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The day was September 27, 2013, weeks after Telenor won a coveted license to build a nationwide mobile network for Myanmar. On that day, Telenor Group’s Chairman Svein Aaser and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas sat down in a Yangon hotel to interview with local reporters. Their message was clear: Myanmar will leapfrog from nearly zero connectivity to 2G and 3G. In one year.
One year later, everything has changed. As a visitor lands at Yangon airport, she’s greeted by immediate access to Telenor’s 3G network. If she buys a local SIM card, she can choose between three mobile operators and select among a variety of price plans and promotional options. Only three months ago, this wasn’t an option. Millions of people in Myanmar are now making that dramatic leap into a digital future.
What we’re made of
In one short year, Telenor Myanmar has grown into a fully operational business unit in Telenor Group. The Telenor tower in Yangon houses hundreds of people busy building the network beyond – and within – the cities of Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and their own Yangon.
They’re from all over the world; mostly from Myanmar (80%) but Indians, Pakistanis, Thais, Bangladeshis and dozens of other nationalities comprise the company roster. They represent the world – and a company that is the product of all of Telenor Group’s collective experience and history.
This is what Norway’s Royal Family saw today as they visited Telenor House in Yangon – along with a delegation from Norway’s government and business community, including Minister Monica Mæland, representing Telenor’s majority owner, the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
A Royal Visit
The delegation is on a three-day trip in Myanmar, which included a market visit with Minister Mæland two days prior. Today, they were greeted outside Telenor House by Jon Fredrik Baksaas, Sigve Brekke (EVP and Head of Telenor in Asia) and Petter-Børre Furberg (CEO, Telenor Myanmar).
“As telecom services become available to the mass market, other industries may rise and societal advancements in education, healthcare and social safety might ensue,” said Petter Furberg, CEO of Telenor Myanmar in a presentation to the Royal Family, Myanmar’s Minister of Telecom and Norway’s Minister of Trade. “Telenor Myanmar’s people-centric approach and clear mass-market strategy has made a difference as the company went from a few men and women in a hotel room office to a 10-story, 450-strong mobile telecom company.”
A Yangon townhall goes global
Following the visit to Telenor House by the Royal Family, Group CEO Baksaas also led his first townhall with the employees of Telenor Myanmar. He spoke about the impact of the company’s history on the future, that Telenor’s global footprint comes to life in Telenor Myanmar. “The world is watching us work in Myanmar, and we know that doing business here requires a sustainable approach,” he said. “But most of all, this is a team effort. At Telenor, we believe that culture is what makes the difference. Our operations in Myanmar is a product of Telenor Group’s culture, experience from global markets and ways of working.”
As the second day of the visit came to an end, Baksaas again sat down with local media. One year later, Myanmar’s expected leapfrogging from no network to a 2G- and 3G network has become reality. And the conversation is beginning to shift from “getting Myanmar basic connectivity” to “bringing Myanmar Internet for All.” This is the journey the country is now on.