Celcom acquires specialist Microsoft MSP Infront, targets cloud growth in Malaysia

Selangor-based consultancy firm switched focus to cloud in 2015.
Idham Nawawi (Celcom)

Idham Nawawi (Celcom)

Celcom Axiata has acquired Infront Consulting Group to strengthen cloud and digital capabilities in Malaysia, underpinned by an enhanced focus on managed services and Microsoft technologies.

Terms of the deal -- which remained financially undisclosed at the time of publication -- will see the telecommunications giant leverage Infront's expertise in cloud and managed networks to provide cloud-based “one-stop digital kits” to help local customers accelerate transformation plans.

Operating as a cloud consulting specialist within the Microsoft ecosystem -- housing gold partner status in Cloud Platform and Cloud Productivity -- the buyout of Infront will aim to complement Celcom’s recent affiliation with Microsoft in Azure cloud services.

In short, the acquisition will provide an opportunity for Celcom to “effectively compete” in offering Azure cloud services and solutions to the Malaysian market, underpinned by Infront’s InSuite offerings that provide operational efficiency tools to help businesses accelerate growth.

“The move to acquire Infront further complements Celcom strength as a connectivity and solutions provider for Malaysian businesses,” said Idham Nawawi, CEO of Celcom. “By leveraging on the strengths of both companies with cloud technology, SMEs will soon be able to have access to an affordable one-stop digital solutions kit for all their business functions.”

Founded in 2003 as a systems management and virtualisation specialist, Selangor-based Infront switched focus to cloud in 2015 to create a consulting company built upon three main service pillars -- cloud adoption consulting, app and security managed services plus data and artificial intelligence (AI) development.

“Furthermore, with the upcoming 5G, Celcom will continue to collaborate with the right digital players and invest for the best digital solutions and services,” Nawawi added. “Upholding our role as a digital advocate, we want to help local businesses thrive digitally and enable them to sustainably operate within the new norm.”

In addition, Infront has a presence in Malaysia and Singapore with a total of 25 full-time employees -- excluding four Sri Lanka outsourced staff -- of which 16 are Microsoft certified as of 31 March 2021. 

Through this acquisition, Infront will provide Celcom with deep technical system integration, development and sales capabilities, assisting towards providing local delivery strengths in cloud services and solutions.

“I am excited about the future because I believe that this partnership will open new paths in the ability for us to bring more useful and business-enhancing solutions to the market,” said Raymond Chou, managing director of Infront.

“All businesses need to take advantage of technology to push ahead in the new wave of commerce and the aligned vision of both Celcom and Infront to bring more efficiency in business growth to our customers was the key factor in this venture.”

Going deep on Azure

The acquisition comes 10 months after Celcom rolled out a new enterprise-grade cloud service designed to accelerate digital adoption in Malaysia, supported by a strategic partnership with Microsoft.

Under the banner of Celcom Cloud Suite, the offering specifically focuses on infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to drive market demand at corporate level, leveraging Azure in the process.

As reported by Channel Asia, the suite of solutions span expertise in applications, infrastructure, data storage, software network and security, complemented by a digital kit in the form of Celcom Business Suite. Malaysian customers can also customise offerings across Basic, Standard and Pro / Pro Plus packages, with storage requirements starting at 50TB and bandwidth offerings of up to 100GB.

“As the nation’s economic landscape strives to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, local businesses of multiple sizes are urgently looking for trusted and affordable digital solutions to optimise their business operations, especially when many are still implementing ‘work-from-home’ to ensure the safety of their employees,” said Nawawi, when speaking in January.

“Upholding our role in supporting local businesses and providing innovative digital solutions such as Celcom Cloud Suite can greatly help businesses to thrive again throughout these challenging times.”

Most recently, the local arm of Indian integrator Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) deepened its partnership with Celcom through a project to transform core business support systems. The offering will see TCS employ its TCS HOBS and TCS TwinX solutions, which will be hosted on Azure.

The TCS HOBS product is a plug-and-play digital business platform for subscription, device and data management, offered in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. TCS TwinX, meanwhile, is an AI and digital twin-based simulator designed to construct hypotheses, model entities and test business decision outcomes in a virtual A/B testing mode.

It is hoped the new technology will enable Celcom to further enhance its digital and platform positioning through advanced digital capabilities like AI and machine learning (ML)-driven business simulations, an enterprise product catalogue and partner ecosystem enablement.

Meanwhile in June, Axiata Group and Norwegian telecommunications provider Telenor finally signed on the dotted line to pave the way for the merger of their respective Malaysian mobile operations, Celcom and Digi.

As reported by Channel Asia, both parties successfully concluded due diligence in June and signed the transaction agreements for the proposed merger of Celcom and Digi, which for merger purposes will come together as ‘MergeCo’. Once the combination is complete, Celcom and Digi will become Celcom Digi Berhad.

The signing signifies a confirmation of the intent to establish what the companies jointly describe as a “commercially stronger and more resilient digital converged service provider, and leading Malaysian telecom operator positioned to drive Malaysia’s digital ambitions”. 

The MergeCo entity will, on a pro forma basis, serve an estimated 19 million customers and claim revenue of RM12.4 billion, pre-tax earnings (EBITDA) of RM5.7 billion and after-tax profit of RM1.9 billion. The deal sees Axiata and Telenor become equal partners in the group, with a 33.1 per cent ownership stake each in MergeCo, which will continue to be publicly listed on Bursa Malaysia.