Telenor Pakistan has proven to be one of the most innovative arms of the Telenor Group, said Sigve Brekke, President and CEO of Telenor Group, in an interview with ProPakistani.
“I have observed a great spirit of innovation within Telenor Pakistan. The Pakistani arm of Telenor has developed a huge variety of products that have been successfully replicated in other markets where Telenor operates,” revealed the CEO of Telenor Group.
Sigve, who was on a brief visit to Pakistan, shared with ProPakistani that Telenor’s Pakistani arm has proven to be remarkably successful at many things, especially in customer analytics and business intelligence.
While referring to solutions that were first developed in Pakistan and were then introduced in other countries, Sigve mentioned an app for farmers that the Group now wants to roll-out in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He was also impressed by an “Employee App” that allows Telenor Pakistan’s employees to do pretty much everything that they want, from checking their salary to scheduling a meeting. He said that this app is now being taken to 12 other markets where Telenor operates.
“Its not only innovative products that we have seen from Telenor Pakistan that impresses me but Pakistan has also proven to be the best recruitment base for the Telenor Group so far. These top-tier professionals from Pakistan have proven useful in other markets where Telenor operates as well,” revealed Sigve.
While signifying the importance of Pakistan, Mr. Sigve said that the size of the Pakistani market is massive. The country is home to 200 million people and remarkably, Telenor Pakistan has 40 million customers. “This essentially means that Pakistan is a market where Telenor has the potential to grow more for an extended duration of time” he explained.
While highlighting another aspect of Telenor Pakistan, Sigve said that its Pakistani arm has proven to be a leader when it comes to doing smarter business at an extremely efficient operating price.
“The cost efficiency ratio here in Pakistan has been nothing short of amazing. This means that they can provide better services at very low prices”, Sigve said. He also remarked that Telenor Pakistan has been doing very well financially.
“However, there is a limit to things that you can do without the required spectrum, and when 40% of your revenues go to taxes”, said the Group’s CEO.
Suggestions for the Government
CEO of Telenor Group recommended that the Pakistani government should consider rationalizing taxes for the telecom sector. He said that current tax levels for telecom services in Pakistan are way too high. “We are paying almost 40% tax for telecom services, at a rate that’s one of the highest in the world”, Sigve said.
“Our proposal behind levying a reasonable tax is not because we want to make more money. On the contrary, this will in fact make our services more affordable since right now, it is the consumers who are bearing the brunt of these taxes”, said Sigve. He believed that consumers would be the ultimate beneficiaries if taxes were brought to more reasonable levels.
Sigve also urged the government to make the spectrum more accessible at a better price. He explained that a broader and better spectrum for telecom operators will mean that the market will move on to more advanced data services, where more and more individuals will be able to consume data at affordable prices.
“This is just the beginning of data and digital revolution in Pakistan as internet penetration is still not high and a lot of masses are yet to be connected to the internet”, said Sigve. He mentioned that there’s still a long way to go in this respect.
He said that the Pakistani government must strike the right balance between getting paid for a national resource and the cost it would have to pay by keep its citizens away from faster and better internet.
“We have consciously stayed away from some spectrum auctions in Pakistan. In fact, we are exiting the Indian market due to the unsustainable spectrum policies there”, remarked Sigve. He said that the Pakistani government will have to find a balance to safeguard its revenues as well as the consumers’ benefits and the returns of telecom operators.
Meaning of Going Digital for Telenor Pakistan
The Group’s CEO said that Telenor Pakistan is going digital. And that it is accomplishing this by transforming the most resource hungry functions of telecom business by digitizing them.
He said that sales, marketing and customer care consume the majority of operating expenditures for any telecom business and this is exactly why Telenor Pakistan is digitizing all such functions to cut down its costs remarkably.
“Most of the contact we used to have with customers was physical — ranging from buying a SIM card to topping up your mobile account — which was very costly. We changed this and introduced digital platforms to perform all such tasks digitally and without any human interaction”, explained Sigve.
“We have the ‘My Telenor’ mobile application. We also have self-care kiosks where you can get your SIM card, duplicate SIM cards and do a lot of other things yourself. This is how we are digitizing our operating functions to not only to save costs but also to keep track of every single interaction we have with our customer. It also helps us identify, track and serve our customers better at a more personalized level”, said the Group’s CEO.
Decision of Going with 850MHz Spectrum
Sigve said that Telenor Pakistan is very happy with the 850MHz spectrum. “Yes, not all handsets come with 850MHz compatibility, but all new handsets do offer 850MHz band thus offering a better proposition for us”, the visiting Group CEO said.
He said that the beauty of the 850MHz spectrum is that it will allow Telenor Pakistan to offer a wider coverage, even in rural and remote areas, where it is more efficient than 1800MHz or 2100MHz band.
And since we know that the rural market is a stronghold for Telenor, 850MHz is the perfect tool for the company.
Telenor to Remain Focused on its Core Business
While Telenor is digitizing its core-business elements such as marketing and sales, and unlike other operators, Telenor intends to keep its focus towards remaining as an access provider, told the CEO of Telenor Group.
“While we offer digital services, especially in financial, health and education sectors, what we have seen is that we need to focus on services that are close to our core business”, said Sigve.
He explained that no telco would want to become an OTT service. He said that telcos will remain access providers, which is an essential part even for OTT services and that is why Telenor is spending money to build its network.
Telcos would remain digital distributors, meaning that they would work with third parties such as the Googles, Amazons, Alibabas of the world, as well as with small content producers, and distribute their services to customers.
“Telcos, by design, will have a closer relation with customers for distribution of digital services and this is where you see the most opportunities”, said Sigve, highlighting that this is exactly why financial services are very important to his group.
He agreed that there could be some digital services that telcos can offer but those that are closely tied and would supplement the core business.
“I don’t believe in a telco becoming a Google, Amazon or Alibaba”, said the Sigve.
Comment On AliBaba – Telenor Bank
Sigve opted not to comment on reports behind Telenor Bank and Alibaba Group.
Sigve thinks that the Telenor Group, is more than just a business that wants to be commercially successful. He stressed that Telenor is also about making a difference by empowering societies in markets where it operates, including Pakistan, Myanmar and Norway for that matter.
“Of course Telenor is a business, we need to show returns to our shareholders but alongside we also want to empower individuals by connecting them to the world of opportunities”, said Sigve.
For example, in Pakistan, Telenor is working on an app for farmers, not because of money but because it wants to connect farmers to the internet and make them more productive as a result.
Another example in this respect is a project that Telenor ran with UNICEF in Pakistan, where the company undertook the task of birth registration in areas where new births could’ve gone unregistered. “Again, this was not for the money, but to make a difference, a contribution towards bringing a change in society”, Sigve said.