SECRET OF SUCCESS! - I see opportunities in challenges: Walid Irshaid
(Flare (Pakistan) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) President and Group CEO PTCL &Ufone, Mr. Walid Irshaid talks to Flare team. Mr. Walid banks more than 25 years of professional experience to his credit. He says Pakistan is a market of 200 million; very few countries in the world have such a huge market. Every year we have 2 million new broadband users. He adds, here, the future is bright. Pakistan is a competitive, growing market full of opportunities, you need to work hard to survive and for long term sustainability you need to be strong. Rozgar Bank acquired by PTCL to enable mobile banking by Ufone. It is rebranded and called Ubank. He expressed that our road map is very clear, and we are executing our plans successfully!
Flare: What is the biggest achievement of PTCL For the last 3-4 years, PTCL is going very strong. What is your biggest achievement
Walid Irshaid: PTCL has come a long way post privatization. It will be difficult to pinpoint an area which I can single out as our biggest achievement. One of the achievements I am most proud of is the transformation of PTCL from a voice based company to data& ICT. Today, voice is just one of the eight revenue streams for PTCL, and not the major single contributor as used to be earlier.
Today, PTCL has managed to transform itself from a state-run operator into a vibrant, advanced and highly competitive ICT service provider with a world class team, fully equipped to compete in a highly deregulated and liberalized telecom market of Pakistan.
Over the past few years, PTCL has emerged and repositioned itself as the leading integrated service provider in Pakistan offering wide and multiple services including Voice, Internet, TV and Media.
This turnaround necessitated taking holistic approach towards transformation which we have now achieved through continuous process development and enhancement, network rehabilitation, building the best team and providing them with extensive training and development opportunities, rebranding and image building with specific and intensive focus on customer care and experience.
At PTCL, we remain highly conscious of the fact that our success and growth can only come from satisfied customers. For achieving this, we have to constantly transform, change and keep delivering to our ever increasing customer base. At the same time, I feel that we can move faster, given the ability and strength of our dedicated workforce, we can achieve a lot more!
Flare: Yes, you are going well for the last three to four years. PTCL has become a well-organized, well-managed and sophisticated organization. What are the reasons and magic behind the success
Walid Irshaid: Thank you very much for the kind words. Our values and strategy form the driving force that keeps us constantly aiming higher and setting new goals. In essence, we maintain our futuristic approach. We are constantly evolving and opening endless possibilities for our customers and are committed to providing a fulfilling customer experience.
PTCL comprises of a qualified world class team. We are taking the ownership of the plan we developed, while knowing our Broadband market withthe vision & support of our shareholders, our teams are working hard to set benchmarks in the telecom industry of the country.
Flare: “This is what leadership is all about and you are a leader Mr. Walid”.
3. Flare: You are doing especially well in Broadband all over Pakistan. It’s a great achievement.
Walid Irshaid: Thank you! PTCL Broadband is working in more than 1200 cities and towns now, connecting rural areas and villages along the way. We have never underestimated our customers. We know their needs and believe in delivering the latest telecom solutions at their doorsteps. You will be surprised that we get a lot more demand from villages.
As per our business philosophy, we leverage the same services to our customers in the rural areas which we provide in the urban centers. I feel there is still a long way to go and we shall definitely achieve a lot more in the coming years.
Flare: Mr. President, these days the most important issue for the telecom sector is ICH. What is the current status of ICH, after stay order of Lahore High Court, as the old rates have still to be restored
Walid Irshaid: ICH has not only become a Pakistani acronym it has now become a global acronym. ICH is not a cartel or a consortium. I have said this many times. It is not really a congregation of something hostile. ICH is a system devised to stabilize the rate for all operators.
You may recall that from the start, the rates for terminating calls were established and regulated by PTA. We have said that, let us sit together and let usstabilize the rates so that nobody can take advantage of the regulatory regime in Pakistan. You can see that International Carriers till date are putting pressures on us and asking for discounted rates for terminated calls to Pakistan. At the same time, many of them they were charging ten times higher rates for the same call to their respective countries. This was not fair play.
You see, international termination rates have always been left to bilateral agreements between the operators.
Operators in some countries were taking advantage of us.At the same time, many of them were putting pressures that you are not giving us reciprocal agreement for same discounted rates. So, for me this agreement has helped to stabilize the call termination rates in Pakistan.
Flare: What about the stay order
Walid Irshaid: We respect that. We are following the issue as per the court’s directives. I think that the court took some time to understand the mechanism and technicalities of this issue and we are not violating or breaking competition rules in Pakistan.
Now, we have standard rates tocall Pakistan.When a call comes to Pakistan, say from the US, East, West or the Gulf, the rate would be standard. We have not limited the options. This is an open sky, you can call for as many minutes you want, but there will be a standard rate to terminate calls, because we also pay equally higher rates to the respective country.
Flare: But Sir, other stakeholders think that formation of ICH is to benefit PTCL. Is it true
Walid Irshaid: Absolutely not. All the stakeholders are onboard on this. As I said first, ICH was not established as an anti-competitive arrangement, this is not against the consumer in Pakistan. There is no restriction on volume and destination. We did not select a country and set a preferential rate. We say, wherever the minutes come from, the rates will be standard. We are giving fair treatment to the whole world for this. However, what we were doing for the last five years was breaking the rates.
The most important question is who is benefitting. For us, Pakistan comes first as well as the development of the telecommunications sector and its stakeholders.
Flare: Will you bid for 3G licensing
Walid Irshaid: Yes, we will. Introduction of 3G can play an active role in the future development of the telecom sector of the country. Our parent group has a long term vision of continuous investment in Pakistan and we shall surely continue to do well in Pakistan. Etisalat came here for building relationship with Pakistan. That’s why Etisalat wants to introduce 3G and play its leading role in introducing most advanced telecommunications technologies for the customers.
Flare: But there is still a question mark whether 3G will come or not
Walid Irshaid: It will come out, but it has been delayed.All the stakeholders including PTA, the telecom regulator, realizes that 3G must come and the due process is in place but the timeline is not defined. I am going to tell you that Ufone is going to contest in the auction.
Flare: Sir, are you planning to kick off mobile banking or e-banking
Walid Irshaid: Yes. Rozgar Bank is acquired by PTCL to enable mobile banking by Ufone. It is rebranded and called Ubank. The license has been acquired and we are expecting to launch it very soon.Ufone team is gearing up to surpass the industry expectations & fully meet the requirements of our esteemed customers.
Flare: Mr. President now under your supervision Ufone is going well.
Walid Irshaid: Yes, Ufone is doing good and competing well. I think that Pakistan is a very competitive market. You need to work hard to survive and for long term sustainability you need to be strong and keep delivering for your customers.
Flare: How do you see future of telecom sector in Pakistan
Walid Irshaid: That is a very good question. As we discussed earlier, the telecom sector of Pakistan is very competitive and still growing. The growth can be compared with other markets globally. This competitiveness is bringing positive effects with regards to consumer convenience. As seen globally, Iforesee that there will be mergers and mutual acquisitions and only long-term operators will survive.
At the same time, I must emphasize that growth can only come from offering right products and services at affordable rates to the customers. This is a global industry and our challenge is not to import models. We must come up with tailor-made products for the consumers at the right price.
Flare: What will be the major obstacles for you in future
Walid Irshaid: When I think about future, I never think of the obstacles, I think of opportunities. However, Pakistan needs a national operator which operates all over the country. There are challenges for us, for example the challenges in terms of provision of 24-hour support and service to the people in face of power outages. Another challenge is the security in the country, e.g. in Balochistan, almost every week we lose a microwave or solar power station. However, we have to tackle these issues.
These are the challenges.When I look at these challenges I should look for opportunities and there are many.
Flare: What about the payment of $800 million
Walid Irshaid: The agreement is between Etisalat and the Government of Pakistan. It’s a part of the old arrangement between Etisalat and Government of Pakistan. There are properties which government is unable to transfer and it is not because the Government is not willing. It is either because of litigation between the Federal and the Provincial Governments or people who have encroached or people who have encroached on PTCL property.
Etisalat believes in full accordance of the agreement between the company and the Government of Pakistan. Etisalat shall be taking due course of action in this regard.
Government of Pakistan owns 63% of PTCL. The land will be transferred to PTCL not Etisalat and nobody is trying to break the integrity of the contract.
Etisalat has already paid $1.9 billion as per the agreement and the remaining amount will be settled in due course.
Flare: How do you rate the role of Telecom sector in overall growth of Pakistan
Walid Irshaid: The growth of the telecom Industry is fueling the economies globally, especially in the emerging countries. Pakistan’s economy has hugely benefited from the expansion of Broadband and Cellular services in the country. As for the telecom contribution, we are one of the biggest contributors towards the national exchequer, creating job opportunities for the people as well as boosting other sectors from wholesale, manufacturing to distribution.
Today, nobody can imagine any business without a Broadband connection.Telecom sector is allowing people to communicate instantly and remain connected with each other here and with the outside world.
Fare: Sir! Last but not the least, was PTCL VSS successful Did you achieve your targets
Walid Irshaid: The answer is ‘yes’. The reason we introduced VSS for the second time was the overwhelming response of our employees who wanted to avail this opportunity. I tell my people, those who don’t see this as an opportunity for themselves, should not take it.
There is a well thought out model behind the VSS offer.Based on employee willingness, we consider various parameters e.g. what an employee does, what is heemployed for, what is his role and what he can do and then we offer them VSS.
PTCL VSS was a voluntary scheme and this is the reason for this scheme to turn out so successful.
Our company is currently running one of the largest paid internship programs for the new graduates and youth in Pakistan. We are offering them attractive packages and a platform to learn and grow with the best workforce in Pakistan. This will be a success for all as they gear themselves to become leaders of the future.
Flare: The Internship program is really a positive move.
Walid Irshaid: Yes, the Internship program was quite successful. I have taken these talented people astrainees here and groomed them, so that they have experience of one year and can have better prospects for future. We are running one of the most advanced training and development programs. Developing future leaders and succession planning is very important part of our business philosophy. More than 700 people were also sent to Etisalat for training of 3 years and now we are proud to have them as our employees working to the best of their abilities at PTCL.
To overcome hurdles, I always believe that leadership brings change. As I said earlier, Pakistan and its people have a huge potential and the country is full of opportunities.Pakistan has a market of 200 million; veryfew countries in the world have such a huge market. Every year I have 2 million new broadband users who become PTCL customers and for me serving them with passion and knowing their needs is key to our success over the years.
Flare: Thank you very much for sparing your valuable time.
Walid Irshaid: Thank you for your support. Flare is one of the few good industry magazines we have in Pakistan. It has been supporting the telecom industry. I have noticed that you have started representing more segments of the industry rather than just focusing on one area.
You know we don’t want things to come and disappear as usual. We want things to continue in Pakistan. So, keep up the good work!
Flare: Thank you very much.
Today, PTCL has managed to transform itself from a state-run operator into a vibrant, advanced and highly competitive ICT service provider with a world class team, fully equipped to compete in a highly deregulated and liberalized telecom market of Pakistan. Over the past few years, PTCL has emerged and repositioned itself as the leading integrated service provider in Pakistan offering wide and multiple services including Voice, Internet, TV and Media
PTCL Broadband is working in more than 1200 cities and towns now, connecting rural areas and villages along the way. We have never underestimated our customers. We know their needs and believe in delivering the latest telecom solutions at their doorsteps. As per our business philosophy, we leverage the same services to our customers in the rural areas which we provide in the urban centers
The growth of the telecom Industry is fueling the economies globally, especially in the emerging countries. Pakistan’s economy has hugely benefited from the expansion of Broadband and Cellular services in the country. As for the telecom contribution, we are one of the biggest contributors towards the national exchequer, creating job opportunities for the people as well as boosting other sectors from wholesale, manufacturing to distribution
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