Pakistan has the Potential to Become one of the Biggest Markets for Telenor-President & CEO Telenor Group

Telenor Group is an international provider of high quality voice, data, content and communication services with presence in 13 markets across Europe and Asia. It is one of the largest mobile operators in the world with 180 million mobile subscriptions and a workforce of approximately 33,000. Telenor Pakistan, A subsidiary of Telenor Group is the second largest mobile operator of Pakistan with a subscriber base of over 36 million.

As a global telecom operator we have to empower societies, people and communities at large and make a difference

Sigve Brekke (SB), President and CEO of Telenor Group who was on a brief visit to Pakistan last month, shared with our Team (PW) some of his aspirations for Telenor group and specifically for Pakistani market.

PW:  Telenor Group is among one of the top mobile operators in the world, what in your opinion are the key contributors in this success?

SB:  Telenor Group’s fundamental vision across the globe is to empower societies, it’s not about money. Of course, we are part of the business world and we need to return to our shareholders but above all, we strongly believe that as a global telecom operator we have to empower societies, people and communities at large and make a difference.

The beauty of the 850MHz spectrum is that it will allow Telenor Pakistan to offer a wider coverage, especially in rural and remote areas, where it is more efficient than 1800MHz or 2100MHz band

And that is basically in Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and in Norway where we are working hard to connect people to the world of opportunities. These are little big words but this is our core philosophy and that is why we are focusing on Pakistan i.e. farmers particularly. Not because of the money, we are not making a lot of money on such projects but we want to connect the farmers to the internet world so they can improve their way of harvesting; this is just one example.

PW:  What was the main reason behind decision to go for unconventional spectrum 850 MHz in Pakistan? 

SB: We are 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 beauty of the 850MHz spectrum is that it will allow Telenor Pakistan to offer a wider coverage, especially 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.

We see our subsidiary, Telenor Pakistan as our most innovative company, there are a lot of the things it is working on and we plan to take those innovations to other parts as well

PW:  This is your second visit to Pakistan in a consecutive year, how important is Pakistan’s telecom sector for the Telenor Group in terms of future investments?

SB:  Yes, Pakistan is very important part of the Telenor Group and there are three reasons for that. Firstly, the size of the market, 200 million people, where we have 40 million customers. So in that sense it is a large and growing market, it’s not saturated like we have seen in other regions.

Secondly, we see our subsidiary, Telenor Pakistan is our most innovative company, there are a lot of the things it is doing here and we plan to take those innovations to other parts as well. Telenor Pakistan’s agricultural products and Employee app are gaining popularity in our other Telenor markets as well.

Pakistan is a country where we have great tech talent and Pakistanis are greatly contributing in the overall success of Telenor Group

Thirdly, Pakistan is the country where we have great tech talent and Pakistanis are greatly contributing in the overall success of Telenor Group.

PW:  In line with its digitalization and connected societies agenda, Telenor Pakistan  has also taken number of initiatives to go  digital. Tell us something about that, how Pakistan has managed to achieve that and how this is impacting Telenor’s productivity?

SB: Telenor Pakistan is going digital; it is accomplishing this by transforming the most resource hungry functions of telecom business by digitizing them.

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 and improve performance of these departments.

Most of the contact we used to have with customers was physical — ranging from buying a SIM card to topping up mobile account — which was very costly. We changed this and introduced digital platforms to perform all such tasks digitally and without any human interaction.

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 save costs but also to keep track of every single interaction we have with our customers. It also helps us identify, track and serve our customers better at a more personalized level.

PW:  Any suggestions for the government that can benefit the overall telecom sector in the country and more specially can help increase the 3/4G penetration rate?    

SB: Definitely I would like to recommend two things. The Pakistani government should consider rationalizing taxes for the telecom sector as the current taxes for telecom services in Pakistan is way too high. We are paying almost 40% tax for telecom services, at a rate that’s one of the highest in the world.

We are digitizing our operating functions not only to save costs but also to keep track of every single interaction we have with our customers

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. We believe that consumers would be the ultimate beneficiaries if taxes were brought to more reasonable levels. Secondly, the government has to make the spectrum more accessible and at a better price too. Because 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.

Pricing matters a lot for telecom operators as currently we are exiting the Indian market due to the unsustainable spectrum policies there. Additionally, we have also consciously stayed away from some spectrum auctions in Pakistan.This is just the beginning of data and digital revolution in Pakistan as internet penetration is still not high and masses are yet to be connected to the internet.

Unlike other operators, Telenor intends to keep its focus on remaining as an access provider

The Pakistani government must strike the right balance between getting paid for a national resource and the cost it would have to pay by keeping its citizens away from faster and better internet.

PW:  What are the future plans of Telenor Group, especially for Pakistani market?

SB: Unlike other operators, Telenor intends to keep its focus on remaining as an access provider. While we offer digital services, especially in financial, health and education sectors, we will focus on services that are close to our core business.

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

We will stick to our core approach which ofcourse is “Consumer Centric”. Telenor Group, is more than just a business that wants to be commercially successful. Telenor is also about making a difference by empowering societies. Since Pakistan is one of our most important markets, it will be our priority for every plan and innovation.

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