INTERVIEW: VIQARUL ISLAM
COUNTRY DIRECTOR NOKIA- SIEMENS NETWORK
SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, ISLAMABAD
Dec 10 - 16, 2007
The merger of the two giants of the world of information technology i.e. the Nokia and Siemens which took place in Pakistan a few months back is being described by professional experts as a major development which would have far reaching impact on the development of IT industry in Pakistan. Joint efforts of the two big corporate names in technology with worldwide rich experience in communication and networking will certainly boost the telecom sector in Pakistan.
To find out the significance of this merger and its likely impact on the development of IT in Pakistan, page posed some questions to Syed Viqar-ul-Islam (formerly of Nokia) country director Nokia Siemens network, Pakistan and Afghanistan based in Islamabad. The questions and their answer by Viqar- ul-Islam are reproduced below.
HOW: DID NOKIA SIEMENS NETWORKS COME TO PAKISTAN?
Nokia Siemens Network is a collaboration of two of the best brands that have combined for the first time and as one promise to connect 5 Billion people globally by 2015.
Based on the strong legacy and heritage of Nokia and Siemens, the two have established their presence in Pakistan for the past many years. Previously, Siemens Communications created trend setting communications solutions that helped network operators and service providers achieve their business goals. Siemens Communications was known for its innovative strength, worldwide experience and unsurpassed implementation expertise in all areas of voice and data communications. As an innovation leader, Siemens Communications delivered customer value and provided trend setting solutions. Siemens Communications was a fully-owned subsidiary of Siemens AG and operated in about 100 countries.
Nokia Networks was one of the major divisions of Nokia Corporation, providing infrastructure facilities all around the world in the mobile networks. Nokia had a very strong worldwide presence in the Radio equipment, while in the core switching side, Nokia Release 4 products (commonly referred to as softswitch) was an undisputed leader in this category. Hence, this merger provides us with a unique opportunity to combine the strength of the two strongest divisions of these two large corporates and create a real Industry powerhouse.
WHAT IS THE VISION OF NOKIA SIEMENS NETWORKS FOR PAKISTAN?
We at Nokia Siemens Networks believe that the future of the communications industry lies in understanding and uniting communities. Driven by a desire to connect the world, Nokia Siemens Networks will have an unparalleled capability to deliver "end-to-end" convergent solutions based on a broad portfolio of fixed and mobile infrastructure products, services and devices.
Our vision is to have more then 100M people connected in Pakistan by 2015 and most of them always on." These will be individuals who will be connected through broadband, mobile, internet, fixed line - in short Pakistan will truly become a connected country and Nokia Siemens Networks will lead the Industry towards this vision.
WHAT ARE YOUR SPECIALTIES AND EXPERTISE THAT SETS YOU APART FROM YOUR COMPETITORS?
In Pakistan, we leverage our scale, global presence, end-to-end offering where we provide new and value creating products and solutions to customers. We have distinct plans to become a service benchmark company in the country. Our key focus will be to differentiate ourselves through state of the art technology, providing quality services and providing them closer to our customers by having a professional, committed, highly trained and skilled manpower to truly make a difference in the marketplace. Though very young, Nokia Siemens Networks today is rolling out the fastest network in the country with quality and speed, using majority local resources.
We are already the no. 1 Telecom Infrastructure provider in Pakistan and would like to sustain this position through innovation, quality and with providing benchmark services.
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FRONT?
Since telecom is an R&D intensive industry, Nokia Siemens Networks is a very significant investor in R&D and has one of the brightest and most innovative R&D teams in this industry. Nokia Siemens Networks alone is among top 40 companies investing in research and development in the world. When there is so much investment going into R&D, small players can move along to an extent through reverse engineering but then they would always be lagging behind. In order to be in the leadership position, you have to invest in R&D. Smaller players because of their lower turn over do not have sufficient funds available for the kind of R&D that can keep them at par with competition.
We are the only company to have an end to end test bed facility which is being expanded now. This enables us to conduct trials locally, do customizations, training and local competence development.
While Nokia Siemens Networks will have the scale to compete, we know that is just a starting point. As the world of telecommunications changes, we will also create customer value through innovation, speed and deep end-user insight
HOW DO YOU COMPARE ICT SECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING PAKISTAN WITH EUROPE'S?
Europe is a mature market, whereas economies like Pakistan are growing and developing markets, we are still in this huge growth phase which has its own set of challenges and opportunities. Nokia Siemens Networks places lots of importance on markets like Middle East and Africa and categorizes it as part of our New Growth Market, Pakistan is a strong part of this New Growth Market Strategy. These new growth markets are characterized by huge volumes (due to the population size in many countries) and also by Low ARPU (Average Revenue Per User). While it is not unprecedented to see ARPU levels of 40-50 Euros in developed economies, the markets like Pakistan are in the range of around 4 Euros ARPU. To cover for such low ARPU markets, Nokia Siemens Networks has solutions which meet the demand of such markets. Be it the Release 4 or soft switch products or for that matter, Radio Access products which do not require air-conditioning support in oppressive heats of MEA region including Pakistan. Our new Flexi Radios are also known for their compact size which reduces the need for having extensive and elaborate sites for setting up the networks. We also have a strong focus to use local resources, this not only increases the skill level in the country but also helps Nokia Siemens Networks provide low cost skilled resources to our valued customers thus overall helping the business case in Low ARPU markets like Pakistan.
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES NOKIA SIEMENS NETWORK'S FORESEE IN THE COMING DAYS WITH A HIGH RATE OF GROWTH IN THE TELECOM SECTOR IN THE REGION?
At Nokia Siemens Networks, we see challenges as opportunities. While the market is growing at an enormous speed, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep pace with this growth while maintaining sustained quality. We see this growth to continue, which means we will have to find ways of becoming more competitive, more innovative and more cost efficient. The need of the Pakistani market is affordability, Nokia Siemens Networks, thus, provides the best solutions at the lowest possible cost to the operators and ensures quality is not compromised. As the competition is heating up all the time, it has put enormous price pressures on the operators and vendors alike. The price levels in Pakistan have now dropped to almost the lowest in the world thus making it difficult to remain profitable which affects the business case adversely.
Nokia Siemens Networks truly will work on the philosophy of being Global, where we will leverage our global presence but will provide services and expertise closer to the customers and the market to have the right blend.
In order to spread awareness on similar topics, we have also been doing programs to educate the markets in new trends in Telecommunication to speed the transformation process. We conducted seminars on Low ARPU markets and such programs will continue in future.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF NOKIA SIEMENS CENTER OF EXPERTISE?
Moreover, with offices across 9 cities in the country, Nokia Siemens Networks is proud to provide employment opportunities to a growing number of professionals in Pakistan. Nokia Siemens Networks happens to be the only company in Pakistan which is a declared center of competence for these professionals, this programme allows for professionals to be enabled, they are then sent to different projects throughout the Middle East Africa region and elsewhere around the world, they do the project, come back and are reassigned other jobs. Previously, for any telecom training program, you had to send people abroad, now we have a complete test bed for any kind of training here in Pakistan by which we train not only our local resource and bring them to par with international standards but also people coming from abroad, this is largely because of the excellent, end-to-end infrastructure that we have. This initiative was finalized while we were at Nokia despite the fact that Nokia was in Pakistan for less than 3 years in the country. But in that time frame we were able to localize our entire operation. There were about 190 ex-pats in Nokia and all were localized. We produced enough HR to send it abroad. You can judge the competence level of our human resource from the fact that sometimes they retain our people abroad after the completion of the project.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES LIE AHEAD FOR THE PAKISTANI TELECOM OPERATORS AFTER ARRIVAL OF NOKIA SIEMENS NETWORKS IN THE MOBILE INFRASTRUCTURE BUSINESS?
Nokia Siemens Networks will be ideally positioned to help our customers capture opportunities that will arise as the connected community swells to around five billion by 2015. In 2015, we will live in a broadband-IP world, in which five billion people in practice will be "always on", connected to the Internet, rich content, services, fixed and mobile.
Nokia Siemens Networks will have a particular focus on the following areas:
* Business transformation and helping customers find and capture opportunities in the fast-changing market.
* Supporting customers in developing new revenue streams by understanding market trends and bringing new, innovative services to market.
* Providing products, services and solutions that help reduce operating expenses and partnering with customers to improve operational efficiency.
* Meeting the unique needs of new growth markets by working with customers to provide affordable voice and data solutions for end-users.
* Utilizing the deep understanding the company will have in all areas of IP-centric convergence to identify and support new business opportunities for communication providers.
* Working closely with customers on issues of environmental responsibility, including lowering power consumption and reducing the weight and size of products.
* Bringing a full end-to-end expertise to help customers maximize investments and provide seamless experiences for end users.
With the creation of Nokia Siemens Networks, we have the opportunity to build the right company to meet the needs of our customers today and well into the future.
WHAT DOES NOKIA SIEMENS NETWORKS HAVE TO OFFER ON THE CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY FRONT?
We at Nokia Siemens Networks believe that we as part of a telecom industry have a role to contribute in terms of bridging the gap that exists between university and academia. In line with this initiative, we recently signed an agreement with TEVTA which is responsible for providing vocational training and diplomas to students wanting to gain technical knowledge. In this regard, we have invested in the TEVTA institutes present in Lahore, Attock and now Dera Ghazi Khan will soon add to that list in this month.
After the devastating October 8th earthquake in 2005, as a corporate social responsible we stepped up our efforts for the survivors of this calamity, at that time only Nokia's Networks business group was established in the country and through that business group we committed for the long- term rehabilitation and reconstruction of the hit areas. After the merger it has been decided that this will be a joint CSR project between Nokia and Nokia Siemens Networks. Nokia will continue to provide the funding and the project will be run and overseen by Nokia Siemens Networks. The first big milestone of this project is the school which has been completed in Khodar and will be formerly inaugurated by the Country Director Nokia Siemens Networks and the Area Manager of Nokia soon.
WHERE DO YOU SEE NOKIA SIEMENS NETWORKS IN FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
With over 100 million people potentially connected and "always on" by 2015, Nokia Siemens Networks is ready to connect the people of Pakistan and sustain its no.1 position.
We will continue to strive for excellence in the country and setting benchmarks. Our message is very simple and that is to deliver to our commitments. This message is a key differentiator in the Telecom Industry today. We have a strong, competent, skilled and very professional services organization, which we will continue to enhance and expand to provide quality services to customers in Pakistan and also be a resource hub for our customers within the Middle East Africa Region.
Our networks are bringing people together and will continue to do so. We foster a deep understanding of what customers want and what it takes to get it to them. As an organization we are pioneering and passionate, yet pragmatic and thus getting the job done. Our aim is to become increasingly known for our service excellence and an ability to deliver results.