Interview: Syed Hasnat Masood, Director Corporate Communications, Telenor Pakistan
Syed Hasnat Masood is Director Corporate Communications and Responsibility, Telenor Pakistan.
Hasnat has been with Telenor since September 2005. Hasnat’s department has three distinct functionalities:
- External Corporate Communications deals with the media to establish company position on various subjects;
- Internal Corporate Communications streamlines management-employee interactions to create better understanding of corporate objectives;
- Corporate Responsibility aims to integrate community relations into corporate strategy.
Before joining Telenor Pakistan, he worked with Proctor & Gamble Pakistan for 3 years in the External Relations department. Bringing a diverse set of academic and professional experiences, Hasnat holds a BA Hons in Bio-Chemistry from Vermont, USA. He started his career as a Scientist with Hoffmann-La Roche in New Jersey, USA and later moved to Pakistan.
Hasnat is into reading, writing, and backpacking.
LahoriMela.com: What is Telenor Pakistan’s definition of CSR and how do you practice it?
Syed Hasnat Masood: Telenor Pakistan has come up with a new concept about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) called ‘Shared Value’; basically based on an idea to minimize the conventional expectations that social sector bears from a profitable business. Shared Value can be termed as a workable business environment which benefits its stakeholders and social community alike.
I believe that businesses’ responsibility towards the society begins when the company’s product or service is launched. Under the ‘Shared Value’ concept, a perfect business must make positive difference to social lives, is profitable to stakeholders and should be ethical in its nature.
If we look at telecom sector and its contribution towards the community, we can easily measure the difference it has made over the years. The Telecom sector alone has contributed 5 percent towards GDP of the country, created countless job opportunities (direct and in-direct), produced not only in-expensive but also effortless mode of communication and much more. The Telecom sector by default provides a major boost to the national economy, while Telenor’s own business impact can be felt with 18 million customers aboard – most of which are from rural areas. Majority of these 18 million customers, for instance from Gilgit, Sakardu etc, now for the first time have the opportunity to be a part of the information highway. They can use internet, make calls, and have a single click solution to communicate with anyone across the globe.
Over the years, Telenor Pakistan has played its effective role in boosting country’s economic cycle but not compromising with the standards that can harm society by any means. For this very purpose, we have code of conduct for everything, from workforce hiring to vendor management, from network rollout to anti-corruption. We have been strictly following these standards to remain responsible; so as to help our core business needs and also support the community with equal spirit.
LahoriMela.com: How do you see in-practice CSR activities in Pakistan from corporations, and in what areas we need further improvements?
Syed Hasnat Masood: I think, as an industry, we need to clear our concept about CSR. Practically and realistically, I believe any business has its first responsibility towards its shareholders, as they risk their money by investing it into business, so naturally they deserve a return. Next comes the community, since a business depends on the community to generate returns for its shareholders. Here is the point, you can’t reprioritize any of the responsibilities; neither can you switch their positions.
We see many organizations participate in CSR activities by contributing with funds that business generated from the community itself. In my opinion this is not the right approach.
So now back to CSR concept, a business should do CSR as part of its business cycle to keep it sustainable.
In my opinion, the core purpose of CSR should not be charity, as is usually termed, rather a company should strategically involve itself in a CSR activity primarily based on the expertise it carries.
LahoriMela.com: How would you comment on strategic difference in CSR activities in Pakistan when compared to other regions of the world?
Syed Hasnat Masood: Like I said, in the Public and Private sector alike, we see a lot of contributions in the name of charity. Unfortunately, lending money and leaving the community to do the rest doesn’t solve the problem.
In the western world, businesses evaluate their project and its impact through scientific and systematic methods. We, in Pakistan, lack such evaluations; in fact we simply grant money to society instead of building the core development infrastructure for them.
LahoriMela.com: How would you defend those questions that were raised against Telenor’s Teledoctor service, its credibility, reliability and risks involved, especially in severe cases?
Syed Hasnat Masood: Globally companies are struggling in marketing their products which are socially integral.
Recently, Telenor Pakistan launched a service called Blood Donation Service, in collaboration with Pakistan Red Crescent Society. Through this service, donors with Telenor Pakistan’s mobile connections are able to register themselves in a blood donor database via SMS and also through the web at Telenor Pakistan’s Corporate Responsibility website. At the same time, the blood bank is now able to SMS blood donation requests to registered donors whenever there is a blood demand in case of any natural disaster or similar incidents.
Such services are actually very useful and can transform the society, however, marketing them is not simple; in fact, it’s a constant struggle.
As far as Telenor Tele-Doctor is concerned, there are around 150,000 doctors in Pakistan that are registered with Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. This equation of 150,000 doctors for 170 million people does not make good sense. Therefore, the idea was to provide a quick option to patients who may not be able to find an alternative. These fully qualified doctors, serving at Tele-Doctor, can actually understand the seriousness of disease, so they refer complicated patients for proper medical assistance.
So the idea is to provide doctor’s immediate advice, any possible first aid or precaution, as a solution to Telenor Pakistan’s customers who have no other medical means available. For advise on queries from females, we also have lady doctors available round the clock
LahoriMela.com: Please name some other CSR projects that Telenor Pakistan has been working on.
Syed Hasnat Masood : “Meri Helpline” is an emergency phone service in Karachi to help Karachi’s street children. In this project Telenor Pakistan has partnered with Initiator Human Development Foundation (IHDF) to bring first of its kind emergency phone service where children in distress can call and seek expert help.
“Meri Helpline” was established to provide assistance to street children who may need help in case they are injured, sick, exploited, abused, in danger, or even lonely. They may be homeless children, or street children with families. Parents are also able to call, seeking help in search of a missing child.
During the Balochistan Earthquake on October 08, we shifted two portable BTS towers for a period of at least on month, called Cell on Wheels to ensure uninterrupted communications for not only the local dwellers but also the relief workers from different NGO’s. In addition, we provided food supplies to 160 odd families for a months time. It is important to tell you here that our emergency response team consisting of Telenor employees, reacted within a day of the catastrophe and visited as far as Wam to take part in relief activities. We are also contributing by reconstructing a school building in the same region.
Telenor’s ‘APNA PCO’ is another project for rural areas, where we trained men and women in developing a workable business plan for a running PCO.
In another project named ‘Naya Qadam’ we provided motorbikes to disabled, on installments. We not only gave them a means of transport but also took them on-board as our retail partners – They can now earn money from a business that they can easily manage. Out of their 5 to 6 thousand rupees earning they pay back their installment of Rs. 500 per month. At the end of it, they are living at their own and not on the charity.
So basically our projects are sustainable for the person who is the beneficiary.
LahoriMela.com: We see Telenor Pakistan as only company that specifically focuses on youth through Djuice; how are you planning to take on most important segment of our society in terms of their productivity and betterment.
Syed Hasnat Masood: Djuice primarily focuses on entertainment. We believe that there are very little entertainment venues in Pakistan. Djuice can be seen as a selection of entertainment options that it offers to youth, ranging from music to gaming. However, that’s not the whole story; we also offer scholarships in collaboration with various universities for students… so the brand is basically converged between entertainment and productivity for our young generation.
I believe that we may need to further diversify this area of the brand, but currently we are offering healthy entertainment which is a sound contribution towards the society as well.
LahoriMela.com: Please tell us about Telenor’s projects and experience with USF, their scope and difference they are making in lives?
Syed Hasnat Masood: We are in strong relationship with USF to offer internet and telephony services to far flung and un-served areas of Pakistan. We have won bids for deploying network in Malakand and Bhawalpur.
When we speak about implementation and the network rollout, I admit that we are facing security issues in Malakand. And for this we are dependent on other elements, however, Bhawalpur region is smooth and so is the experience.
LahoriMela.com: Despite significant increase in operating expenses and ongoing energy crisis, we are yet to see tower sharing idea getting implemented in Pakistan, how do you see this scenario? And what solid actions Telenor Pakistan is taking regarding this?
Syed Hasnat Masood: Obviously, there are countless advantages in sharing infrastructure, especially the BTS towers. We are all for it, however, when we started operations in Pakistan there was an obvious resistance from the existing market players to avail the competitive advantage. I think there should be incentives offered by the government in this regard.
Furthermore, in the current scenario I see a few problems, for instance, not all towers can be shared due to the weak infrastructure. Moreover, we are still to work on business and feasibility model to minimize competitive advantage for sharing infrastructure.
Nonetheless, Telenor Pakistan is the fore runner in infrastructure sharing; we have shared more than 200 towers with multiple cellular companies. Clearly this number is very small when compared to total base of towers by Telenor, which is around 6,000. Thus the need to clearly map the policies, advantages and the business cases to fully capitalize on the idea.
LahoriMela.com: How does Telenor Pakistan see the emergence of 3G in Pakistan?
Syed Hasnat Masood: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has communicated in the press that they are planning to auction 3G licenses in first quarter 2009. Apparently, they are in process of finalizing the modalities. For that purpose PTA recently partnered a workshop on 3G, where business feasible modalities were discussed. There were mainly three points concluded in that workshop. 1- PTA, as a regulator, will obviously take care of the mechanism – whether authorities see 3G as an expansion opportunity or licensing opportunity. It is clear as of now that PTA will avail 3G as a licensing opportunity. 2 – Pocket of operators were judged to finalize an initial costing for 3G network rollout. 3 – Operators were of the view that PTA should limit 3G bid to only the current cellular operators.
We, at Telenor Pakistan, are looking forward to the introduction of the opportunity and wish to be a license winner.