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Meried Bekele is the founder of IE Network Solutions

Accelerating Digital Businesses

Meried Bekele is the founder of IE Network Solutions, one of the leading privately owned network infrastructure and data center service providers in Ethiopia. With more than 100 projects to date, a 100,000,000 Birr annual revenue and 12 years of experience, his company has been accompanying businesses, institutions and organizations to achieve digital transformations. In an interview with Senait Feseha of Detail Ethiopia, Meried Bekele highlighted the company's role in accelerating digital businesses, and gave valuable insights into the importance of technology learning to empower the youth within the ICT industry. He spoke about his professional journey, his stance about privatization of telecom, and its potential on the ICT sector.

First of all, can you explain IE Network Solutions' scope of business and the services it provides to its clients?

Established in December, 2008, IE Network Solutions is a fully Ethiopian owned company, which focuses on value maximization and is a service oriented solution provider. It specializes on enterprise network services , business automation intelligence, smart infrastructure and cloud services. Our services support businesses from consultancy to design, delivery and beyond. We help businesses and establishments succeed in the digital age.

What are the core business interests  of your company? 

Our core businesses are network infrastructure and data center development. We cater our services to the following industries, telecom, e-government, banking, education, security, e-commerce, fintech, network and  ICT management.

Can you tell us more about your career and background within the industry and inspirations to start your own business?

My personal background is in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I graduated from Mekele University. After which I started working at a private company as a network engineer. Then I worked as a consultant on Ethio Telecom's national backbone network development project and next generation network development (NGN), which provided fiber and IP networks; encompassing mobile network at a national level. I started this company during the last stages of the NGN project, while also working on my Masters in Business Administration.

Based on my experience, I saw a niche market outside of telecom as a network solutions provider for banks, universities, international institutions, and government companies. For these companies, I aimed to provide IT infrastructure , network data center, and servers.

At the beginning, IE only provided consultation and design services, but as the company grew and developed its capacity,  we went on to provide full system integration under one roof.

My extracurricular activities have impacted my career by allowing me to exercise leadership and entrepreneurship while I was still in school. I was the president and played a role in establishing the electrical engineering tech club at the university. In the tech club, we had the chance to practice and work on developing animations and network systems, we also took part in developing the university's first website. On my free time, I participated in summer internships, focusing on my field and received certifications. These activities, I believe, have shaped my career.

What are IE Network Solutions' important milestones? 

The first and biggest milestone for IE was when the company advanced from only providing design and consultancy services to undertaking the delivery of the project in full; broadening our business capacity through importing hardware and fully integrating systems.

The second would be being able to scale the business without any other external investor. Back then, as a startup, we were limited to importing a few hardware because we had financial limitations and couldn't undertake bigger projects. But now, considering the country's scale, it is the biggest privately owned network business, with a capacity to take on projects with over ETB 100,000,000 in revenue.

The third, we were one of the five Ethiopian companies to be selected to take part in Stanford University's  2019 prestigious seed program.

The program allowed IE to clearly set and define our long term goals, we were able to structure our ideas and resources of our 2024 Strategic plan, a five year goal. Our long term goals included becoming an internet based telecom provider for the country, and to provide data center services for East Africa. IE began a journey towards its ambitious goal of becoming a multi billion Birr company, and I consider that beginning as a huge milestone. 

 And finally, we have designed and setup a smart building system  for our company, it is the first of its kind on a private sector level.  A tech oriented design with digital IDs, one card system detection, attendance screens, and interconnected systems and a lot of developed softwares.

Can you  give us a snapshot of IE's work environment? How many employees do you have and how would your employees describe you? 

Today, we have around 110 employees, most of them from an engineering, computer science and IT background. We have a very hard working environment where commitment and focus are at the core and we go the extra mile to deliver quality work and that is what our clients know us for. Apart from that, my employees think that I can get a bit pushy and demanding, but that comes from striving for perfection. 

Digital transformation has gained ground due to the covid- 19 pandemic. How did IE capitalize on it and how important is it for businesses to embrace digital transformation? 

Today, businesses require new practices to stay competitive in these hard times, companies have started to digitize to some extent to serve their employees with remote work or serve customers that face mobility restrictions due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the infrastructure that is needed to offer these services were already available to us, we didn't struggle; we also supported some businesses and insured their operational continuity through out the lockdown as they moved online.

What is IE's level of competency against other East African and African companies in the same sector?

We are currently functioning only in Ethiopia. Usually there is an assumption that local companies are not competent enough to compete in this industry; and often only foreign companies bid to enter in this kind of big projects. We at IE have the capacity to bid and win these international bids, having won competitions where big Indian, Egyptian and Kenyan companies have participated. This is because we have the capacity, experience and the leadership qualities, in addition to the technical ability and providing a winning price. Generally some Ethiopian companies are competent to undertake major projects in many other sectors as well, it's just a matter applying a rigorous marketing strategy.  

What growth opportunity and potentials do you see in the country within your sector?

The IT industry in Ethiopia has a huge untapped potential. The fact that there was only one telecom service provider was a huge drawback for the country. There is talk that the second telecom service provider will start operating in 2022. Telecom is the backbone to technological advancement and good internet connectivity is the reason why some countries achieve speedy economic growth. The best part about telecom liberation, I think is competition driven quality. As a result of this liberation a lot of sectors will grow and our daily lives will be impacted.

The change will affect transportation, education, agriculture, medicine and fill the gaps in government services. It will enhance the way the financial sector works and transform how banks and payment services operate. Once we start thinking outside the box, there are limitless possibilities. There will be a surge of new businesses and startups, increasing employments opportunities.

What are the challenges new businesses and startups face in this sector?

Anyone can create a product but with out the marketing, management and leadership know-how, the startup is likely to fail.

In our country, there are a lot of young university graduates who are developing new software applications and other tech products, but most don't have the entrepreneurial skills to lead, market and grow the company. That's why we need the concept of 'business school' here.   

I have seen this from my own experience. I am an electrical and computer engineer by education, but when I started my own business, that alone would not have made me competent. The first thing I did was take an online Masters of Business Administration program as I was starting my own company. That was the most important step I took that led towards today's success.  If I hadn't taken that route, I am sure I would have  been self employed, maybe with four or five employees, but IE wouldn't have been scaled up and be what it is today.

What should we expect from IE next? 

One of our ambitious goals is to become a cloud datacenter provider. We have recently requested land in the ICT park, if successful, we plan to fully finance and build the center, then start hosting data.

Accelerating Digital Businesses

Meried Bekele is the founder of IE Network Solutions, one of the leading privately owned network infrastructure and data center service providers in Ethiopia. With more than 100 projects to date, a 100,000,000 Birr annual revenue and 12 years of experience, his company has been accompanying businesses, institutions and organizations to achieve digital transformations. In an interview with Seniat Fisseha of Detail Ethiopia, Meried Bekele highlighted the company's role in accelerating digital businesses, and gave valuable insights into the importance of technology learning to empower the youth within the ICT industry. He spoke about his professional journey, his stance about privatization of telecom, and its potential on the ICT sector.

First of all, can you explain IE Network Solutions' scope of business and the services it provides to its clients?

Established in December, 2008, IE Network Solutions is a fully Ethiopian owned company, which focuses on value maximization and is a service oriented solution provider. It specializes on enterprise network services , business automation intelligence, smart infrastructure and cloud services. Our services support businesses from consultancy to design, delivery and beyond. We help businesses and establishments succeed in the digital age.

What are the core business interests  of your company? 

Our core businesses are network infrastructure and data center development. We cater our services to the following industries, telecom, e-government, banking, education, security, e-commerce, fintech, network and  ICT management.

Can you tell us more about your career and background within the industry and inspirations to start your own business?

My personal background is in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I graduated from Mekele University. After which I started working at a private company as a network engineer. Then I worked as a consultant on Ethio Telecom's national backbone network development project and next generation network development (NGN), which provided fiber and IP networks; encompassing mobile network at a national level. I started this company during the last stages of the NGN project, while also working on my Masters in Business Administration.

Based on my experience, I saw a niche market outside of telecom as a network solutions provider for banks, universities, international institutions, and government companies. For these companies, I aimed to provide IT infrastructure , network data center, and servers.

At the beginning, IE only provided consultation and design services, but as the company grew and developed its capacity,  we went on to provide full system integration under one roof.

My extracurricular activities have impacted my career by allowing me to exercise leadership and entrepreneurship while I was still in school. I was the president and played a role in establishing the electrical engineering tech club at the university. In the tech club, we had the chance to practice and work on developing animations and network systems, we also took part in developing the university's first website. On my free time, I participated in summer internships, focusing on my field and received certifications. These activities, I believe, have shaped my career.

What are IE Network Solutions' important milestones? 

The first and biggest milestone for IE was when the company advanced from only providing design and consultancy services to undertaking the delivery of the project in full; broadening our business capacity through importing hardware and fully integrating systems.

The second would be being able to scale the business without any other external investor. Back then, as a startup, we were limited to importing a few hardware because we had financial limitations and couldn't undertake bigger projects. But now, considering the country's scale, it is the biggest privately owned network business, with a capacity to take on projects with over ETB 100,000,000 in revenue.

The third, we were one of the five Ethiopian companies to be selected to take part in Stanford University's  2019 prestigious seed program.

The program allowed IE to clearly set and define our long term goals, we were able to structure our ideas and resources of our 2024 Strategic plan, a five year goal. Our long term goals included becoming an internet based telecom provider for the country, and to provide data center services for East Africa. IE began a journey towards its ambitious goal of becoming a multi billion Birr company, and I consider that beginning as a huge milestone. 

 And finally, we have designed and setup a smart building system  for our company, it is the first of its kind on a private sector level.  A tech oriented design with digital IDs, one card system detection, attendance screens, and interconnected systems and a lot of developed softwares.

Can you  give us a snapshot of IE's work environment? How many employees do you have and how would your employees describe you? 

Today, we have around 110 employees, most of them from an engineering, computer science and IT background. We have a very hard working environment where commitment and focus are at the core and we go the extra mile to deliver quality work and that is what our clients know us for. Apart from that, my employees think that I can get a bit pushy and demanding, but that comes from striving for perfection. 

Digital transformation has gained ground due to the covid- 19 pandemic. How did IE capitalize on it and how important is it for businesses to embrace digital transformation? 

Today, businesses require new practices to stay competitive in these hard times, companies have started to digitize to some extent to serve their employees with remote work or serve customers that face mobility restrictions due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the infrastructure that is needed to offer these services were already available to us, we didn't struggle; we also supported some businesses and insured their operational continuity through out the lockdown as they moved online.

What is IE's level of competency against other East African and African companies in the same sector?

We are currently functioning only in Ethiopia. Usually there is an assumption that local companies are not competent enough to compete in this industry; and often only foreign companies bid to enter in this kind of big projects. We at IE have the capacity to bid and win these international bids, having won competitions where big Indian, Egyptian and Kenyan companies have participated. This is because we have the capacity, experience and the leadership qualities, in addition to the technical ability and providing a winning price. Generally some Ethiopian companies are competent to undertake major projects in many other sectors as well, it's just a matter applying a rigorous marketing strategy.  

What growth opportunity and potentials do you see in the country within your sector?

The IT industry in Ethiopia has a huge untapped potential. The fact that there was only one telecom service provider was a huge drawback for the country. There is talk that the second telecom service provider will start operating in 2022. Telecom is the backbone to technological advancement and good internet connectivity is the reason why some countries achieve speedy economic growth. The best part about telecom liberation, I think is competition driven quality. As a result of this liberation a lot of sectors will grow and our daily lives will be impacted.

The change will affect transportation, education, agriculture, medicine and fill the gaps in government services. It will enhance the way the financial sector works and transform how banks and payment services operate. Once we start thinking outside the box, there are limitless possibilities. There will be a surge of new businesses and startups, increasing employments opportunities.

What are the challenges new businesses and startups face in this sector?

Anyone can create a product but with out the marketing, management and leadership know-how, the startup is likely to fail.

In our country, there are a lot of young university graduates who are developing new software applications and other tech products, but most don't have the entrepreneurial skills to lead, market and grow the company. That's why we need the concept of 'business school' here.   

I have seen this from my own experience. I am an electrical and computer engineer by education, but when I started my own business, that alone would not have made me competent. The first thing I did was take an online Masters of Business Administration program as I was starting my own company. That was the most important step I took that led towards today's success.  If I hadn't taken that route, I am sure I would have  been self employed, maybe with four or five employees, but IE wouldn't have been scaled up and be what it is today.

What should we expect from IE next? 

One of our ambitious goals is to become a cloud datacenter provider. We have recently requested land in the ICT park, if successful, we plan to fully finance and build the center, then start hosting data.

Accelerating Digital Businesses

Meried Bekele is the founder of IE Network Solutions, one of the leading privately owned network infrastructure and data center service providers in Ethiopia. With more than 100 projects to date, a 100,000,000 Birr annual revenue and 12 years of experience, his company has been accompanying businesses, institutions and organizations to achieve digital transformations. In an interview with Seniat Fisseha of Detail Ethiopia, Meried Bekele highlighted the company's role in accelerating digital businesses, and gave valuable insights into the importance of technology learning to empower the youth within the ICT industry. He spoke about his professional journey, his stance about privatization of telecom, and its potential on the ICT sector.

First of all, can you explain IE Network Solutions' scope of business and the services it provides to its clients?

Established in December, 2008, IE Network Solutions is a fully Ethiopian owned company, which focuses on value maximization and is a service oriented solution provider. It specializes on enterprise network services , business automation intelligence, smart infrastructure and cloud services. Our services support businesses from consultancy to design, delivery and beyond. We help businesses and establishments succeed in the digital age.

What are the core business interests  of your company? 

Our core businesses are network infrastructure and data center development. We cater our services to the following industries, telecom, e-government, banking, education, security, e-commerce, fintech, network and  ICT management.

Can you tell us more about your career and background within the industry and inspirations to start your own business?

My personal background is in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I graduated from Mekele University. After which I started working at a private company as a network engineer. Then I worked as a consultant on Ethio Telecom's national backbone network development project and next generation network development (NGN), which provided fiber and IP networks; encompassing mobile network at a national level. I started this company during the last stages of the NGN project, while also working on my Masters in Business Administration.

Based on my experience, I saw a niche market outside of telecom as a network solutions provider for banks, universities, international institutions, and government companies. For these companies, I aimed to provide IT infrastructure , network data center, and servers.

At the beginning, IE only provided consultation and design services, but as the company grew and developed its capacity,  we went on to provide full system integration under one roof.

My extracurricular activities have impacted my career by allowing me to exercise leadership and entrepreneurship while I was still in school. I was the president and played a role in establishing the electrical engineering tech club at the university. In the tech club, we had the chance to practice and work on developing animations and network systems, we also took part in developing the university's first website. On my free time, I participated in summer internships, focusing on my field and received certifications. These activities, I believe, have shaped my career.

What are IE Network Solutions' important milestones? 

The first and biggest milestone for IE was when the company advanced from only providing design and consultancy services to undertaking the delivery of the project in full; broadening our business capacity through importing hardware and fully integrating systems.

The second would be being able to scale the business without any other external investor. Back then, as a startup, we were limited to importing a few hardware because we had financial limitations and couldn't undertake bigger projects. But now, considering the country's scale, it is the biggest privately owned network business, with a capacity to take on projects with over ETB 100,000,000 in revenue.

The third, we were one of the five Ethiopian companies to be selected to take part in Stanford University's  2019 prestigious seed program.

The program allowed IE to clearly set and define our long term goals, we were able to structure our ideas and resources of our 2024 Strategic plan, a five year goal. Our long term goals included becoming an internet based telecom provider for the country, and to provide data center services for East Africa. IE began a journey towards its ambitious goal of becoming a multi billion Birr company, and I consider that beginning as a huge milestone. 

 And finally, we have designed and setup a smart building system  for our company, it is the first of its kind on a private sector level.  A tech oriented design with digital IDs, one card system detection, attendance screens, and interconnected systems and a lot of developed softwares.

Can you  give us a snapshot of IE's work environment? How many employees do you have and how would your employees describe you? 

Today, we have around 110 employees, most of them from an engineering, computer science and IT background. We have a very hard working environment where commitment and focus are at the core and we go the extra mile to deliver quality work and that is what our clients know us for. Apart from that, my employees think that I can get a bit pushy and demanding, but that comes from striving for perfection. 

Digital transformation has gained ground due to the covid- 19 pandemic. How did IE capitalize on it and how important is it for businesses to embrace digital transformation? 

Today, businesses require new practices to stay competitive in these hard times, companies have started to digitize to some extent to serve their employees with remote work or serve customers that face mobility restrictions due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the infrastructure that is needed to offer these services were already available to us, we didn't struggle; we also supported some businesses and insured their operational continuity through out the lockdown as they moved online.

What is IE's level of competency against other East African and African companies in the same sector?

We are currently functioning only in Ethiopia. Usually there is an assumption that local companies are not competent enough to compete in this industry; and often only foreign companies bid to enter in this kind of big projects. We at IE have the capacity to bid and win these international bids, having won competitions where big Indian, Egyptian and Kenyan companies have participated. This is because we have the capacity, experience and the leadership qualities, in addition to the technical ability and providing a winning price. Generally some Ethiopian companies are competent to undertake major projects in many other sectors as well, it's just a matter applying a rigorous marketing strategy.  

What growth opportunity and potentials do you see in the country within your sector?

The IT industry in Ethiopia has a huge untapped potential. The fact that there was only one telecom service provider was a huge drawback for the country. There is talk that the second telecom service provider will start operating in 2022. Telecom is the backbone to technological advancement and good internet connectivity is the reason why some countries achieve speedy economic growth. The best part about telecom liberation, I think is competition driven quality. As a result of this liberation a lot of sectors will grow and our daily lives will be impacted.

The change will affect transportation, education, agriculture, medicine and fill the gaps in government services. It will enhance the way the financial sector works and transform how banks and payment services operate. Once we start thinking outside the box, there are limitless possibilities. There will be a surge of new businesses and startups, increasing employments opportunities.

What are the challenges new businesses and startups face in this sector?

Anyone can create a product but with out the marketing, management and leadership know-how, the startup is likely to fail.

In our country, there are a lot of young university graduates who are developing new software applications and other tech products, but most don't have the entrepreneurial skills to lead, market and grow the company. That's why we need the concept of 'business school' here.   

I have seen this from my own experience. I am an electrical and computer engineer by education, but when I started my own business, that alone would not have made me competent. The first thing I did was take an online Masters of Business Administration program as I was starting my own company. That was the most important step I took that led towards today's success.  If I hadn't taken that route, I am sure I would have  been self employed, maybe with four or five employees, but IE wouldn't have been scaled up and be what it is today.

What should we expect from IE next? 

One of our ambitious goals is to become a cloud datacenter provider. We have recently requested land in the ICT park, if successful, we plan to fully finance and build the center, then start hosting data.