The mobile industry is full of business people, but few visionaries. Carphone CEO Andrew Harrison combines both qualities.
Harrison has always been eager to push the boundaries. Over the years he has taken Carphone – and often the industry – into new areas from mass market mobile broadband to subsidised laptops and the connected home. In 2014 he is at it again, positioning Carphone to take a slice of the ‘digital life’ pie and steering it down new business avenues. And of course there is the small matter of the Dixons-Carphone merger – a piece of classic Carphone opportunism that has turned the tables on arch-rival Phones 4u and made Carphone the partner of choice for operators and manufacturers.
Harrison was a leading figure in the development of the merger talks. He had known Seb James, that was devised to advise other players, such as electrical retailers, supermarkets and manufacturers, on how to set up connected home retail operations with a mobile play.
Harrison ensured the division was supported with a strong spine of technology to enable delivery in different sectors and territories. Chief among these was the Honeybee needs analysis and recommendation system, which some say is the secret Dixons chief executive, for a number of years, and banter had gone back and forth about what the two organisations might achieve if they joined forces. But it was the success of a number of Harrison projects over the last year that paved the way for Carphone’s approach to Dixons and lent real shape to the ensuing talks. The approach came through the Connected World Services Division of Carphone – a Harrison brainchild
sauce in the mix. Honeybee can be adapted to a wide range of products and retail situations. It has been the enabler for the Samsung shops, and the Dixons store-within-a-store format, not to mention Carphone’s own Pin Point retail system. The vision behind the Connected World division is the idea of developing Carphone into a services company selling know-how, and not just products.
According to sources, Harrison ‘has been instrumental in mapping out a future for Carphone that is broader than the UK, broader than mobile, and broader than retail’. The Dixons-Carphone merger has given real substance to those ideas. And with Harrison’s promotion to deputy CEO of the new group, he will have the chance to build on this foundation and take Carphone to a new level.