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Keyline Prism

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Curating

a Company

How a group of visionaries came together with a
single purpose: To be Asia’s leading mobile operator.

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OVERVIEW OF
‘CURATING A COMPANY’

Axiata began operations in an extremely dynamic environment, determined to break well-worn traditional moulds in corporate culture. In an industry constantly disrupted, key decisions demanded agility, nimbleness and courage.

Motivated by a broader agenda beyond financial returns, Axiata’s vision and mission never wavered from Advancing Asia.

The Axiata story is one of positivism, innovation and disruption built on the foundation of deep humanity.

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Axiata proved again and again, in a difficult industry, that we were professional, we had integrity and we had trust.

TAN SRI DATUK WIRA
AZMAN HJ MOKHTAR

Founding Chairman
Axiata, 2008 – 2018
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The big idea behind setting up Axiata was that we wanted to create a regional champion.

The globalisation trend meant that borders and barriers were basically being taken down. If we didn’t go out to compete, we’d be left defending our positions instead.

We thought that, since the world was coming to us, we might as well go out and take on the world.

In pioneering and steering the evolution of a homegrown regional champion, the challenges were numerous. Among them were cost competition pressures, regulatory issues and the advance of the digital revolution. But Axiata proved again and again, in a difficult industry, that we were professional, we had integrity and we had trust.

That was the Axiata way of doing business – no-deals operations and being able to attract very strong cross-cultural teams.

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It was like a family, despite the fights we fought to stay together.

DR FARID
MOHAMED SANI

Founding Board Member
Axiata, 2008 – 2011

What I remember most of my three years there is how challenging it was for Axiata to be in possession of a united front, as it came with so many holding entities. We managed to bring them all together, housing them under one roof. It was like a family, despite the fights we fought to stay together.

At the end of the day, when push came to shove,
we fought to overcome the obstacles.Stroke

It takes a lot to build company culture. Right from the beginning, we had a very people-centric organisation. Back then we were trying to make Axiata a leadership engine, and everyone contributed to its creation. We value talent, wherever they are from and whatever their backgrounds may be.

If you ask me, the best days of Axiata were when we set aside our egos.

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The camaraderie was enjoyable, especially when we all donned costumes and threw caution to the wind at our highly energetic annual staff retreats.

REMA
DEVI NAIR

Regulatory Advisor to the CEO, edotco Group, 2016 – present
Head, Group Regulatory Affairs, Axiata, 2008 – 2016
Head, Regulatory Affairs, TMI, 2003 – 2008

Moving on to Axiata as Head, Group Regulatory Affairs, with Tan Sri Jamal at the helm, I embarked on a period of deep and intense understanding of the mobile business.

Looking back at my nine-plus years at TMI/Axiata, my most compelling memories revolved around how much of my learning about navigating national institutions. Policy-making took place while also navigating the notorious traffic of cities.

Getting to meetings through the traffic snarls of various cities with the late Fazlur Rahman, Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, Ibu Nies Purwati and Rajat Mukherjee, also meant having highly insightful conversations that made these trips effortless.

Amid such generosity of mind and spirit,
it was not uncommon for colleagues to
become lifelong friends. Stroke
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Having played a part in its early formation, I continued to watch Axiata growing in the region with great interest.

TAN SRI ABDUL
WAHID OMAR

Group Chief Executive Officer
Telekom Malaysia, 2004 – 2008
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I will always have a special place in my heart for Axiata, having played a part in its coming into being

I returned to Telekom Malaysia (TM) as Group CEO on 1 July 2004. Although TM had been listed for over 14 years then, its corporate culture was still not as competitive as one would expect. We set to work to turn it around organisationally, culturally and financially. During the first 18 months of the transformation, TM made significant progress.

However, we still faced challenges due to market changes and increasing competition. In the end, it was decided that the TM Group would be better off being demerged into two separate listed entities. TM International (now known as Axiata Group) with some 40 million subscribers was successfully demerged in April 2008.

The demerger “unleashed” Axiata Group
to grow further across Asia.Stroke

Till today, I continue to follow Axiata’s progress with great interest. It is my hope that Axiata will continue to grow profitably and be the Malaysian flag-bearer internationally.

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Central to the Axiata story is positivism, innovation and disruption on the foundation of a deep humanity which respects people and diversity.

DR HANS
WIJAYASURIYA

Chief Executive Officer – Telecommunications Business /
Group Executive Vice President, 2020 – present
Corporate Executive Vice President & Regional Chief Executive Officer,
South Asia, Axiata, 2016 – 2020
Chief Executive Officer, Dialog, 1997 – 2016
Chief Executive Officer, Axiata Digital, 2012 – 2014
Chief Operating Officer, Axiata Group, 2008 – 2009

Axiata is inseparable from Tan Sri Jamal’s deep-set humanity – meaning that this organisation is one which cares for people – not only within the companies we manage, but across the communities and nations we serve.

Aptly, Axiata’s tag line resounds – Advancing Asia.

Dialog’s second wave was spawned by the shock of a perfect storm in 2007 – an unholy mix of a heightened civil war, global oil crisis, inflation and interest rates in the mid-twenties, and a brutal price war. Throughout these trying times, I recount with gratitude the encouragement, trust and guidance extended to us by Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, Datuk Azzat, and the Axiata Board.

Dialog catapulted on the energy of its rebound to subsequently become the most profitable integrated telco and highest valued brand in Sri Lanka.

The snippets I have recounted are in no way a comprehensive account of the achievements of this great company, yet I hope that one could see the fact that the Axiata story is unique in many ways.

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The colourful stories of all the personalities that management had to deal with always meant that we had very interesting Board meetings!

DATUK GANEN
SARVANANTHAN

Board Member
Telekom Malaysia International, 2004 – 2008
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I joined the Board of TM International, the predecessor entity of Axiata, at the end of 2004, shortly after joining Khazanah Nasional. We worked through a period of divesting TMI’s African investments and reinvesting the proceeds closer to home in Southeast Asia and South Asia.

The colourful stories of all the personalities that management had to deal during this time always meant that we had very interesting Board meetings!

TMI and Axiata have long had a culture
of reinventing themselves. Stroke

This is something many large corporates are often afraid to do. I continued to watch Axiata’s growth from a distance after I left Khazanah in 2014 and wish it all the best as it celebrates its tenth anniversary and seeks to embark on a new chapter ahead.

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Despite the challenge of shifting my mindset, it was priceless exposure that helped to shape my leadership quality after I was appointed as XL’s CEO.

DIAN
SISWARINI

President Director, XL, 2015 – present
Served in various roles in XL and Axiata, 2009 – 2015

When Axiata acquired XL Axiata in 2009 as part of its newly-formed regional company, I remember being filled with excitement as we began our journey together.

Being part of Axiata, I can feel its sincerity in developing its people, including me, as a global talent. The Axiata culture, in particular, has driven XL to become more appreciative of its own people development.

If I had to choose one word to describe Axiata,
it would be ‘care’.

From enrolling me in the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, to exposing me to a global environment as Chief Marketing Officer in Axiata’s Corporate Centre, I have witnessed how Axiata’s success is also driven by its undeniable care of the people within.

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Axiata – a simple, single sound that unites the region and a sole pronunciation that sometimes makes us forget our differences.

DATO’ SRI MOHAMMED
SHAZALLI RAMLY

Corporate EVP & Regional CEO, ASEAN, Axiata, 2017 – 2018
Chief Executive Officer, Celcom, 2005 – 2017

I remember sitting in the Cinnamon Coffeehouse in Colombo in 2008 or 2009 with Tan Sri Jamal, Dr Hans and a few others debating how to pronounce Axiata, the new name.

Acceiata, Arcciata, Essiata, Asksiata, Asiata and many more were thrown into the mix. With our diversity, there were several ways of pronouncing the name.

I recall Tan Sri Jamal stepping in and saying, “We shall pronounce it as Aazziata.”

From that day on, we universally
embraced that one sound. Stroke

Today, that is the brand name that is on the tip of the tongues of millions of our customers around the world.

Wacom
Wacom Pen
A lot of effort was put into developing people, which has paid off with very good development programmes at various levels until today.

REZA
ABDUL RAHIM

Senior Vice President & Head, Group Corporate Finance
Axiata, 2009 – 2011

In the early days, the one factor that stood out for me was the openness within Axiata, driven by Tan Sri Jamal. Post-demerger, we were trying to form our own identity, not only with the new company, but across all the other companies throughout the group.

We practiced well-articulated and consistent engagement between the management team and staff. The effort was necessary for us to be cohesive across the group, and for our growth story.

Across the region the message and branding
were as consistent as the countries and
cultures were varied.

If there was anything that I thought Axiata did very well then, it was how Tan Sri Jamal engaged with all of us. He made sure that everybody worked together within the corporate office and OpCos.

He made sure that everyone was singing the same tune.

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The people I interacted with were true professionals. Folks were motivated to drive shareholder value and, more importantly, to do the right thing.

DATO’ YUSOF
ANNUAR YAACOB

Executive Director and Group Chief Financial Officer
Axiata, 2008 – 2010

When Axiata was formed, what brought everybody together was recognising that it was vital to demonstrate that this new entity had to show success, and show it quickly. The sense of pride that we had in being part of a momentous change drove our ambitions.

Axiata has demonstrated that diversity is at its core and has always been its strength. This has time and time again provided the foundation required to navigate its toughest moments.

Farewells are always difficult, yet when I said my goodbyes the outpouring of emotions I felt from nearly everybody was overwhelming, even for somebody who prides himself on always maintaining a cool front. It was then I realised that I wasn’t just saying farewell to colleagues but, more importantly, to friends.

And therein lies Axiata’s strength – its people. Stroke

Ten years on, I believe a lot has changed, but also I am happy that certain things have not. The folks at Axiata remain first-class.

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The best corporate strategy in the world will not be successful without the right people with the right culture.

DARKE M SANI

Group Chief Human Resources Officer
Axiata, 2011 – present
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One thing I will always remember about my stint in Axiata will be the company’s efforts in building a brand new culture. The Group CEO, backed by the Axiata Board, made ‘Uncompromising Integrity, Exceptional Performance’ (UIEP) a shared core value for the whole Group.

UIEP means pushing ourselves to high levels of performance, while holding ourselves to the highest standards of conduct. It’s aspirational but, at the same time, inspirational.

Have we achieved our lofty goals? Far from it. Yet we have achieved good progress in increasing awareness, demonstrating our commitment and taking action to internalise them.

This thing called ‘corporate culture’ has no ending. The journey itself is important because that’s culture in action. The best corporate strategy in the world will not be successful without the right people with the right culture.

That’s why they say Culture eats Strategy
for breakfast.
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To me it’s quite simple. You can take my view, accept it or modify it. That’s fine, but I think it’s important that honesty and integrity remain your guiding light.

DATUK AZZAT
KAMALUDIN

Chairman of edotco Group, 2016 – 2020
Chairman of Dialog, 2008 – 2020
Board Member, Axiata, 2008 – 2018

The first thing I was impressed and fascinated by when I came on board was the Board’s composition. It helps when the diversity is overarching and people aren’t afraid to speak up.

Here, we’ve built a relationship where we respect one another, yet each company maintains its independence as a separate entity, forged by mutual benefit.

I believe a company is a company of people. There should be more money spent on human resources rather than machines. Maybe I’m generous or too compassionate, but I always feel that we should reward people as much as we can.

I SEE AXIATA AS THE PROTOTYPE OF A MALAYSIAN COMPANY OF THE FUTURE, AS WELL AS A COMPANY OF THE PRESENT.

From how the Board is constituted and working with different cultural groups, to developing talent on merit, and not pandering or having to look over its shoulder, other companies can learn from it.

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READ
‘MEMORIES’

Get deeper insights into Axiata’s journey over the years through these first-hand accounts of the individuals who were there.

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Gallery 2

Crafting
A Culture

as a regional champion.

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Charting
Continuity

towards becoming a
New
Generation Digital Company.

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