Ahmed Bilal Masud, an electrical engineer by profession is at the forefront of a leading telecom company, Huawei Pakistan as the Deputy CEO. After completing his degree from NUST (National University of Science and Technology), he set off for work in the telecom industry in 1997 when Pakistan had only two telecom operators.
The launch of pre-paid service brought revolution in country’s telecom industry. Bilal was among those favoring the introduction of pre-paid to extend the mobile-reach to common people. However, some telecom marketers were against the move. “They believed that the prepaid service wouldn’t be up-and-coming”, Bilal told Economic Affairs in an exclusive interview in Islamabad. The reason was that people like to see bills in their hands and not paying before consuming a service but it dwelled on and Pakistan is now a very innovative market. “We now have CDMA, WiMAX, 3G and 4G.” Bilal added.
Before starting work at Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and China’s biggest smartphone maker, he went to work at Mobilink and Motorola. He is with Huawei operations since 2007.
Over the past ten years or so, Huawei has achieved some milestones as it expanded its market from the home country to international penetration in a number of countries becoming a global player. 1.4 percent of the company’s share capital is owned by Ren Zhengfei, the founder and CEO of Huawei, with the remainder of the company jointly owned by 84,000 of its employees.
Huawei claims to connect a third of the world’s population. After Apple and Samsung, it is the world’s third largest maker of smartphones. In this interview, he talks about how Huawei excelled in Pakistan and how is the company facilitating the introduction of new spectrum in Pakistan.
E.A.Pakistan is a very competitive market for telecom sector companies. How did you approach the growth challenges?
Ahmed Bilal: The Pakistan telecom sector has emerged as one of the fastest growing sectors across Asia, wherein the country has realized the benefits achieved from the telecom deregulation around the world. Today the total teledensity in Pakistan stands at 77.97% and with total cellular subscribers at 136.4 million, the market has indeed become competitive for telecom sector companies. Huawei is one of the global leaders in the telecom space and its presence in Pakistan is a testimony and recognition of the potential this country has in terms of growth. As the head of the company here it is my endeavor to pursue all challenges via the offering of our cutting-edge technologies and through team work.
Huawei exists to serve customers, whose demands are the driving force behind our development. We continuously work to create long-term value for customers by being responsive to their needs and requirements. We measure our work against how much value we bring to customers, because we can only succeed through our customers’ success.
That is why almost every telecom company is associated with Huawei. Huawei is providing technical support to almost all telecom sector companies operating in Pakistan including the five leading mobile service provides.
Moreover, Huawei enjoys excellent credibility among the financial sector institutions; therefore our clients also get benefit of this credibility and easily secure finances for extension projects.
E.A. What are the prospects of telecom sector expansion in Pakistan after introduction of next generation spectrum?
Ahmed Bilal: There is a lot of expectation and excitement about the launch of next-generation technologies in Pakistan. These advanced technologies have proven to be highly successful in all countries which have deployed it since quite some time now. It will bring a data revolution in Pakistan and enable the country, its institutions and its citizens to have access to swifter communications.
The launch of 3G in Pakistan will benefit all. Government will benefit by increased tax revenues from telecom sector, mobile operators will benefit by increased business volumes and more profits, the venders by providing equipment, technical support and getting business. Above all mobile users are getting benefit of an efficient service that facilitates in their work, business and makes their life easy. Most importantly, the new spectrum will bring new opportunities for the people of Pakistan and the business. So the new spectrum is going to push the whole cycle of economy.
In Huawei, we are committed to roll-out high-speed broadband networks, make it affordable as well as universally accessible.
E.A. What were the challenges and the key elements of the transformation to next generation spectrum?
Ahmed Bilal: Most of the telecom companies in Pakistan were well prepared to deploy the new generation technology as issue of licenses was imminent. It is praiseworthy that the government made a concerted effort to announce and conduct a successful auction of the spectrum. The transformation of the technology will enable companies to offer enhanced services and also to strengthen quality standards. Huawei is excited about the great future this country has in the telecommunication sector and stands committed to providing the ultimate in technology equipment and services. Huawei has upgraded the technical base of all winners of new spectrum auction is a week time and have started providing 3 G service to their subscribers in major cities. The initial feedback of 3G trial is very positive and all the four companies are satisfied. Soon, the 3G network will be made available across Pakistan.
E.A. How do you tackle the enormous diversity in Pakistan between the stages of development in different cities and regions and also the security concerns?
Ahmed Bilal: We understand the challenge of security is huge for everyone working here. But at the same time, the government’s support is commendable to help business function. There are disruptions, there are challenges every day, however, we are not alone. Pakistan is a great prospect for all of the companies to do business. Huawei follows the goal of empowering countries and guiding them to become prosperous. We are planning to expand our network in many other cities of the country. This will help them to use our products much more easily.
E.A. What are Huawei’s growth targets and overall goals for future?
Ahmed Bilal: Huawei is here to stay which clearly means that our goals and targets are to be a reliable partner of ICT for people of Pakistan. We envision tremendous growth in the Pakistani market now and in the immediate future and therefore, have taken appropriate steps to meet the challenges of time. Pakistan is a large country of more than 180 million people and with mobile penetration at 72 percent the growth in mobile financial services is ready to boom. Huawei’s vision is to enrich life through communication and enhancing its contribution to bring sustainable development in societies and the economy.
E.A.How is your feeling working in Huawei as a non-Chinese?
Ahmed Bilal: Huawei is a global company which believes in adding value to every culture. We are focused in delivering equal opportunities for employees across the world. No matter which region, race or cast they belong; we are equal opportunity providers. Huawei is based on international and global recognition.
I have worked with several multi-national companies including a few US based franchises as well; and I believe Huawei is the organization that brings sustainable development in every society and economy.
E.A. Is Huawei doing something fulfilling its Corporate Social Responsibilities in Pakistan?
Ahmed Bilal: Corporate and individual patronage is one the core responsibility of Huawei. We are very keen in taking active participation in social projects. As good corporate citizens of Pakistan; it’s our duty to work for the betterment of society.
Huawei is always lively in promoting CSR activities. Some of our projects include cultural promotion, where we invested in bringing Chinese language teachers to Cadet Colleges of Pakistan; a step designed to initiate new opportunities for local communities.
Huawei is a technology oriented company, much of our activities are focused on empowering youth through new technological programs. More recently, we setup Datacom and Cloud computing Lab in NUST, Rawalpindi as technology partners, providing modernize equipment’s for students to use. Besides, Huawei has participated in social causes including donation, internship programs, and tree plantation, etc.
These are a few activities which demonstrate Huawei‘s commitment to bring long term development in Pakistan.
Maria Khalid is the Deputy Editor of Monthly Economic Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org