“The challenge the government is just realizing for the first time is the sheer number of requests for [land-use] permits, because it’s not just us,” said Ooredoo Myanmar CEO Ross Cormack said. “Our noble competitors down the road are doing the same thing. And the existing operator is looking to expand, so suddenly all the authorities are completely deluged with requests.”
The country’s complex land-use laws are made more complicated by moves to restore land to its previous owners, which the government has been doing over the last two to three years.
“There is quite some confusion over who owns land, and the use of that land again is complex. Getting change-use for telecommunications is something that the central government is helping us with, and permitting for build is something that local authorities are helping us with,” he explained.
“There are huge complexities in all this. We’re getting a lot of support from the central and local governments, but it’s not over yet as we have a lot of permits to obtain.”
Ooredoo, which has committed to investing $15 billion in the country, now employs 700 people in Myanmar, with 72% local. “This shows we are finding the skills we need, but of course not everyone can immediately do a bit of 3G engineering,” Cormack said.
Of the 28% from outside Myanmar, more than half are from Asia Pacific – just 11% of the total are from outside the region. Its goal is to be 99% local in five years, and he said it has put the plans in place to ensure it hits that target.
“The whole idea is that the international people train up their successors,” he said.
Its recruitment drives in the three major cities have been well attended by recruits, and sometimes their parents, because the drives are something new to the country. ‘We have something like 30,000 CVs, and they keep pouring in every week. We are able to attract among the very best.”
The company hires people for all of its customer-facing roles through day-long assessment centers, where employees’ skills are assessed across a wide range of activities, including role playing, to find the best people-oriented staff.
In the longer term, the company plans to expand the training programs and assessment centers into more formal qualification centers. “In fact, we plan to build our own university, which we’ll work in parallel with proper teaching establishments to give formal credentials to people, which will help us build the skills longer term in the market.”
But he noted there is no shortage of people-facing skills in the market – “that’s not the difficult part”.
The company also has a three-year program to train 30,000 women to sell telecom services. The program begins later this year, and it has already started to train the trainers who are all from Myanmar. By 2017 the company aims to employ all 30,000 women in Myanmar.
In parallel with building networks to deliver services, Cormack said “we realize we are part of the fabric of society, so we reach out in many different ways to many different communities.”
The company last month sponsored the first hackathon in the country. He said a number of large NGOs posed some of their intractable issues to a group of programmers and coders, who then spend 48 hours working out solutions.
The event attracted 180 people over a weekend. Ooredoo, together with Code for Change Myanmar, brought in mentors to support the group. “We also brought in the concept of Idea Box, which we first introduced in Indonesia, to bring together professors, mentors and angel investors with bright young things. So we got in touch with the community here, which helped us identify coders and the people interested in building applications.”
He said at least two of the apps were fully developed and likely available commercially just after the weekend hackathon.
How does Ooredoo benefit from all this? “Because we’re a communications company, they can try out their applications on our service -- we give them a sand box to play in. And as these services come to fruition, we can help publicize them and make these ventures a commercial success.”
In addition to the hiring and training requirements in an emerging market like Myanmar, the telco also faces severe physical challenges. Cormack said that when it rains, it rains for six months and it rains all the time, which makes it difficult to build and operate.
“These are challenges that are well understood in engineering terms, but in physical terms the country doesn’t necessarily have roads, so access to sites is more of a challenge here.”
He noted this isn’t a surprise, nor is the scale of the geography.
Cormack will be speaking at CommunicAsia on June 17 on Connecting Rural and Remote Regions in Myanmar at 3:30 and on a Power Panel on provisioning broadband networks at 11:30.
source: Telecom Asia