In pursuit of its vision to be the New Generation Digital Company by 2022, Axiata embarked on a programme to transform a legacy telecommunications company into a digital business. In the process they infused digital concepts, thinking and technology into the business.
The future entails a greater responsibility to address the sustainability imperative. In order to realise our shared aspirations, courage in working with customers and within ecosystems is what we require and retain until today.SCROLL TO READ THEIR STORIES
When I was approached by Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar to take on the leadership role in TMI, I was not very keen. However, I realised I did have some ‘unfinished business’ with regards to building talent. He said, ‘After the demerger, you can develop this company from scratch and build a platform to develop talent.’
From the very start, our vision was to become a Regional Champion, so we adopted diversity one of our key strategies. We made sure we hired the right people, those with appropriate skills and principles of teamwork.
We were flying the Malaysian flag high in Asia and by the end of 2015, we had our new vision. Everybody rallied behind the roadmap of becoming a New Generation Digital Company.
I must admit I did not expect us to grow as big as we have today. To put it into perspective, we are now in eleven countries with revenue of almost 2.5 times larger than when we started. Whenever I attend industry conferences anywhere in the world, I mention Axiata and almost every CEO would have heard of this 10-year old organisation.
Looking back, I’m quite proud that this GLC is largely managed like an MNC, with a Malaysian flavour at heart. That’s what makes us different.
When I look back, I see an MNC company; I see highly motivated staff; I see our contributions to all the countries we operate in and communities we serve.
Tan Sri Jamal asked me to chair the Cyber Security Steering Committee (CCSC) as he regarded cyber challenges as a major risk to the Group. The Group CEO displayed a vision that was ambitious, but necessary.
After overcoming many difficulties, our programme today is fully endorsed by the Group and we held our first Cyber Information Day. It was a significant milestone as it brought all the OpCos and Management together, in one place, to have an honest dialogue.
As a result of the Group’s effort, over the last three years we have made significant progress, establishing a solid platform for addressing future challenges.
As our working relationship progressed, I found Jamal to be gracious and giving of his time to the betterment of the organisation. His embracement of the challenges has provided Axiata with an outstanding basis to tackle future cyber and data challenges.
My acquaintance with Tan Sri Jamal goes back a long way, from our IBM days in the early 90s when he was the boss of my boss. Just like kismet, our paths kept crossing and in 2012, I told him that I wanted to start my own consultancy company. He said, ‘Very good. And why don’t we be your first client?’
From that moment, my Axiata journey started.
Through Incite Consulting I rendered my services to Axiata to manage the Axiata Business Transformation Program. This programme saw the birth of edotco and Axiata Digital Services (ADS). I, for one, was thrilled to be a part of this formative period.
A year passed and I was drawing on a napkin of what I thought would be the next phase for Axiata. That morning, we introduced the 4th ‘Pillar’ into Axiata’s vision: Planet and Society.
To date, it has invested in 16 local digital companies. And now my journey continues towards making Celcom a champion again!
It is very exciting to be a part of the industry’s modernisation taking place currently.
By merging new technology and green innovation, the health and safety aspect has been raised to the next level. With edotco, the biggest innovation has been using drones to cost-effectively maintain networks and reduce human risk. Today, drones help to minimise human contact in high-risk areas in Bangladesh and Cambodia, where strong winds often occur.
Sustainable design innovations have significantly reduced overall carbon emissions and increased renewable energy usage. These include bamboo towers as an alternative in Bangladesh, as well as sharing of towers with other network providers to improve efficiency.
To be honest, I didn’t quite know what I signed up for when I was unexpectedly offered a regional position by the then interim TM CEO Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar. From that day onward, an exciting new vision unfolded for me.
Diversity is necessary not for just widening the talent pool, but for raising performance standards. Axiata is such a place for that. Focus is absolutely key. From leading the AYTP, I learned to set a specific vision and deliver it creatively.
The ability to learn is a function of your willingness to go out of your comfort zone. Instead of being safe and ‘narrow’, if you risk embracing changes and situations (despite not always knowing if the end result will be positive) you will grow ‘broader’ and stronger.
After almost a year of self-imposed ‘garden leave’ upon my retirement as Deputy Chief Executive of Securities Commission Malaysia, I was appointed to the Board of Axiata Group Berhad.
Typically, public-listed companies are known to a capital market regulator for their notoriety or infamy. Those that get noticed for upholding the highest standards of corporate conduct, are few and far between.
Axiata, however, was known to me for routinely contributing towards raising corporate governance standards in Malaysia.
It is now more than two years and my experience has been nothing short of exhilarating. True to my expectation, the Board is a powerhouse of knowledge and experience, where diversity extends beyond gender to age, nationality, experience and qualification.
When Axiata was born ten years ago, the smartphone was still in its infancy and many of the services we now enjoy daily were little more than a twinkle in their founders’ eyes.
Today, Axiata is changing lives. From Battambang to Bhaktapur, from Melaka to Makassar, our digital networks are the lifeblood of everyone who uses them.
In our early days, we pioneered low-cost telephone services with our ‘minute factory’ and, more recently, our investments in LTE networks and digital financial services are helping accelerate the transition to a digital economy.
In future, these networks will also help us address humanity’s biggest challenges – including the climate crisis and other environmental threats.
Compared to other global telecommunications companies, Axiata stood out as an innovative, bold and forward-looking company.
It is a privilege to serve on the Board of Axiata and work with Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim and his management team. Under his leadership, Axiata has established itself as one of the most respected telecom companies and perhaps, more importantly a place where its employees are stretched and empowered to give their best.
Over the last decade, in different countries and roles, it has been an exciting journey.
Turning around Bangladesh with a great team, including a total rebrand from Aktel to Robi, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was also a chance to tap practices, processes and tools that worked well in other Axiata companies.
Being part of the team creating edotco was another amazing chapter. Although the initial processes were unwieldy between Axiata’s subsidiaries and edotco, in the end it was about operational excellence. It was impressive to note how the razor-sharp management focus led to this.
Having been on-the-go with my previous roles in leading multinational companies, and having run my own company as an entrepreneur, I anticipated the role of a Celcom board member to be somewhat dull and bureaucratic.
Much to my pleasant surprise, it was very different – intense, engaging – and I soon realised that, under the leadership of Tan Sri Jamal, it was led and run like a multinational organisation.
I saw the management evolve from a defensive culture to a proactive one, from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ culture. Transformation in Axiata is not a time-based programme, and this culture drives Axiata to keep leaping on to the next level.
On the contrary, the momentum to propel forward is as strong as ever.
As the quote goes, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” It is not an easy feat to turn around and transform a sizeable organisation, as it requires great people and great leadership. Kudos to everyone in Axiata.
My past seven years in Axiata have been thrilling and significant. Everything I have achieved here stemmed from my need to give back to the nation that helped groom me in my younger years.
In many ways, joining Axiata back in 2012 as Group Chief of Marketing and Operations was akin to ‘National Service’. It was an exciting period because there was still enough headwind to focus on telco levers to drive growth in our core business.
The most significant milestone at Axiata Digital (AD) has been pivoting the focus of the organisation from a venture builder of tech start-ups with a portfolio of 30 businesses to an operator of 3 core digital businesses.
The greatest success for me has been proving that telcos can create successful digital businesses and watching them flourish and grow.
When I was presented with the opportunity to work for Axiata, I certainly didn’t hesitate to seize it for two obvious reasons.
Firstly, Axiata has the erstwhile reputation of being a well-run MNC. Secondly, it’s to do with the fact that Tan Sri Jamal is helming the company and, given his knowledge and hands-on leadership, I knew Axiata was on the right path.
I joined Axiata at the time when the telecoms industry was finding its place in the global digital revolution, competing fiercely to meet our customers’ thirst for everything digital. Axiata had to reinvent itself to meet this demand. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to have three different roles in a short period of time – it certainly kept me on my toes!
What Axiata does very well is that it hires the best people and puts them in the right roles. Coming to work at the office feels like the collective effect of people being productive and having fun while they’re at it.
I was always impressed with the Board’s vision and governance, Axiata’s numerous achievements, the leadership of Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim and his ‘merry team’.
Admittedly, the Board meeting the day after my appointment was daunting, as it was a revelation about the mobile telecommunications business. The ‘perfect storm’, as described by Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, that Axiata confronted was not for the faint-hearted. I am privileged to be able to draw from my fellow Directors their immense knowledge and wisdom in navigating the past challenges.
Team Axiata has not ceased to amaze me with their continuous, almost incessantly high level of energy, zest, camaraderie, creativity and innovation to adapt the businesses and compete effectively while managing all their stakeholders.
It is this key differentiator that will future-proof the organisation.