviving and thriving in this ecosystem are really, really good. So, my positive message to other start-up founders is to continue your journey. Things are falling into place, and it’s vital to access support that is on offer through UKTIN.”

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