DNA & Grameenphone – Miles apart but yet similar!

DNA & Grameenphone – Miles apart but yet similar! 

by Vilhelmiina Wahlbeck, SVP, Communications, Sustainability and Brand Development, DNA 

Telenor has global operations across nine markets and DNA has been part of Telenor Group for five years. Until a recent visit to Grameenphone, Telenor’s operator in Bangladesh, it was hard to imagine that we share many things in common, especially when on the surface, Finland is thought to be quite different from Bangladesh.

How did the visit come about? It all started in December 2023, when Grameenphone’s CEO Yasir Azman visited DNA on the recommendation of Telenor’s President and CEO Sigve Brekke. This gave me the chance to introduce him to our corporate culture and our ambition of being the best place to work and learn in Finland.

After our meeting, Azman invited me to Grameenphone to meet his team, as building a strong culture is a key strategy pillar for Grameenphone. Marko Rissanen, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, joined me on the visit.

After more than 15 hours of travel, we landed in Dhaka on Saturday morning. The airport was crowded and returning Bangladeshis were laden with luggage, presumably full of souvenirs and other items from abroad. The immigration process was long and required many stamps, but eventually we walked out of the airport terminal into the intense heat. The temperature was almost 40 degrees! To our relief, it would fall to about 30 degrees for the rest of the week, as the powerful storms of the monsoon season rolled in.

What an impressive office, Grameenphone!

The next day, we visited Grameenphone, though starting the work week on a Sunday was unusual for us! As a predominantly Muslim country, the standard work week in Bangladesh is from Sunday to Thursday. To call a city of 20 million people during the morning rush hour bustling would be an understatement.

Our driver took good care of us for the entire trip, which meant we did not have to navigate the frantic traffic by ourselves. We would probably still be stuck on a roundabout somewhere, surrounded by motorbikes, cars and ‘baby taxis’ known as tuk-tuk!

We started the visit with a tour of the office building, which was full of surprises. We visited the company’s innovation centre, where we got a behind-the-scenes look at how products and services are developed.

We then visited many facilities built to enhance employees’ health and well-being, such as a dedicated daycare centre for employees’ children, health clinic, cafés, staff restaurant, gym, futsal court and a gaming area for relaxation in between work.

Its amazing auditorium could be converted into a badminton court! Many employees also use the company transport service to get to work every day. We can see why its one of the top employers in Bangladesh with such good benefits to motivate employees!

More than just a telco

We spent the next three days meeting different teams at Grameenphone, including communications, branding, marketing, human resources and sustainability.

A highlight was the market visit, where we tagged along a sales team to meet customers on the ground. The enormous city of Dhaka is divided into several sales areas, where sales reps meet in the mornings to go over the day’s plans. The sales teams we met were super energetic and dedicated, and it explains why Grameenphone is a market leader!

Post the market visits and meetings, we were struck by how Grameenphone has enormous social significance in the country. It is not just a telecommunications company, connecting Bangladeshis to what matters most. What Grameenphone does to improve digital literacy and skills for example, has positive impact beyond its customers. I was super impressed that the marketing and brand teams have used these real-life customer and social impact stories for their campaigns, which increased engagement by six-fold!

We are kindred spirits.

On people and culture, DNA and GP shared similarities and we both have strong organisational cultures. Grameenphone colleagues were highly committed and enormously proud of what they do and the impact to customers, society and the country.

There were many parallels to draw between the entrepreneurial spirit of Grameenphone colleagues and that of our own. The main difference was the comparative lack of remote work here. People like being in the office, and we were told that remote working was used only rarely, though it is available when needed.

Three days went by quickly, and there’s more to share and learn from one another. We have already set up follow-up conversations on topics like competence development and employer branding. We are so glad to have this ongoing exchange of ideas and best practice sharing, as learning how other people do things is a great way of improving our own operations.

I left a piece of my heart in Bangladesh.

The most memorable part of the trip was the people and colleagues I’ve met. Bangladesh took a small piece of my heart with the incredible helpfulness and generosity of its people. We could use a dash of this warmth in Finland.

I want to give my sincere thanks to Mahjabeen Khan, who helped us organise our trip. She was a treasure, and I am glad to call her a friend. I highly recommend my branding colleagues at Grameenphone to feature Mahjabeen in their next marketing campaign, because she is the personification of Bangladeshi warmth and hospitality. Thank you – “dhonnobad”.