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|Maryam Ali Al-Hajri: Part of a New Generation of Qatari Female Executives Driving Change in the Telecommunications Industry|
Maryam Ali Al-Hajri, Senior Manager Marketing Research, Commercial Team, at the Qtel Group, is part of the new generation of Qatari female executives driving change in the telecommunications industry.
The Qtel Group’s story is an impressive one – transforming from a one-country operator in 2005 to becoming the fastest-growing telecom company by revenue in the world over the last five years, with a presence in 17 countries and nearly 84 million customers by 31 March 2012. A major part of the Group’s success has been its efforts to get closer to its customers in every market, and to understand their needs and expectations better than the competition. The Qtel Group’s vision is to enrich people’s lives as a leading international communications company, and understanding customers’ needs and changing expectations is core to that process. Executives like Al-Hajri are playing a key role in mapping customer satisfaction across the Qtel Group, and in particular understanding how communications technology can impact the lives of female consumers.
Please tell us a little about your background
My major personal and professional priorities have been education and development, with a particular view to experiencing and learning about new cultures. I studied English Literature at Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) in New York, and then pursued an MBA at Webster University. I’ve also studied at the London School of Business and NYU.
Studying at these remarkable institutions not only brought me into contact with new ideas – it also meant that I worked alongside people from a wide range of backgrounds. That international experience has proved to be incredibly useful as I have pursued my career.
Can you share with us about your journey in telecoms (including your current position)?
One of my earliest roles was as Acting Director for the Youth Department at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Qatar. The Council adopts policies, finalizes programs and initiatives for safeguarding the family unit, protecting its members and boosting its capabilities.
I learned a lot at the council about communication and strategic planning, with a particular emphasis on reaching key stakeholders.
From there, I joined Qtel Group in 2010 as Senior Manager for Marketing Research, where I work with the Qtel Group Commercial Teams to analyse and understand customer needs, insights and experience across our markets.
The Qtel Group has offered a fantastic environment to develop and deploy a global skill-set. With operations across 17 markets and a real commitment to enriching the lives of people around the world, it has enabled me to pursue a challenging career and invest in my own personal and professional growth.
In addition to my main role, I also represent Qtel Group on the GSMA mWomen Program. The mWomen program is a global initiative designed to empower women through the increased use of mobile phones. The collaboration between the Group and GSMA through the mWomen program was initiated in February 2011 during the Mobile World Congress.
What can you tell us about the mWomen initiative and how it is empowering women?
With women underserved by the mobile community, especially in the Middle East and Asia, and with the huge potential of mobile technology to transform lives, it is key that operators understand the requirements of female customers across each market and provide them with relevant services.
The Qtel Group is currently working on original research into the gender gap in women mobile usage within some of its key operating markets. As part of the Qtel Group’s ongoing commitment to the GSMA mWomen Program, the first joint workshop with GSMA was hosted in Doha in early 2012 which brought together experts in the field of increasing mobile access to women in the developing world, as well as representatives from across the Group.
Across our operations, we have made good progress to deploy mWomen initiatives, including the Almas Line launch in Iraq - an offering that focuses on specific needs for female customers – and ‘Hebat Keluarga’ package in Indonesia. We look forward to expanding on this in the coming year.
Women’s role in Indonesia is crucial for the society and economy to grow; they are not only the centre of family life but also the drivers for entrepreneurialism, especially among those at the base of the social and economic pyramid.
In 2011, Indosat of Indonesia launched ‘Hebat Keluarga’ a mobile package directed specifically to women. To build on that, Indosat has recently launched ‘Info Wanita’ through an exclusive partnership with Nokia announced at Mobile World Congress this year, aimed at providing a unique service through the Nokia Life Tool’s platform.
The service is called Info Wanita which means Information for Women, and has been developed to provide women with the most relevant information identified by Indosat through extensive research; it includes topics such as healthcare, childcare, business and life skills (80% of the surveyed unemployed women said they are interested in entrepreneurship opportunities). The information aims to have a material impact on living standards and access to economic opportunity.
Do you see a more powerful presence for women globally and in Qatar in ICT and telecoms in the future?
Yes, there is. Globally, job opportunities in the telecommunication and ICT fields continue to grow, and the Qtel Group is one of many companies aiming to increase the opportunities for women in the sector.
Qatar aims to build a “knowledge-based economy” as part of its 2030 National Strategy, and there is a clear role for female executives in helping to develop that sector.
In the past five years, a number of well-respected female executives have risen to prominence in entities like ictQATAR, Qatar Foundation, and Qatar Science and Technology Park. These women are setting the agenda for the future growth of the industry, not just in Qatar but around the world.
His Highness the Emir of Qatar has highlighted that this growth is part of the country’s long-term national vision, and there is a need to develop ICT infrastructure for the whole nation. The state is seeking to enlarge the investment environment in this sector so that it can drive growth and development – there is a clear role for all ambitious Qatari nationals to play in this.
What are your future plans and projects?
I am engaged in a number of key projects at the moment. We are tracking key indicators to measure brand health and customer satisfaction indices across major markets. This is providing important insights into the changing expectations of customers.
We are also continuing to engage with mWomen Program through major initiatives across a number of markets. We are looking to take some of the lessons learned and new ideas from our operations in Indonesia and Iraq, and apply them across other markets.
Research from the GSMA shows that there are 300 million fewer female customers than male customers who have mobile coverage, but who don’t own a handset. If operators could bridge this gap and bring mobile penetration for women on par with men, it would have incredible social and economic benefits.
We will work with the GSMA to tackle the barriers and increase the numbers of women who can benefit from owning a mobile phone. We believe this will make a direct difference in our customers’ lives.