Zong, being the first international step of China Mobile, is presently the third largest telecom operator in Pakistan having 25 million cellular subscribers. Zong aims to empower the lives of Pakistanis with its innovative technology that keeps pace with latest evolving culture.
Over the years, we have invested more than USD 2 Billion in our nationwide setup in order to expand and improve the overall coverage and quality of user experience
A company cannot achieve its goals and secure its vision without a good leadership and when it comes to leadership skills, Zong has no doubt a well-competent hierarchy of officials. Dealing corporate affairs of any organization is in fact a huge responsibility as it manages and establishes the entire reputation of a company in the market. Similarly, Maham Naeem Dard, the Director Corporate Affairs at China Mobiles, is devotedly fulfilling the corporate duties in Zong.
Zong is Proud of Leading the industry with 4G Technology in Pakistan: Maham Dard, Director, Corporate Affairs
In this exclusive interview with PhoneWorld team (PW), Maham Dard (MD) shared his insight on the telecom strategies and environment of Pakistan mobile sector. Dard also explained the philosophy behind its recent re-branding strategy and how it effected its overall business. Here is what he had to say.
PW: Tell us a little about yourself?
MD: I attended high school from Aitchison college Lahore with my O’ levels in 1995 and FSc in 1997, eventually moving to the US to complete my BS Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York in 2003. My early career was with C&S engineering in designing of hard core electrical circuits for big infrastructure projects. In 2005, I joined the United Nations (Syska Hennessey group) in New York City working on their $1B capital infrastructure development program as a consultant, gaining more technical experience, being a part of a larger team. In 2006, I joined General Electric Company (GE) and worked in multiple divisions of GE including, quality, operations, field services, project management, integration management, warranty reserve and top issues management for 6 product lines of GE O&G. In 2014, I moved back to Pakistan and joined Zong as Director Corporate Affairs.
PW: Zong has emerged as the fastest growing mobile network in Pakistan, to what do you owe this success to?
MD: Excellent network in terms of speed, coverage and reliability, affordable packages and customer centricity has been the key. On the technological front, we leverage heavily from the research and experience of our parent company, China Mobile Communications Corporation, which is the largest Telecom service provider in the world. This has enabled us to provide cutting edge, state-of-the art services to our subscribers.
We leverage heavily from the research and experience of our parent company, China Mobile Communications Corporation
Our focus lies with the customer and on a daily basis, our engineers, field technicians, researchers, commercial and customer care teams are working hard to solve customer problems and develop the best solutions possible at affordable rates. For every business, the most difficult part is to maintain a balance in quality of product, timely service and affordable pricing. We have managed to balance all three of these aspects pretty well. Over the years, we have invested more than USD 2 Billion in our nationwide setup in order to expand and improve the overall coverage and quality of user experience which has yielded great results for us.
PW: Zong was the only mobile network in Pakistan to bid for 4G spectrum in 3G/4G auction 2014, do you think it gave Zong a competitive edge in the market
MD: Absolutely! We are proud of leading the industry with 4G technology in Pakistan and have already ensured comprehensive coverage in over 100 cities across the country with plans to double our coverage in the coming months. This puts us in a very strong position in the data market. The dynamics of data traffic are very different from the voice and we have been able to capitalize on this base on our investment in the 4G spectrum. In the future, we will continue to upgrade our 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G sites, adding to our wide network coverage throughout the country. We will leave no stone unturned to keep the # 1 position as the best network provider in the nation with our fastest speed, wide and deep coverage and the most affordable packages available for our customers. 4G also gives us the leverage to cater to our corporate customers with advanced solutions for specific industries to innovate, and we will continue to invest in the 4G technology in the future.
The new era of telecommunication will have the data aspect advantage which would be very clear and definitely a market differentiator for all operators
PW: How do you view the challenges for the telecommunications industry?
MD: Telecom sector is probably the most challenging sector in terms of business in Pakistan. Taxes are high, the regulations are tough and there are areas where market penetration and daily operations are difficult to manage due to the law and order situation. Effectively placing and selling our products to the customers and adapting to the fast changing market conditions is very effort intensive. I must also add that there are very capable competitors in the market, which adds to its volatility.
PW: Despite huge challenges, Pakistan is regarded as a country where telecom industry is greatly thriving. What are your perceptions on that?
MD: The market is “evolving” very quickly, sure, and is definitely on its way to reach new heights of innovation, the 3G/4G launch is definitely a key factor to support this evolution.
Zong has the leading edge in 4G with the highest number of sites, covering more than 100 cities
The new era of telecommunication will have the data aspect advantage which would be very clear and definitely a market differentiator for all operators. Zong has the leading edge in 4G with the highest number of sites, covering more than 100 cities and subsequently has the highest number of 4G subscribers. Through this, we are very happy to provide the best capability to our customers to connect with the rest of the world and with each other.
The combination of the best quality network, affordable products and the widest coverage in the nation with a strong brand keeps Zong at the top
Many of Pakistan’s industries are now using the 4G technology to innovate new solutions for their customers, for example, security services, media industry, hospitals and the education sector, specifically are taking good advantage of this technology to provide faster and better solutions. We have a unique advantage to sell 4G because our speed is the best, it’s the fastest and our capacity is unparalleled, so our customers can enjoy more benefit of the best quality network we have to offer.
PW: Do you think that increased competition between mobile companies in the post 3G/4G era has placed a positive effect on telecom sector?
MD: We believe in fair competition, in fact, we want the industry to grow together to be able to provide the ecosystem for all operators and sustain the 4G evolution in the country. 4G handset penetration is directly related to this phenomena. We want the 4G device penetration to increase and that would be only possible if more and more operators have 4G technology. The more handsets are available, the more connected people will be, and that’s what supports a healthy platform for innovation, growth, evolution and transformation. Having said this, every operator has its own business model, its own strategy, which makes it different from its competition. So healthy competition and a strong market will in fact help all operators and we fully support a combined progression.
PW: Zong’s 3G and 4G internet services are quite detailed and cater the needs of all types of customers. Can we consider this as the key to Zong’s success in data market?
MD: Our products are based on a very detailed process considering the exact requirements of our customers. We have our own experience in 4G technology from China Mobile international, we have our own mechanisms and our own models to develop the best products for all types of customers to cater to. Because of this differentiation, our experience and research, we are able to develop the best solutions for pre-paid and post-paid customers, which are very well received by the consumers.
The combination of the best quality network, affordable products and the widest coverage in the nation with a strong brand keeps us at the top as well. Our dedicated teams are continually working hard to maintain this position.
PW: It is seen that Zong is doing a lot to facilitate pre-paid subscribers, what steps are being taken to facilitate post-paid customers that are mainly from corporate and business sectors?
MD: Corporate and Postpaid customers are a priority for us and we have dedicated teams to manage the end-to-end value chain of this particular business segment.
The new brand is our sentiment of providing better 4G services to a wider customer base with the best packages in the industry at the best commercial rates
We know from our experience that Postpaid and Corporate segment is more data savvy compared to the pre-paid segment and that is where we have a competitive advantage to leverage from. Our cutting edge 4G technology not only provides fast internet speed but it also enables a wide range of Enterprise Support Solutions based on Internet of Things (IoT) supporting a fully connected corporate environment. Particularly for this reason, our Mobile Broad Band (MBB) devices have been immensely popular in the Corporate Market plus we have specific 4G enabled solutions for many industries in Pakistan which are very successful.
Zong envisions to enable a fully connected environment for Pakistanis through internet inclusivity, whilst providing the most reliable and affordable products in the market
We are working closely to develop specific products for them. Education, law and order, health and media are some particular examples where we have strong partnerships with our corporate sector to capitalize on our 4G based products and solutions.
PW:Tell us about Zong’s recent re-branding initiative. What is the theme behind it?
MD: Our new brand identity is aimed to bring our brand promise of ‘A New Dream’ to life. Our new TVCs are a reflection of our commitment to provide the best quality data user experience and signifies our commitment to transform the digital lives of Pakistan’s through our high speed data services. It also capitalizes on the growing attitudinal and technological confidence of consumers on Zong’s super-fast 4G services, The new brand is our sentiment of providing better 4G services to a wider customer base with the best packages in the industry at the best commercial rates to be able to lead the market and maintain our leading position of our products, our network and our coverage, not to mention our fastest speed.
PW: What are Zong’s future plans regarding its services?
MD: We believe in connectivity, speed, quality and affordability. We want to expand our 4G coverage to areas where we see an opportunity, we are already covering more than 100 cities of Pakistan through our 4G service and plan to double this coverage in the coming months and continuously improve our network quality, even though we have been already rated the best amongst the competition. At the same time, we also have a newer and stronger brand which has been very well received. Our new brand reflects our new products with faster speed, more coverage, new and more affordable packages, enhanced coverage in more cities with more customized solutions for our corporate customers. We will continue to lead the market in 4G solutions, coverage and connectivity.
PW: What is Zong’s vision for the future of Pakistani Telecommunications Market?
MD: Our objective with regard to the local market is to leverage our technological edge in 4G LTE to revolutionize the lifestyle of Pakistani people. This includes expanding both our Network Infrastructure and data based product portfolio.
Currently, more than 5000 sites power over 100 cities of Pakistan with 4G services and this number is increasing day by day. We have the highest number of 4G sites in the highest number of cities and we intend to continue this trend, providing the best quality network to our subscribers. Zong envisions to enable a fully connected environment for Pakistanis through internet inclusivity, whilst providing the most reliable and affordable products in the market.
Our team is working extremely hard to bring innovative solutions for data and voice to make sure we lead the telecommunication market in Pakistan
In 2016-2017, we will be adding another 100-200 cities of our 4G connectivity. Our teams are working extremely hard to innovate new solutions, new products for data as well as voice to make sure we lead the telecommunication market in Pakistan.