When Batelco Chairman Shaikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa announced the new CEO of Batelco Bahrain earlier this year, it was a momentous day. The move made Muna Al Hashemi the first lady to hold the lead role of a telecommunications company in the GCC region.
With degrees in Telecommunications and Electronic Engineering, she joined the company in 1994, beginning her career in the engineering department and gaining experience as she progressed through a number of divisions. The depth of knowledge of various functional units and processes gained in her diverse roles have stood her in good stead in her rise to this key position in Bahrain.
She talks to bizbahrain about her meteoric rise and about Batelco’s role in providing complete ICT solutions to industries and companies in Bahrain.
Can you give us a quick rundown of your illustrious career with Batelco from the start to your present position as CEO of Batelco Bahrain?
Holding a Master’s Degree in Telecommunications and a BSc in Electronic Engineering, I began my career in the Engineering Department at Batelco but over the years had the opportunity to progress through various divisions including Customer Services, Accounts, Product Marketing, Product Development and Customer Marketing before attaining the role of GM Consumer Division and then the CEO role.
The journey was challenging but also exciting. Of key relevance is that Batelco is an equal opportunities employer and supports the development of its entire staff, giving great opportunities to female staff that are ambitious and dedicated.
What are some of the major challenges that you are dealing with in your role as CEO?
Key challenges include competitive pressures, delivering relevant products and services in a timely manner and ensuring value for money offerings for customers. However, we endeavour to change challenges into opportunities. Accordingly, competitive pressure keeps us very focused on exceeding our customers’ requirements. With products and services, we see the growth of data, mobility and broadband as areas where there are many opportunities and accordingly the growth of these sectors form a key part of our strategy and capital expenditure.
How has Batelco played a pivotal role in the country’s development as a major communications hub?
Batelco has been an integral part of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s economic growth and development since its inception and has invested millions of dinars in the installation and advancement of the country’s network infrastructure. The Company has transformed at a rapid pace from being just a telecoms provider to become a fully integrated ICT solutions provider, with services that focus on its customers’ needs and also on the development of Bahrain as a regional business hub. Batelco’s state-of-the-art infrastructure facilitates businesses across all industries including catering to the specialised needs of banks, medical organisations and government entities.
As a leading Bahraini organisation, Batelco works closely with other leading organisations including government ministries and business incubators such as BDB, Tamkeen and EDB to mention but a few.
Batelco, due to its success locally and regionally has evolved substantially and is the hub of Batelco Group with operations across 14 geographies, thus gaining recognition on a global scale, and strengthening Batelco’s status within the Middle East region. Batelco’s expertise impacts positively on the lives of several thousand customers in the Gulf and MENA regions daily.
When Batelco was named ICT Company of the Year for 2014 at the 5th MEET ICT event it was recognition of the fact that it was no longer, as in your words, “just a telecommunications company but a key player in the development and provision of relevant ICT products and services.” Would you say that 2015 has seen a continuation of this trend where Batelco has gone on to solidify its position as the leading integrated communications’ provider, while shaping the local enterprise ICT market?
Yes, Batelco continues to strengthen its position as the leading end-to-end communications solutions provider. During 2015, we have increased our portfolio and recently launched cloud services. Monitoring the global communications market for new technologies and trends is part of our daily tasks as we are very keen to be first to provide Bahrain with globally renowned solutions. This year, we took on major multi-million dinar projects to provide full suites of ICT solutions in several key industries like hospitality, banking, and the public sector.
Batelco recognises the importance of ICT in today’s business environment in that it can positively impact all industries, irrespective of the size of the operation and Batelco is ready to go the extra mile by complementing its offerings through customising its solutions to meet specific requirements. Our ICT solutions are enabling the continuous growth of the SME segment, empowering businesses in this small/medium sector and aiding them to optimise their operations. The growth of the SME sector is a major focal point for the government to boost the Kingdom’s economy.
Bahrain is known to have the Middle East’s most liberal and advanced ICT infrastructure and policies, with one of the highest mobile and internet penetration rates in the region. What would you attribute as the reasons for this and for its position as a technological pioneer in the region?
Response: A key attribute is Batelco’s reputation, gained from its many years of experience which gives the Company legitimacy and facilitates the trust between it and several industries. For example, the banking industry heavily relies on Batelco’s solutions which are guaranteed to provide assurance of service and allow them to focus on their core processes more. Because of this, we have become an ideal partner.
Another factor which assures Batelco’s positioning is that the Company employs skilled engineers and personnel and invests in ongoing training and development programmes to ensure its workforce remains up to date with the latest advancements in the communications industry.
Additionally, Batelco’s network capabilities and reliability of delivery and backup play crucial roles as does its extended portfolio which includes physical and virtual security solutions to give business customers peace of mind. The comprehensive range of value-added products and services meets international standards and includes a number of pioneering products such as Cloud services, with Batelco being the first in Bahrain to launch such service.
Furthermore, Batelco’s expertise and dedication have supported its aims to form key partnerships with globally renowned enterprises such as Cisco, Avaya, Palo Alto and others. Through collaborating with partners Batelco is capable of facilitating local and global services due to its established presence in all major areas including the Middle East, Europe, the US, Asia and Africa.