An exit in­ter­view with Te­lenor Myan­mar’s CEO

The Myanmar Times - - Business - CATHER­INE TRAUTWEIN c.trautwein@mm­times.com

TE­LENOR Myan­mar chief Pet­ter Furberg is leav­ing his dream job to spend more time with his fam­ily after three years at the helm of one of the coun­try’s first for­eign mo­bile op­er­a­tors. He spoke with The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day about his fu­ture at Te­lenor’s Asia dig­i­tal busi­ness arm, and about the com­pany he has helped build and is now leav­ing be­hind.

What are you proud­est of in your three years here? All of it. I am re­ally proud of the com­pany and the cul­ture we have built. We have come very far ... We re­ally strug­gled [at first] be­cause we had to fol­low build-per­mit pro­cesses. It was chal­leng­ing, we hit the rainy sea­son, but now we have more than 5800 tow­ers.

We are get­ting closer to cov­er­ing all of the coun­try and prob­a­bly in one-and-a-half to two years we will be ev­ery­where.

I am also proud that we are very lean. We [have] more than 16 mil­lion cus­tomers with 600 em­ploy­ees. Thou­sands of peo­ple have been em­ployed and are be­ing em­ployed in com­pa­nies that ei­ther work for us, sell­ing, or are de­liv­er­ing to us.

I do think peo­ple look to us and re­spect that we have man­aged to ‘do things right’.

I am also quite proud that peo­ple [look] to us when we talk about fight­ing un­der­age child labour. Have we suc­ceeded? No, but we have seen sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments. We prob­a­bly have the big­gest set-up of any com­pany when it comes to health and safety – there’s no one big­ger in Myan­mar.

We have taken stands and con­fronted cor­rup­tion, and I am very happy that peo­ple in­ter­nally are proud that we came out with the ‘No gift’ pol­icy.

What is the big­gest chal­lenge await­ing your suc­ces­sor, for­mer CFO Lars Erik Tell­man? Cor­rup­tion is still a risk and some­thing we need to be con­stantly aware of and train [for]. Health and safety, un­der­age labour, all of these things – but what is grow­ing as a risk, given we are ex­pand­ing into more and more re­mote ar­eas, is se­cu­rity.

That is some­thing that weighs on your shoul­ders. We have ... our own em­ploy­ees, but also sub-con­trac­tors [and] part­ners work­ing on our be­half in ar­eas where there is a se­cu­rity risk, though we have [a lot of at­ten­tion and] ... ex­ten­sive se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions. We could end up in sit­u­a­tions where our own em­ploy­ees or ven­dors are in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are in­ci­dents – luck­ily no se­ri­ous in­ci­dents so far – but with the fact that there is on­go­ing fight­ing in Myan­mar, we need to con­stantly be on the alert with re­spect to where peo­ple are and inform and col­lect in­for­ma­tion from eth­nic armed groups as well as the mil­i­tary. What re­forms are still needed to tele­coms laws? There is a law that is re­quired called the cyber-crime law which will deal with cyber crimes and law­ful in­ter­cept. The pre­vi­ous and cur­rent gov­ern­ments have both promised the fi­nal draft will be out for pub­lic hear­ing be­fore it goes to par­lia­ment. But it was not fi­nalised by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

We are still run­ning an in­terim ar­range­ment, which is that I per­son­ally ap­prove [re­quests for in­for­ma­tion]. There is no di­rect law­ful in­ter­cept go­ing on to­day, so no one is lis­ten­ing in on any­one.

[The law] is in process, we un­der­stand, so it is more about gov­ern­ment com­plet­ing [it] and sub­mit­ting it for pub­lic hear­ing and to the par­lia­ment for ap­proval. Is there any­thing you wish you could have done? I re­ally, re­ally hope that we get the ap­proval for fi­nan­cial ser­vices [Te­lenor hopes to launch a mo­bile money ser­vice with Yoma Bank called Wave Money]. I have been wait­ing and wait­ing for that for so long and I re­ally hope – [and] it is my un­der­stand­ing – that we are get­ting very close to fi­nal ap­proval by the gov­ern­ment.

We have been pa­tient. We have had an or­gan­i­sa­tion up and run­ning for more than a year now, and we see a lot is hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket so I think it is fair for us to be al­lowed to launch now. [The ser­vice] is needed – not only to send money, but also to al­low peo­ple to start to trans­act on­line.

What has been your fun­ni­est mo­ment at Te­lenor Myan­mar? There was the guy I met in Taung­gyi once ... after we had launched. We were walk­ing and one guy my age ap­proached me and said, “You are from Te­lenor.”

He was a Te­lenor cus­tomer and very happy. But then he said, “I have one prob­lem ... I am a big Clash of Clans player.

“My wife doesn’t al­low me to play any more so now the only place I can play is in my toi­let. And un­for­tu­nately the Te­lenor cov­er­age there is not so good – can you do some­thing about that?”

So in Te­lenor Myan­mar we have also talked a lot about toi­let cov­er­age. This in­ter­view has been edited

and con­densed.

Photo: Aung Khant

Pet­ter Furberg poses at Te­lenor Myan­mar HQ in Yan­gon’s Yankin town­ship.

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