Yasir Azman, the newly appointed CEO of the country’s leading telecommunication service provider Grameenphone is regarded as one of the most prominent business leaders of recent times in the country. Within Grameenphone, he is known to be a visionary, transformational leader and change-maker with outstanding execution capacity. By navigating a challenging career path, he has been building a future-ready network and accomplishing meaningful work by focusing more on the responsible business conducts to serve them who need Grameenphone the most as a connectivity partner in the Digital Bangladesh journey.
On that note in February, Grameenphone initiated a campaign called “Kotha Gulo Hariye Na Jak” to raise awareness about the importance of sign language. With this initiative, Grameenphone is gradually building capacity to serve speech and hearing impaired people of Bangladesh through MyGP App and www.grameenphone.com.
In the conversation with Bangladesh Brand Forum, Yasir Azman shares his thoughts about the campaign, future strategies in the new role, and tribulations Grameenphone had to endure to come to where it is today.
Firstly, Congratulations on being Grameenphone’s first homegrown CEO. One of your first initiatives after taking over as the CEO was Grameenphone’s latest campaign “kotha gulo hariye na jak shobder obhabe”. Behind all campaigns by Grameenphone, one common factor we observe is, it always talks about empowering different communities and demographics of the society. Did “kotha gulo hariye na jak shobder obhabe” come from the same space? What instigated the campaign?
The connectivity solution Grameenphone provides though voice and data empowers an individual or an enterprise and encourages them to add value in many ways. Our purpose is linked to this spirit; we believe the internet should give everyone a platform to be heard. With the power of the internet, we can work on the inequalities that are deeply ingrained in our society. Through this initiative, we wanted to be the voice for those with hearing and speech impairment. If you look back, Grameenphone has born on 26 March 1997; a historic day for all of us, we always been integrated with our culture, spirit, and heritage. So, we felt February carries the significance of sacrifice for protecting the rights of the mother language, and we should find a way to talk to them and serve them who cannot talk and communicate like many of us.
Since we are in the communication industry, and we see there is a community who communicate among themselves that we do not know much about, Grameenphone thought it was our responsibility to bring their way of communication to the front, in line with the philosophy of February when we struggled to establish the right to speak for every person. So, we thought this would be a great opportunity for us to create a platform for this community to be able to speak with Grameenphone for their services and also, create a platform for others to learn their language.
How does Grameenphone’s brand value “empowering societies” connect with the campaign about a technologically inclusive solution?
Grameenphone has been doing what is in line with the purpose of the organization empowering societies, which eventually became the image of our brand. The key is to be consistent in terms of creating brand value. In Grameenphone, our start point was empowering societies when we talked about rural Bangladesh. In one of the TV commercials earlier, we featured a village woman in Bangladesh. Through Grameenphone, she gets unparalleled voice connectivity and, at the same time, develops a business model through a phone. From that day till today, our purpose has been the same, which is to address the need of empowering someone through connectivity solutions and connecting our customers to what matters most to them. Back then, it was voice connectivity; now, it is the internet. And that consistency has built the brand where we are today. We make sure that we are consistent with the promises that we have been making through the brand to the people of Bangladesh. Another campaign we had recently about the use of the internet called “Jante hobe kothay thamte hobe”. Being a connectivity partner, we felt responsible for making the online space safe for people. We always put a safer internet agenda forward and want to make sure we play our part and inspire others to make online space safe for us today and tomorrow.
As far as this particular ad about sign language is concerned, do you wish to continue it after February as well? If yes, to what stretch?
Grameenphone has taken a pioneering initiative to inspire others to come on board and continue this journey. We never know, maybe they will do even better than us. There are two aspects to this campaign, one is the tutorials on our website and Youtube channel where anyone can learn sign language, and another is the service we have started for the people with hearing and speech impairment. Our service will be continued and scaled up in the future. We made this move to inspire people like us to learn the language. Now it is an individual’s choice whether s/he will continue to learn the language.
There is a huge opportunity for Bangladesh to include this large community of hearing and speech impaired individuals in the further development of the country by mitigating the barrier. Do you think digital is the solution to increase inclusivity?
If we did not have this connected life opportunity, it would be tough for us to spread the message. How could we possibly convey the message to the whole world and create the opportunity to learn this language? Because of the digital platform and internet connectivity within a day, we could make such a huge difference and bring the language to millions of people. That is why we say internet connectivity and digital platforms can help bring equality.
Is there any barrier that you stumbled upon in the process of sending the message across?
Out of the entire population, there is about 60-70 percent mobile phone penetration in Bangladesh, and not all of them are under internet connectivity. Smartphone availability is a barrier to take our services to the masses. However, we do not see it as a challenge. Instead, we see the opportunity that more than 43 million of our customers are already a part of our internet connectivity. If we help them learn, then they will be empowered to help others.
Keeping the company’s vision aside, what is Yasir Azman’s vision for Grameenphone?
I think any CEO’s main objective is to ensure long term sustainability of the company while being respectful to the society, customers, and the employees and creating value for customers as well as the shareholders. As a CEO, I do not intend to bring any massive change to this guiding principle. I want to focus more on our purpose, “connecting our customers to what matters most through empowering society” from the core, implement it, and make everyone inside and outside the organization understand the firm purpose of our existence. Every responsible citizen has the desire to bring changes, abolish the unjust, and contribute to society. Here in Grameenphone, we provide our staff members with the opportunity to contribute to more significant changes. If we can bring that deep purpose in us, we will be able to keep bringing changes. I want to emphasize that purpose in our lives to make some real impact. We are here to help and as a CEO of the company together we shall demonstrate to deliver on our promises.