Cutthroat competition forces GP overhaul
Monday, 28 January 2008


The country's largest cell phone operator Grameenphone (GP) has overhauled its operations ostensibly in an effort to improve efficiency as competition intensifies from rivals, especially from Orascom Telecom's Banglalink which is growing at a faster pace.

The overhaul is meant to remove, according to GP, existing "organisational overlaps and to streamline functional activities" ahead of GP's initial public offering, expected by June.

"We need to remove these overlaps in order to become more efficient, creating more focus and assigning clear responsibilities," chief executive officer Anders Jensen said in a recent internal announcement.

"All our activities in the company will be targeted towards supporting sales and delivering a superior customer experience," he said. Jensen, previously an executive at the Swedish unit of Fornebu, Norway-based Telenor, apparently is feeling the pinch of fierce competition in the country's burgeoning telecoms industry.

"We will make sure that we stay in the leading position. To do so we need to get fit to fight!" he said. GP realigned the marketing division, now headed by Rubaba Dowla, who had earlier been pushed into the back office of customer services—away from the media limelight.

As part of what GP said was the interim divisional adjustment, the new business development unit has been placed under Dowla. Laszlo Barta remains the director of sales and will also oversee "trade marketing" and "sales development".

The customer service division, now headed by Arnfim Groven, includes inbound and outbound call centres, channel support, direct communication and knowledge and development. In addition to his responsibilities as director of public relations, Syed Yamin Bakht will lead the corporate social responsibility department as CSR has been placed under the public relations division.

GP said the next level of adjustments will be outlined and completed by Feb 10. In a Jan 16 announcement, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said GP would go for a public offering on the capital market by June—a plan that came after a meeting between GP shareholders and the telecoms regulator.

GP—62 percent owned by Telenor, the largest phone company in the Nordic region and the remaining 38 percent by Grameen Telecom—was not specific on the percentage of shares meant for the capital market. In an early statement, it said the percentage of shares could be 10 percent or even much less than that.

In an interview with Bloomberg, however, Jensen said the proposed stock offering would be the biggest ever in Bangladesh. "There is strong interest from the owners for the IPO,'' said Jensen. ``There are practical things such as whether the Dhaka Stock Exchange can handle a deal of this size.''

GP's business image was largely tainted by its alleged involvement in illegal VoIP business. Last year, the telecoms regulator fined GP Tk 168.4 crore for reportedly running the illegal VoIP business.

Only last month, that is in December, the Rapid Action Battalion raided GP headquarters and seized some corporate files after it was accused of supplying VoIP switches to AccessTel, which was running the outside-the-law business using the equipment.

GP's chief executive vowed to deal with the rogue staffers with links to VoIP operations, but in spite of that assertion there has not been any clear statement yet from his company on this issue.

Reached by phone, Syed Yamin Bakht told Saturday that the CEO would not comment on the issue.

"We will speak (to the media at the) right time," Bakht said. Apparently that "right time" has yet not arrived.

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