Telecom – Grace Under Fire!


It is more than just an achievement that the telecom industry today enjoys a comfortable level of esteem attached with every one of its labels. Considering that it is only less than 20 years that telecom was born inPakistan, the level of grace and class that it stands for and projects openly asks for a very sensible and careful strategy rather than just any other strenuous routine. This esteem doesn’t come with a price tag since the annual turnovers of a lot of other industries are way more than telecommunications inPakistan. Quite frankly, this industry does not have enough juice in it to beat the numbers of those industries, nor does it intend or claim to.

Before I go ahead, please allow me to go back in time. The first generation of telecom professionals ofPakistandid what they thought was best for the industry. It worked out close enough of being called a fine performance. When an industry emerges the first time on a map it faces more than just a competition from other totally different industries. The first thing any new product faces is the taboos that other product lines have created in the general behaviors driven by multiple impressions of the demographic. The cell phone at the time had considerable amount of work to do to alter the behavior of the public. It naturally fought for its survival amongst other industries which were passively working against the need on which the industry tries to make its inroads.

When wireless telecommunication came, the local territory had a fair amount of grid stations lighting up the stretch of the country of a single landline operator like light houses guiding the other telecoms to head this way.

Paktel was the first to come in and try this out. It didn’t come big but it definitely came close to good. With a local name the first thing it did was to clear the layer of emotional algae this demographic suffers from and did not feel much resistance in the acceptance category. Instead it played a role in using the more efficient taboo namely the ‘status quo’. The customer came really close to feeling that achievement which is a technical failure that the local landline suffered from. However, the demographic was still a little emotionally tuned, so it did retract a little before laying its guns down to the inevitable momentum of mobility.


By and far the first generation which started all of telecom operations are still running the show in Pakistan. I cannot emphasize on how much I am indebted to their insight for developing the platform which enables me to realize the inherited grace that this industry comes with. Globally, the cellular phone was an enchanting product line and a superlative service arena that complimented each other naturally and beautifully. Any demographic would have been swept away by the literal appeal it carried in its core. Let me keep emphasizing the point before I start to become a little redundant since it’s the very basis of my case. The simplicity of the product made it look like something straight from the Maslow’s triangle. Even though I remember reading a whole book on how the telephone satisfies the need to listen and to be heard. I don’t think that Maslow would agree because in my own humble opinion the telephone merely plays with the need to cover distances without moving. The simplicity of ‘The Achievement’ was so visible that it felt like cell phones were something that had to happen. Even with the local per-capita laughing at the industry overheads, the tide was ‘simply’ too strong. What started off as a toy for the rich, only took a decade for the writers to alter the script of sales strategy and made it feel like a basic necessity for the poor as well. And that’s when it actually happened!

The grace of the telecom industry with which it started in the country came as an inheritance to all of us. Let’s face it, we didn’t do enough justice to the very essence of the philosophy we came with and brought it lower than the customer expectations for just about any other product.

And the current marketing frenzy settled right in the philosophy of push sales strategy. I remember when Pepsi started fighting with coke they did everything but sell the grace of the industry since they share the same boat and are well aware by the principles of leadership alone that the day anyone burns the deck everyone will be selling life preservers instead of ocean liners. The question is how? And when and where did it all start to occur? The price war hit the industry just like a civil war going through all the foundations of the country.  The worst part is that even being so close to the picture it is still blurry to most Pakistanis. Because the efforts done by everyone responsible are so blatant and repercussive that even a newly qualified member of the cell phone club has lost that sense of achievement amazingly in all layers of the demographic.


Telecom went to war inPakistanno more than 5 years ago. Apparently, it was too sudden and that is why it has rocked the very ship the industry sailed in. Every company brought the kitchen sink with it just to prove a point to the competitor instead of the customer. There was a school of thought saying the Pakistani demographic was never ready for such a war of the realms. The Pakistani demographic was not even accustomed to gaining any intelligence on marketing mechanics or industry dynamics, this was the ‘Official republic of hearsay’. But someone out there tried to introduce a highly potent medicine right out of the lab and gave it directly to the ‘therapy ward’ instead. Now the side effects have forced the telecom companies themselves to vacate critical niche in the folds of downsizing and cost effectiveness. Even though Mr. Kotler would call it ‘diminished capacity’ rather than anything close to being effective at any level and the term ‘bad rhythm’ is more appropriate than calling it merely a vicious circle.

The choice to buy a better product was never in the hands of a customer. It can never be, because customers don’t make the product. If managed well, he can’t even make an intended impression of a product until forcefully driven towards it. The customer is usually led to believe that he has a choice or at times only something close to a choice of buying only a relatively better product. These are the fundamentals of a market not an industry.


This was a rookie mistake made by a magnificently overwhelming number of decision makers in these times over and over again. And no one seems to have any intent of coming out of this cycle. It is as if the paradigm was set in a bad rhythm and no one came for the rescue. This rhythm actually took its toll in shaking the very soul of the industry and in simpler words, stole the actual grace and plummeted it down to the depths of the lowest expectations of the customer for any other product there ever already was.


In other words, no one would remember what Mr. Bell actually gave this world. Where the SIM was a symbol of esteem now is a just another plastic toy sitting on a rack, with a shelf life of a little more than 88 seconds on prime time television and a half life even less.


One by one every company will beat each other, until there won’t be left a company which is not ‘beaten up’ and the ‘For Sale’ board would be worth more than the product itself. The value added service will add no more value then a mere bubble that will burst with laughter.


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