Sadat Ibne Zaman takes over dtac’s Strategy and Transformation division at a critical time. The COVID-19 epidemic has both upended all economic forecasts and deeply transformed consumer behaviors. Reporting directly to dtac’s CEO, Mr. Zaman must therefore chart a completely new course for the company, a mission he explained to dtac blog over a casual lunch at Somboon Seafood.
He notes that dtac is now in a strong position to focus on innovation and transformation. Transitioning out of the company’s original spectrum concessions, which expired in September 2018, was the company’s all-encompassing mission for two years. But dtac finally emerged with its strongest network ever. “dtac has been getting the fastest network speeds in many independent measurement reports for the past few quarters. And we are committed to continue improving our network coverage with the new 700MHz spectrum rollout,” he said.
The arrival of Mr. Zaman also marks a change in dtac’s organization. Previously driven by the strategy team, new services such as callMe VDO, smart farming, electric vehicle connectivity and mobile broadband solution dtac@home will all find a new home in dtac’s marketing and business groups.
“We are taking an approach where innovation should lie with the commercial organizations because they interact with the customers every day and are closest to their needs,”
said Mr. Zaman.
Hence, his portfolio focuses exclusively on strategy and transformation. But most of Mr. Zaman’s career (8 years at Grameenphone, in Bangladesh and 6 years at dtac) was spent in Finance, making his appointment a surprise even for dtac insiders.
“I don’t think the CEO would have picked me only for my finance experience. I started my career in commercial functions and continued to work closely with that side of the business in my different finance roles. As such, I try to contribute a combined business view,” he said.
The ability to bring multiple stakeholders together will be at the core of Mr. Zaman’s strategy for dtac. He notes that 4G was dominated by the usage of smartphone apps, while 5G introduces smart machines. In this context, he believes mobile operators will have to work with multiple partners to capture future opportunities in both digital services and smart devices. And only partnerships can deliver the speed and scale needed to do so.
“If you look at dtac’s partnerships with Ericsson and Tech Mahindra, it brings dtac technology and skills that we would have taken years to develop on our own. That’s the lean and smart way to do it. It’s also how we’re rolling out new services, such as the COVID-19 insurance we recently offered our customers. With partners you can instantly roll out a new service, and roll it back if it doesn’t work out,” he said.
Mr. Zaman also sees dtac transforming from the inside. New capabilities are being acquired and legacy systems are being upgraded.
“People tend to focus only on the products or the added services. But transformation is also about being fit. Only the fittest survive. dtac now has the right partners, a cutting-edge network and we are automating many of our processes. Once this is a complete, we will be a completely different company,” he said.
In a world still reeling from COVID-19, he also notes that the future remains highly uncertain. dtac’s strategy team is constantly adjusting its plan, thanks to both in-house experts and the resources of close partner Telenor. But rather than let the pressure get to him, Mr. Zaman exudes calm.
“I’ve often had teams where people are more experienced and more knowledgeable than me in their respective areas. I respect what they know and what they’re capable of. Then I see how I can help them and add value to the team,” he says.
We’ve barely left Mr. Zaman any time to eat, but he must already run off for his next conference call. It dawns on us that even his choice of restaurant was a purely strategic move, as the dtac headquarters are just across the mall.