Nawras describes itself as ‘Oman’s customer friendly communications provider.’ In an interview with USA Today, CEO of Nawras Mr. Greg Young explains how the company mirrors the country’s strong cultural value for ‘family and friends’, and how it’s success is rooted in this ethos
Oman is very warm and welcoming – a culture of family and friends, putting family first. We have this culture at Nawras as well and I believe that it has created a motivated and enthusiastic staff able to deliver good customer service and innovative products.The Sultanate of Oman is experiencing a great moment in its development with a sustained GDP growth over the last 20 years. The country has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign direct investment due to its stable system, political stability under the guidance of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the stable macroeconomic environment. Could you tell us in your opinion what is the real recipe for success in Oman.
I think you have already described some of the main reasons: a stable economy and free market system and a stable political environment all contribute to growth. There is already a lot of foreign direct investment into Oman, a lot of well-known large international companies are here and it’s a sign of the attraction of Oman as a place to invest. Population growth is strong and the growth in infrastructure has also helped. In the telecom sector, growth in GDP is linked to growth in telecom services so we have been part of this growth as well, helping to drive the growth of mobile penetration and fixed broadband services. We provide a range of services keeping companies and individuals connected internationally, which I believe is a factor in the attraction for investment in Oman and the growth that is taking place.
This growth is set to continue as well with the vision that His Majesty has put in place (Vision 2020), with short term delivery and long term strategic focus on where to take the country. The levels of investment which have been earmarked in a planned and strategic way will continue to make Oman an attractive place for investment. We are very fortunate in the geographic location we have helping the shipping and transportation sectors. From a cultural perspective, Oman is very warm and welcoming – a culture of family and friends, putting family first. We have this culture at Nawras as well and I believe that it has created a motivated and enthusiastic staff able to deliver good customer service and innovative products.
We asked your predecessor about which areas of growth are important for Nawras and he was very focused on broadband. Has that changed at all?
Broadband is still an important part of our strategy but there are other areas which actually build upon broadband, or broadband connectivity, which we consider to be important as well. Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in our network. We call it our “Turbocharging network modernisation programme” which has a few elements to it: one is expanding our coverage footprint, secondly, deploying 3G coverage across our footprint, thirdly, increasing the capacity and performance of 3G and fourth, deploying 4G capability in select areas. We are now focusing on more than just expansion but also on services, helping to drive the take up of broadband coverage. One of the key priorities is the business enterprise sector – it is growing as a result of the growth in Oman and the needs of that sector continue to expand – international or domestic connectivity, teleconferencing, video-conferencing, keeping companies connected within Oman and with companies overseas.What makes Nawras unique and what competitive advantage do you think you have?
We have a typically younger workforce and a motivated and family oriented culture. We operate in an open plan environment, including my own desk, so we don’t have a hierarchy in that regard. We feel that people are considered more equal and able to contribute suggestions more easily in such an environment. The staff feel more a part of the decision making which helps to empower them. Also, we have a strong linkage to a performance culture and an open communication policy, so everyone can understand how we’re doing with our targets and overall financially and how it might relate to their performance and to their potential bonus opportunities at the end of the year. So they have a personal and professional interest in how the company is doing and that reflects on how we interact with our customers and provide services. We have invested heavily in the last 18 months to increase our capabilities. We are deploying a nationwide fibre optic network which will touch all parts of Oman. We are also investing in underwater submarine cables to ensure we have international connectivity as well as local connectivity. Over the last 12 months, from a capital perspective, we have invested over 30 percent as a ratio, of our revenue, which is an extremely high benchmark by global standards, almost double the global average. That type of investment also contributes to growth in jobs since a lot of that work is outsourced to local companies.How do you focus on the development of connectivity to more rural areas, which is a growing problem in Oman?
We have a program based on expanding coverage to rural areas, not just through our own organic growth, looking at economic factors, but also through the regulatory process and facilitation of policies by the government to expand to areas that might otherwise be economically challenging for us. The government has put in place different incentives to address the technical as well as economic challenges to reach those areas. We also have a very good process here where the regulator understands that there is more than just the cost of the spectrum license and frequencies to uneconomic areas but there is also an obligation to service these areas, so the cost of the spectrum is offered for less but it is adjusted to consider the obligation to expand services. So it helps us to be able to take coverage to these areas and has helped drive the expansion of coverage to more of the population which is spread out from the large urban areas.We are seeing now more technological applications in the retail sector, particularly with mobile e-payments. How are you entering into this area?
This is another example of the kinds of services that are coming in on the back of expanded broadband enablement and coverage in Oman. It is an area that we are interested in and are working on, but it has to be done properly. Customers need to have confidence to be appropriately protected with full visibility over the payment system, so security is very important and we have to get it right. You can’t lose customer confidence in services like these.Nawras has a strong corporate social responsibility program. Can you tell us a little about that?
Sure, I’ll just give some context first. We are part of a large group of telecommunications companies based in Qatar and will be re-branding under the Ooredoo name. At the heart and core of the Ooredoo brand are our values of connecting, caring and challenging – which align well with what we have been doing as Nawras. Our approach to the community and CSR is well known, especially with the Goodwill Journey, which is the most widely known and one that we invest most heavily in with resources and staff. This will be our 9th year and we believe it’s an important part of our brand; it shows that we are not only innovative and competitive, but, more importantly, that we give back to the community.What is the perception of Oman and the ICT sector in your opinion, from Americans? Do you think there would be surprise at the level of broadband penetration here or the kinds of devices available?
I don’t think there is widespread understanding of the physical location or cultural awareness of Oman as being distinct from the rest of the Gulf region. And I think there would be some surprise that a country that is relatively small and isolated in some ways, would have access to the latest communications technology, hand-held devices and so on, and that Oman is connected both internationally as well as locally. Also, the kinds of e-governance services currently being utilized and rolled out by the government sector might also be surprising to some.What do you think would be some investment opportunities for Oman now?
America has good and pervasive 4G services as well as more traditional services on top of that, so we actually look to them to see what is working and what is coming up to see if we can do the same.A more personal question, please about where you see the company in, say 5 years?
We are just about to celebrate our 9th year in Oman and it is quite well recognized that we brought a ‘revolution’ in telecomm services to the market. We’ve been able to become not only a challenger to the original provider here but a very credible alternative with competitive products and services and a high level of customer service with a focus towards meeting our customer’s needs. We will ensure that the same levels of service will continue since our customers expect that from us. In the future, we will be providing additional services, especially focused around data, for which we expect to see a huge increase in demand. We’ll be providing entertainment, content, information and convenience, which will be an important part of our business moving forward. In the past, we traditionally focused on providing voice, messaging and basic access to the internet, but things have moved on significantly since then and we will be (and are) moving towards providing new and exciting services in these new directions as telecoms capabilities improve and advance. We will be there as well to provide greater services and prosperity to our customers, the communities we serve and the company as well.