Staying Hungry: Uninor’s KC Narendran

Uninor’s KC Narendran is passionate about people and getting results. He works in one of the most competitive telecom markets in the world, which has taught him to be an expert at sparking a winning spirit among the team.

Written: Jun 2014

“If there’s one thing Uninor has taught me, it is that the challenges and hurdles you face teach you to become more courageous and take bigger risks in life,” says KC, the Circle Business Head of UP West.

Like so many others in Uninor, KC has experienced a series of challenges over the past few years. But the rough rides he and his peers have been through have only whet their appetite for more.

From 11th to 4th place

“Uninor in UP West started out in 11th position in the market. Today we are the fourth operator in terms of revenue. This move – in a span of only four years – was quite challenging,” says KC.

UP West hit a roadblock in their journey to fourth place in 2012, when huge network issues resulted in a loss of customers. In response to this challenge, KC and the circle launched a new initiative called “Rise of the Phoenix”.

Rise of the Phoenix

“The phoenix is a bird that rises from its own ashes. This project was basically talking to a set of employees who were a little demotivated and upset about what was happing in our circle – with good reason. They did not know how to move forward. I met with each and every employee. I listened to their concerns and told them not to panic. Situations like these will come and go, but we’re an organisation that has the brains and the guts to handle this kind of situation,” says KC.

“Together we set new directions and this project really took off. We bounced back,” KC adds.

The Phoenix truly rose in May 2013, when the Circle became profitable. After that there was no stopping, all 6 zones in the circle namely Aligarh, Agra, Meerut, Bareilly, Moradabad & Dehradun became profitable in October 2013. By the end of the year, all 33 clusters in all six zones of UP West became profitable. To put this in to perspective, it took 12 years for some of incumbents in the UP West circle to become profitable.

Staying hungry

The night they broke-even, the management of UP West asked themselves: What do we do next? The answer was simple; they wanted to nurture the good fighting spirit of the company. And so, the Phoenix was replaced with “Life after break-even”, with the objective to move into third place in the market.

The people of Uninor’s UP West circle are now focused on becoming number three. Their energy stems from their achievement of reaching fourth place. They are proud and they are passionate. This level of engagement is reflected in their Employee Engagement Survey score, with a whopping 92 per cent.  UP West employees say they want to stay and grow with this organisation.

Commitment under extreme conditions

The fervent commitment of KC and his UP West team is never more apparent than when they are out hitting the market and visiting partners and customers.

“We work under extreme climatic conditions. Right now, it is 48 degrees outside. During winter, the temperatures can drop to minus 2 degrees in some of the locations. Employees working in the field travel hundreds of kilometres to meet their distributors and retailers. Traffic is chaotic. There’s a lot of dust and dirt. People work under these difficult conditions, and they work with one objective: how can we become number three?” says KC.

How do we become #3?

Reaching the number three position in the fierce UP West market will be quite a feat. KC is quick to assert that this is no one-man show, and he believes in leaders giving the team the freedom to find their way.

“Telenor is an organisation that gives you the liberty to try out new ways of doing things. This makes you a strong professional and it benefits the organisation. I’m not a person who keeps reviewing everything. I try to give my team players the necessary freedom to come up with solutions themselves. I give them direction and support, and work with them in the field,” says KC.

The formula for teamwork

KC’s formula for a high-achieving team is giving direction and space to work, setting clear targets as well as being present with your team. This formula has enabled Uninor in UP West to reach the once unthinkable fourth position in the market. The team is now eyeing the prize of third place. They have tasted success once and they are hungry for more.

“I think wanting to do something, the willingness to do something and accepting the reality of the situation is passion,” explains KC.  “It means never wanting to quit, getting up and trying again when failing. That’s passion for me.”

About Uninor in UP West

UP West measures about 1, 21,085 square kilometres in geography spread. It is Uninor’s third largest circle in terms of population, which totals 80 million. Uninor has 5.9 million customers in the circle.