Airtel’s Gutjahr keen on sharing insights

Who is Mr Tom Gutjahr?
I am the Managing Director of Airtel Uganda. I am 44 years old. I have worked in the telecommunication industry of many emerging markets. I have worked in Europe, Latin America and Africa. My wife is from Algeria so I have a family connection with Africa. I am very excited to be in Uganda leading, I think, the fastest growing mobile operator in the country. I believe that the telecom industry is one of the most exciting industries to work in, in our times.

You are one of the panelists at this year’s Thought Leaders Forum. What should the participants expect to learn from you?
Learning is a process that people do together. I go to the forum because I also want to learn something. I would like to learn from the keynote speakers, the other panelists and the participants. I think it is more about sharing and exchanging ideas. Some people will be able to learn from my experiences and I will also learn from their own. I think it is more about sharing and exchange of ideas.

This year’s theme is Surfing the Tsunami. What does this mean to Uganda’s business committee?
A tsunami is something that seldom occurs in every 20 or 50 years. It happens very fast that you hardly have any time to prepare for it. The best way to prepare for such a situation in your company or organisation is to have the right kind of culture in your company, that is, the values you have in your company to have a transparent organisation with very little company politics to have honest and result oriented people. This is something you build overtime in your company. If you have a good team (generally a positive attitude and people who like challenges), that is the best preparation you could have for a tsunami in your company.

What do you make of the performance of Uganda’s telecommunications industry?
The telecommunication industry in Uganda is extremely competitive. There are very few countries that have as many telecommunication companies as there are in Uganda. However, the challenge is going to be how all these companies will be able to make the investments that are required to build, in future, the infrastructure that the country needs. In the short run, the situation is very good for consumers, the prices in Uganda are one of the lowest in Africa. However, I think, in the future, we also need to think together as the telecom industry players about how can we make the investment into new technologies, rural coverage, internet fibre and LTE projects that cost millions and millions of dollars .

Where do you see the industry in the next five years?
What we see in many countries worldwide is a consolidation between telecommunication operators. It is something we see in the US, Europe, Latin America but also in Africa. This is mostly because the investments are getting bigger and very few companies have the financial muscle to singlehandedly make such investments. This is something that we can probably expect in Uganda. Obviously, the worldwide trends, that is, mobile internet, social interaction through technology, mobile video, information in real time in the remotest places in the country, is also going to happen in Uganda, I think everybody, the consumers and telecommunication companies have very exciting times ahead of them.

On the thought leaders forum
This is one of the most exciting annual events in Uganda. It is a very high level event. It brings together people from all fields of life for an interchange of ideas. I think it is also a very nice way of preparing the country for future challenges. If all the thought leaders are together, it is something positive and Airtel Uganda is happy to be part of such an event.

On the telecoms forecast
I think the companies that cannot earn from their investments will get out of the market because they will not be able to participate in future technologies if they do not have enough money to invest.

On airtel
Growth. Airtel was launched in Uganda in June 2010.The company has since grown into one of Uganda’s telecommunication success stories having acquired Warid Telecom in May 2013.
Customers. Airtel Uganda has since grown into a family of 7.2 million customers and investing heavily in network expansion and Innovative IT systems all in a bid to ensure clear network coverage and excellent customer experience.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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