Telenor’s outgoing CEO has warned the company that it needs to be “mentally and practically prepared for sudden events” so as not to end up like Nokia.
In a wide-ranging exit interview published on the Norway-based operator’s website, Jon Fredrik Baksaas said there were “big changes coming” around data.
He said: “We cannot necessarily see what is going to happen tomorrow, none of us. But we need to be mentally and practically prepared for sudden events, and we need to be unafraid of responding.”
Referring to Nokia, he said: “We do not want to be those ship-owners who stuck to the sailing ships when the sails went down and the engines came in.”
Baksaas, who first joined Telenor in 1989, hands over the reins to Sigve Brekke at the end of this week.
He leaves with Telenor on an upward curve: revenues rose six percent in its latest set of results and the operator has already upped its full-year guidance.
Much of the growth in recent times has come from Asia, a region Telenor made a strategic decision to enter in 2003.
Baksaas said he was “very proud” that the company had “over-delivered” on its plans there – Telenor gets 52 percent of its revenues from Asia.
The CEO also discussed the importance of corporate culture.
“To have building blocks in the business culture and to have alignment among all the employees around that business culture is actually the number one differentiator of Telenor versus other companies in the long term,” he said.
“The technology is known, finance is available to everyone. Business culture is your own.”
Baksaas added that he had tried not to involve himself in too many details: “If you do, you become the bottleneck in the organisation,” he said.
He said the lowest point of his career was “a widely publicised squabble” with the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus over strategy and control of the Bangladesh operation, Grameenphone.
The loss of spectrum in India in 2012 was another disappointment, Baksaas said.
As he gets ready to leave, Baksaas said he could “envisage offering his expertise to investment projects in the data space in partnership with others”.
He continues as Chairman of the GSMA until the end of 2016.