Getting to know: Suren Khachatryan – CCO, Digitain
GIO sat down to find out more about leading igaming software provider Digitain’s CCO, Suren Khachatryan.
GIO: What was your life before igaming?
SK: Having graduated in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham UK, I’ve always been interested in the latest business and sales techniques and how they might be applied to improve various sectors, particularly when aligned to more recent gains in technology and automation. E-Commerce was always a subject that I followed closely as it was evolving, which eventually brought me to igaming. After studying in Armenia, Cyprus and UK, I was also destined for a career with an international flavour to it!
GIO: What was your career before Digitain?
SK: I started out as a sales manager, initially working in the wholesale consumer electronics industry in the UAE, then I moved to Armenia to work as trade show project coordinator for Armenian Tourism Development Agency. Later I moved to Russia and was involved in a number of small start-ups in the hi-tech and video-gaming sectors. Even there, I was fascinated by cultural tastes, how they differ and the importance of localized solutions to improve the customer experience. So, when I made the leap to igaming nine years ago, there were some core learnings and transferrable skills which I was able to migrate.
GIO: Home did you come to be at Digitain?
SK: Back in 2011 I was one of few dozen employees in a B2B igaming start-up, I took a role of CEO and in four years was a part of the team that had transformed from an unknown brand with one client into a global, well-known and profitable business.
Early 2015 was a year with ups and downs which eventually brought me to Digitain. I was lucky to be embraced by my current team, who trusted me in vision to grow the company to become a leader in igaming industry, a direction from the bottom up which could blaze its own trail, learning the lessons and raising the bar on my first and formative experiences in igaming. The velocity of growth is incomparable with what I have experienced in past – the past five years has brought years of joy and full realization of potential for everyone in our team. It’s already been a career-year in which our leading sportsbook and casino platform has garnered awards at four prestigious ceremonies, including the EGR B2B Awards.
GIO: What is it about the igaming industry that currently captures your interest?
SK: The present moment is as good as it gets, with the collective industry finally getting its act together from a regulatory and responsibility perspective, which is great to see. Now add in the fact that some of the most exciting global territories are opening up their doors (from the early moves in the U.S. to upcoming possibilities in a country like India), while emerging continental markets like LatAm and Africa are finding their feet.
Now at the helm of one of the leading sportsbooks, I feel Digitain is in a prime position for propelling sports betting into a new era across the igaming planet. Our unique software caters to a burgeoning portfolio of operators across the globe. It provides an intuitive multi-lingual, multi-currency, customizable interface that can be easily integrated, using unique APIs, with new or existing platforms, whether you are an online or land-based operator. At last count, our platform partnerships number in excess of 100 operators, while our progress in artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques means we can help our partners serve and understand their players like never before.
Sitting at the intersection of an increasingly open but well-regulated markets means the tech can now usher in the most exciting gaming period we’ve seen.
GIO: What have been the most note-worthy changes you’ve witnessed in your time in the industry?
SK: I’d have to point to those aforementioned recent gains in AI and automation. Particularly of late in a year when personalization and gamification could truly transition from annoying buzzwords into attainable realities. When integrated into a segmentation and customer retention strategy, personalization can truly work wonders. While a gamified experience – merged with the right segmented customer – can now drive players towards desired content at key times in a way that simply wasn’t previously accessible. We’d like to think Digitain is perfectly placed to showcase these technological gains for peerless platform and customer service.
GIO: Can you give us a snapshot of where you are with your growth plans and what’s still to come?
SK: In general, Digitain has experienced substantial growth in several international markets over the past 12 months. Strategically, in order to accommodate this expansion, we will have opened sales and business development offices in four core bases, from the UK, South Africa, LatAm and the Philippines. The aim of these offices is to locally service existing clients and partner needs as well as increasing our inquiry pipeline.
GIO: What’s still left for Digitain to accomplish in Europe and beyond?
SK: There are fantastic growth opportunities globally, so it is not just about any given developing land mass, or prosaically investing in the U.S. The key is selecting the right targets and going after them with the right product, even in a mature market such as Europe where certain regulatory barriers to entry will have put off many suppliers. We now have the requisite nimble product which can be localized and deployed worldwide, so opportunities to extend its influence can be harnessed across the board. Indeed, for example, just look at those offices we’ve recently opened in Sheffield. From this new tech base, we’re also rolling out our cutting-edge suite of solutions to a growing band of UK independent bookmakers, who want to catch the latest wave in digital upgrades. Here I trust and appreciate the efforts of my old friend and industry veteran Simon Westbury who joined out team this year.
GIO: You’ve attended a large number of shows of late; do they still represent a valid use of your time or has it become an activity you’re ‘trapped’ into attending?
SK: As you imply, it’s sometimes a case that you need “to be seen to be seen”. But as long as you can become a consistent presence on the conference circuit, constantly evolving your product portfolio to demonstrate your team’s innovative powers at close quarters, I still think it’s the most effective sales and networking platform around. The Digitain roadmap is a truly global one, as is our timetable over the summit schedule. From the recent G2E summits in Macau and Las Vegas, not to mention numerous ports of call in between (such as Betting on Sports London and ICE Africa in Joburg) 2019 has been a great adventure. And we’ve still got summits in Taipei, Macau, Sofia, Buenos Aires, Manila and Malta to close out the year… and then, of course, ICE 2020 is just around the corner. At least my air miles account is in a healthy state!
GIO: Mobile has become a necessity rather than a luxury. Do you still feel there are innovations to be had on mobile gaming?
SK: Mobile compatibility remains in the vanguard of development for the latest iterations of our sportsbook solution, with a raft of mobile-first features, either already launched or set to roll out over 2020. Our business has product teams exclusively for mobile, both mobile web and native applications. The key focus for Digitain is speed, especially in today’s digital economy, all mobile consumers, now measure a brands experience in seconds. If the app or mobile site doesn’t load quickly, you could create a negative customer experience and the user clicks or visits a competitor. Therefore of course functionality and user journey are critical, but constant optimisation of page load, scroll and click speeds are fundamental attributes and KPIs for our partners. Although desktop still has a role to play, contingent on specific territory, the overwhelming trend is for mobile engagement and transactions with up to 70% of volume coming via mobile channels.
GIO: What do you suspect will be the next big change in the igaming industry?
SK: I believe Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) is going to really prove a key differentiator and discussion point. As competition increases, and customer bases and markets grow larger, it is becoming increasingly important for igaming operators to get more information about their customers in order to maintain, not to mention grow, their market share and build customer lifetime value. The gaming industry has championed the practice of customer relationship management – in fact, casinos have been keeping track of customers for years, and the mega casino brands of the American market (from which we’ve seen many of the most salient sports betting rollouts) are naturally some of the finest exponents of such player management. But with CRM coupled to Digitain’s data insights, they can now take the customer relationship to a whole new level – and that’s before we even get into the cross-sell potential between sportsbook and casino.
GIO: What are you most excited about for 2020 and the future?
SK: I envisage us continuing to broaden our influence from Europe, through Asia and on to Africa and LatAm, with the industry’s most flexible, scalable and efficient sports betting platform. When it comes to sportsbook tech, we’ll be letting its quality do the talking for us. We cover 65 sports, taking in 7,500 league and more than 3,000 betting markets. We also offer odds on 35,000 live events each month, while our casino solution has 3,000-plus games from major casino suppliers such as Novomatic, Microgaming, NetEnt and Playson. The overall growth of the igaming industry remains incredibly encouraging, particularly in these growth markets, and the international advance of sportsbook continues unchecked in most developing countries, so we aim to stay on top of that. That said, innovation remains the watchword, both in the markets you offer and the tools with which you allow your clients to engage. Staying positively demarcated from the competition is naturally crucial, and that’s what Digitain does best with our ever-evolving product portfolio.