Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa personally feels that he got involved in the telecommunications industry by “accident” and he became the Chief Executive Officer of the TM Group (also known as Telekom Malaysia Berhad) also by “accident.”
But as a wise man once said, when the opportunity for greatness is thrust upon you, you would have to be at the right place at the right time, but even more important, you would have to have the gumption and panache to grab the opportunity with full gusto and deliver the performance that is expected.
TM recently announced their yearly results for 2011 and under Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani’s stewardship, TM again managed to exceed their targeted top-line Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For example, sales for the year saw a 4.1% growth year-on-year, clearly exceeding the target of 2.5%. Gross Margins on EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization) was at 33.5% while the target was 32%. Additionally, TM’s Customer Satisfaction Index for 2011 was at 70, while the global average index for telecommunications companies was at 67.
But the best news for TM’s shareholders is the planned capital repayment windfall of RM1.07 billion, which works out to 30 sen per share on a total number of outstanding shares of 3.577 billion. The dividend payment announced for 2011 will be 19.60 sen per share compared to 26.10 sen per share paid in 2010. Even though 2011’s dividend payment may be lower than that of 2010, TM’s shareholders will enjoy a distribution totaling 49.60 sen per share taking into account the proposed capital repayment windfall.
Meanwhile, for the year 2012, the announced top-line KPIs for TM are Revenue Growth of 5%, EBITDA Margin of 32% and a Customer Satisfaction Index Score of 72. Again these targets will test Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani’s leadership skills in the midst of very challenging times with many economic factors impacting the purchasing power of the consumer.
On the personal side, it can be said that Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani’s childhood and schooling days did not suggest that one day he will helm one of the core pillars of the Malaysian economy. Those days were spent mostly in the smaller towns of Raub, Kuala Lipis, Tanjung Karang and Kuala Selangor as his family moved according to the itinerant career path of his father as a teacher and headmaster. Activities in those early days were much simpler when past times include swimming and fishing in Sungai Bernam.
Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani started his working career in what was then the old Telecoms Department. But when Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani rejoined TM in 2005, after an eight-year sabbatical as a consultant, little did he expect that the big bang for TM would come in 2008 when a massive demerger happened. The big bang for TM resulted in the domestic telecommunications business being separated from the mobile and international businesses. The more lucrative and the sexier part of the demerger – the mobile and international businesses, became Axiata – which is an equally more sexy name, and TM was stuck with what was left. Consequently after the demerger, Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani was elevated from Senior Vice President of Strategy to the Chief Executive Officer of the much streamlined TM.
Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani feels that even though the current telecommunications industry environment is highly competitive, it is also more exciting. The advent of digital technology made the old analog methods obsolete, and the on-going merging of telecommunications and the electronic world is combining work and play to unprecedented levels. The separation between what is entertainment and what is needed for the industry to deliver their goods to consumers is becoming amorphous. In this challenging landscape, Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani feels TM can play a significant role and its core Unifi High Speed Broad Band (HSBB) service will carry the key strategic focus.
Together, TM’s older service, Streamyx and Unifi, already have 1.92 million customers, with 2.3 million total customers targeted by end of 2012. As expected, the internet, multimedia and data services will be the main thrust to power TM’s growth in revenues, while the traditional fixed line voice services will continue to decline.
The key to moving TM in the right direction is of course its people. In transforming TM from a legacy-based network to an information exchange, Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani says the key will be transforming TM’s people. TM needs to retrain its people, to re-equip their skill sets, to attract superb talent, and to implant a corporate culture of empowerment and of focus on excellence to be able to sustain its corporate vision, otherwise it will go the way of many Government-Linked-Companies that require tax-payers’ bailouts or, even more embarrassing, a rescue effort by a stronger competitor.
Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani’s management style does not include micro-managing his people, but instead he believes in motivating, empowering and trusting them to do a good job. TM’s Performance Improvement Programme (or PIP) incorporates all the tools necessary to bring out the best employee and the programme is modified accordingly in response to evolving circumstances.
Datuk Seri Zamzairani is motivated by his own act of motivating his people. He conducts regular “teh tarik” sessions at TM’s offices all over the country where he has open discussions with the rank and file on the issues brought up. Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani’s ‘easily approachable’ nature has helped foster closer ties between him and his people during the regular and larger “town-hall” meetings. All these channels of communication with the rank and file provided an effective platform for Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani to engage his people, and help build trust between him and TM’s employees.
Another programme that was initiated by Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani for TM’s operation and businesses is, ‘COOL’, which stands for Customers, Operation, Open-Minded, and Learning. As the programme’s name suggests, the goal is to build a proactive company that is responsive to customers’ needs and the ever-evolving industry landscape. TM must be nimble enough to move with the constantly changing telecommunications market needs and this can be achieved through timely information gathering and by being a smart organization that learns to discern the signs in its environment. In other words, to stay ahead of its competitors, TM must be very innovative and customer-driven in its focus, and cross-functional and team-oriented in its internal workings.
Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani feels that his greatest challenge is to align the ‘buy-in’ and focus of all 26,500 employees of TM with the vision of the company. In this role, he has to be motivator, cheer-leader, coach, mentor and visionary, all rolled into one. He also feels that achieving TM’s vision is akin to doing the marathon rather than a sprint. Therefore, he feels that he will be most satisfied when he still gets to read about the superb exploits of TM while already well into his retirement years. He will then know that he had played a major and successful role in the achievements of TM.