Tariq Malik sees bright future for Wateen Telecom, Warid Group in Pakistan

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Oct 02 - Oct 08, 2006

Tariq Malik, the Chief Operating Officer and the driving force behind Wateen Telecom visualizes his move from Warid Telecom as harbinger of high expectations reposed in the project by the top management of the Group. In a wide-ranging interview, the Wateen Telecom Senior Executive and

EMC Member, Warid Telecom, shared his thoughts about his career highlights and future growth of what is reckoned as the fastest rising Group of companies in Pakistan , driven by the vision of HH Sheikh Nahayan and his hand picked team members.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

PAGE: Tell us something about your educational background?

A. I have had very diversified education which reflects my interests and my desire to learn whatever it takes to excel in my field and build a strong knowledge base. I did my Joint Honors BSc from King's College, London in Mathematics & Management, with 1st Class in June 1993. Afterwards I sat for ICAEW exams and Completed Articles & Exams in November 1996. My interests drove me to get Securities & Futures Authority Qualifications, which I received in January 1997.

PAGE: Considering your educational diversity, would you say that you were a promising student?

A. I don't like to blow my own horn, but neither would I stand for false modesty. Truth be told, I was a good student, hardworking and diligent. Still, it wasn't always like that. I was a late bloomer up to O levels, but afterwards I did my A levels in just one year and steadily excelled in studies. I completed my university education with a first class degree and wasn't content to stop there. I furthered my educational qualifications for top management level jobs. I believe that to really learn something from it education should be fun.

PAGE: Were you always disposed towards choosing telecommunications & media as your career?

A. I can't say that it was in the plans from the beginning, but communications and media industries are fast growing and dynamic fields. You have to be on your toes always to keep pace with the innovations and advancements in these industries. It verily puts not only your knowledge and skills to test but also your ingenuity at coming up with extem pore solutions. And I do believe that I could not have planned my career any better then it unfolded by the grace of the All Mighty. There was a grand design in the opportunities that came about, the mentors I had and the organizations I have had the chance to work in. Allah has been very kind.

I had an interest in high growth industries especially in the services sector, which were cutting edge innovative businesses. Always wanted to keep learning and keep on being challenged which communications & media definitely provide. As this involves new technologies and new innovations you are always challenging yourself and you keep learning

PAGE; you completed your articles (training records) and passed all your exams to be a chartered accountant from a prestigious institution in Britain ? Why didn't you pursue this as a career option?

A. Well, I completed my article ship (training records) from one of the most prestigious international accountancy and consultancy firm world-wide, Arthur Andersen, London , UK . But I did not apply for the membership at that time since I had no intention of practicing accountancy and anyways I am more interested what I learn and not in certificates and degrees. Chartered Accountancy was a strong foundation to build my career and was an excellent learning platform, but my interest was in a more dynamic job which would employ the extent of my learning and skills. I wanted to actually apply what I had learned during my ACA and progressed initially as a corporate financier with a focus on high growth industries and companies and then had the opportunity to move into the communications industry which was a natural choice.

PAGE; You have served as a Director at British Telecom & Hutchison and as EMC Member at Warid & COO of Wateen. What did the jobs entail and what were the differences between these experiences?

A. I have served in many capacities at BT; as a Senior Manager (BT Global Mobility) evaluating BT's investments and expansions across the Globe ranging from strategic alliances with AT&T in the US to investments in Asia including India, Korea & Japan, Project Leader (3G) evaluating the impact of 3G licensing in 17 countries, Senior Regional Manager Asia Pacific (BT Genie) launching BT Genie in Asia Pacific. My last official role was as Director Content, BT Open World as part of Broadband UK, launching BT's Broadband services in the UK . While at Hutchison's 3's launch in the UK I was responsible for consumer marketing, products & services and content as part of one of the largest Greenfield start-up's in the world. Serving at these key positions honed my professional skills and it was a great experience. At Wateen too, I am performing dual roles. As COO for Wateen and part of EMC (Executive Member Committee) for Warid, I manage a broad role and am responsible for Strategy, Sales & Marketing, Commercial/Business Development and Vendor Management in addition to the day to day operations of Wateen which has now become the leading alternative LDI operator in Pakistan, the beneficiary of the accolade of Leading Technology Investor from GSM Conference, the largest WiMax compliant deployment in the world, the leading provider of broadband/bandwidth in the country and a profitable start-up, all within its first year of operations.

PAGE; you had a very promising career in UK , why did you choose to come back to Pakistan ?

A. It is true that from the monetary and the learning point of view it is a great place but I left UK and came to Pakistan for religion, culture and quality of life. I wanted to be with my family and to be in my father's country which I have always loved. I have never looked for a job outside Lahore and wouldn't work after my life at Warid/Wateen. Also, I am trying to get involved in social and charity work so that I can give back to people who require help and the nation which has given me my identity. These have been the motivations behind my moving to Pakistan . Even so, I still like to visit my friends and family in UK , where I have some property and will always be my second home.

PAGE: You have an SFA in banking as well. How does it help you in your present endeavors?

A. After I completed my SFA I did work as a corporate financier for sometime which gave me the opportunity to be involved in corporate strategy advising Board Directors of UK listed companies on strategic initiatives, but as I said earlier, I wanted to try my hand at something more dynamic and actually not only advise but implement and be responsible for the outcomes of these decisions - to see them through. My chosen line of profession asks for many qualifications, especially if you are in the management position.

PAGE: How was your experience working at WorldCall? What was the challenge? that made you switch over to the Warid and Wateen combine?

A. My role encompassed the operations of all telecoms related assets of the Group including international expansion and mobile license bidding. I was successfully able to lead the Group in expanding both the business activities through opportunities created by deregulation and focusing on generating additional profits from existing operations. It provided useful hands on experience working in the local telecommunications market. I left the group because I felt that Warid/Wateen offered greater variety of services and a chance to spearhead the expansion of an international firm in Pakistan . Warid/Wateen has the passion and vision to be a true Pakistani based multinational.

PAGE; What expertise do you have that you feel gives you the edge of managing such a huge concern of the communications and media businesses?

A. I should think that working at BT, Hutchison and WorldCall at key managerial and marketing positions in fast emerging and rising industries should qualify one for the job. Not only that, but I am proud to say that I have managed to deliver what was expected of me and in a short time.

PAGE; Do you feel that it is experience or education that would qualify someone to head a large organization? How would you put your own career as an example in the same perspective?

A. I think at this position, you don't only need certificates and degrees, but you are driven by a vision and earnestness and honesty in your dealings.

I know that I have all the right reasons for driving this enterprise in Pakistan . I am aware not only of the benefits of this market but also the pitfalls (being a native). I also understand that solving communications problem will definitely raise the standard of life in Pakistan .

PAGE: Why did you move from Warid Telecom to Wateen?

A. Lots of people assign a negative connotation to the move but the truth is crystal clear. I was brought in as the 1st employee of the group to assist in the set-up of these operations. The group required me to assist in streamlining Wateen which is a multi product business and provides critical infrastructure to Warid and the entire communications & media market. After successfully launching Warid where I was responsible for the entire strategy, commercial & business development and vendor management function I took on the responsibility to realize Wateen's vision of being the leading communication provider and making Broadband Pakistan a reality. But I am still actively involved in Warid.

PAGE; why did you join Warid/Wateen at such an embryonic stage?

A. More than anything it is the vision of the leadership and the trust and loyalty of the team. The project is driven by HH Sheikh Nahayan's vision and passion to make a difference to the people of Pakistan and commitment to the country. Bashir Tahir's vision to excel in the field, his belief in the team and his mentorship... he is like a father to us all. Mr. Marwan Zawaydeh, who through his experience and knowledge has been able to guide us and ensure we are the best operators in the business and Mr. Parvez Shahid, the reason why I joined even on the day the Group did not get the license during bidding, because of his passion, belief and in domitable persona.