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Yangon, Myanmar — July 5th, 2017
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Yangon, Myanmar — June 27th, 2017
Donation was made on 21 June, 2017 at Nay Pyi Taw military command. It was received by area military commander Lt.General Myint Maw.
Firstly, area military commander Lt. General Myint Maw thanked CEO for the donation.
He explained that the Tatmadaw was touched by the huge wave of sympathy from the public generated by the plane crash. Although the Tatmadaw was grieved by this accident, the General said the victims did an indirect service to the mother unit by generating this huge wave of popular support by the public.
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Yangon, Myanmar — February 28th, 2017
Irrawaddy Green Towers Receives the First ‘Mini Pwint Thit Sa’ Benchmark Score
Irrawaddy Green Towers (IGT) became the first company to volunteer to be benchmarked under MCRB’s ‘Mini Pwint Thit Sa’ initiative.
The Mini Pwint Thit Sa is for medium-sized companies who wish to have their transparency and website disclosure rated according to the same 35 criteria as for the annual Pwint Thit Sa survey.
This process is for medium-sized companies who wish to have their transparency and website disclosure rated according to the same 35 criteria as for the annual Pwint Thit Sa survey.
The company scored a total of 3.27, which put it as 14th amongst the largest 100 Myanmar companies included in the main report. IGT scored 1.41/3.33 for their disclosure concerning their anti-corruption programme and 0.56/3.33 on organizational transparency. 1.3/33 on human rights, health, safety and the environment.
Vicky Bowman, Director, MCRB said “We welcome Irrawaddy Green’s commitment to have its website disclosure and transparency benchmarked against the 35 Pwint Thit Sa questions. I hope that other Myanmar companies will volunteer to be included. This demonstrates their commitment to transparency and good corporate governance,”
Mr. Ayad Chammas CEO, IGT said, “At IGT, we value accountability, fairness and transparency in how we operate and in our relationship with all stakeholders. And over the last 3 years, we have built the governance framework required and introduced policies and procedures to reflect this in our day-to-day operations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the employees who have played a crucial role in raising awareness about and in implementation of such a framework.
The efforts being made by MCRB to promote transparency through comprehensive and proactive disclosures are commendable and we are happy to be a part of this initiative.”
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Finance and Cost Optimization
Yangon, Myanmar — June 3rd, 2016
Mr. Elie El Haddad is the Chief Financial Officer of IGT, who has 15 years of experience in the finance sector at various functional positions. Recently, Mr. Elie had interviewed with my Myanmar Insider, Charlie Greene.
C : Please explain to our reader about IGT and its current position in the market.
E : IGT is a tower company signed by a BOT agreement with telecom operators in Myanmar since early 2014. Currently we are the biggest tower company in Myanmar with over 2000 sites on air with additional 2000 under construction. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the telecom operators for their trust in IGT and we are looking forward to grow our business partnership together through ensuring the best services are provided to customers and/or users counting on the support, dedication and commitment of our in house team and outsourced vendors and business partners to make it happen.
C : Please explain how you obtained financial from FMO and IFC?
E : Due to lack of trust in the business and banking sector in Myanmar our shareholders were obliged to inject a big amount of equity then managed a short term loan from Qinvest. After a year of ongoing discussions we managed to convert our loan from short to long term facility up to $167m from 6 DFI’s led by FMO (Dutch Development Bank), currently we are having ongoing discussions IFC and ADB for additional equity and loan funding up to $500m.
C : What are the long term objectives of IGT in Myanmar?
E : To grow the telecom industry and the infrastructure in Myanmar at all levels Tower, Fiber.
C : What are your future expansion plans for Myanmar?
E : Grow the business while sustaining our leading position through building and the most reliable and profitable tower business in Myanmar.
C : What is your target market segment?
E : Our focus would be to improve and develop the Myanmar infrastructure at all levels especially that now we are supported by DFI’s funding which would allow us to do so.
C : What are your current CSR activities?
E : CSR activities is an obligation as part of our license, on top of that us and our shareholders are really keen to fully support by providing the needed funding to communities, orphanage, hospitals, village donation, etc.
C : How are you increasing the local content and employment in IGT?
E : We started with 40% expats and 60% locals post localization initiative we managed to drop the ratio to 20%/80%. In total we have 250 direct local employees, 3000 landlords and offered more than 10,000 business opportunities for locals through our vendors. We started a local empowerment plan and we are keen to develop our team and have nominated all the candidates and currently we are in the process of providing them with the necessary developments and the proper mentoring needed to promote and sustain them.
C : How are you enjoying your life here in Myanmar ?
E : Work load when constructing and operating towers is big; at the same time we have to ensure funds availability at all time so honestly I have not had time to enjoy life yet. I should improve my work life balance which is always a main challenge.
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First long term financing for telecom towers
Yangon, Myanmar — January 9th, 2016
Irrawaddy Green Towers has arranged a financial package of USD 122 million through the Dutch development bank FMO. The syndicated loan is funded from European Development Finance Institutions for Irrawaddy Green Towers Ltd. (IGT) to build mobile communications infrastructure across Myanmar. The financial package consist of a subordinated loan of USD 13 million with a tenor of 9 years and a long term senior loan of USD 109 million with a tenor of 8 years. FMO subscribes to the subordinated loan out of the Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF) which FMO manages on behalf of the Ministry for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. The senior loan is syndicated among European Development Finance Institutions with following participations: Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH DEG (Germany), Proparco (France), CDC Group (Great Britain), BIO (Belgium) and OeEB (Austria).
In Myanmar, IGT is building a mobile telecommunication tower network consisting of at least 2,000 towers, thus providing coverage to approximately 14 million people. Mainly in rural areas this can provide a significant stimulus for economic development, i.e. by improving access to mobile financial services and service offers.
The development of the necessary telecom infrastructure for a countrywide mobile network is supported by IGT in a great extent by rolling out the telecom towers across Myanmar. The company, which was founded in 2014, intends to invest a total amount of USD 230 million in the near term. Since its foundation, IGT has created 320 direct jobs. Another 1,000 indirect jobs already created in relation to the erection and operation of the towers. The expansion of the mobile sector is also intended to improve the framework conditions for foreign investments and has a great development impact on Myanmar.
IGT CEO commented:
the funding package is part of IGT’s $230 million long-term investment plan in mobile communications infrastructure across Myanmar. As IGT, we offers a comprehensive range of training and qualification programs for our staff and, in doing so, provides an important contribution to the transfer of technical and economic know-how towards Myanmar
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TowerXchange interviews IGT CEO and Board Member Mr. Arun Kapur in its latest edition
Yangon, Myanmar — September 29th, 2015
Having been attracted to by the challenge of Myanmar’s greenfield infrastructure rollout, former deputy CEO has recently been promoted to CEO of Irrawaddy Green Towers (IGT). Lebanese, born and raised in Doha, he has two degrees; a BSc in Civil Engineering and an MSc in Construction Management / Project Management. He has 21 years’ experience in O&G and telecom infrastructure. Previously Ayad was VP – Operations at Petrofac where he worked on mega international O&G and infrastructure projects including engagements in the UAE, Oman, Georgia, USA, Qatar, Russia and Kazakhstan, working with national and multinational large operating companies such as ADCO, PDO, BP, Total, QP, Dana Gas, Sajgas, KOC, KPO, KLPE, GASCO, in the energy sector.
Q: TowerXchange: I’m surprised we don’t encounter more senior management at towercos who have an O&G infrastructure background as skills and experiences seem to be readily transferrable.
IGT CEO: After almost 20 years in O&G infrastructure, Myanmar represented a fantastic opportunity to build telecom infrastructure in a virgin market. There a lot of the same concepts when dealing with O&G and telecom infrastructure: dealing with challenging geographies, understanding the impact of the environment, learning about the people and politics, and managing project implementation economics.
Telecom infrastructure rollouts are similar in nature to O&G – the primary differences are to do with scale and timeframe. A telecom rollout is geographically bigger than most O&G projects, unless you’re doing a cross country pipeline, but the key difference is the timeframe. A telecom rollout has a series of monthly to six week targets – delivery is based on monthly KPIs, whereas mega projects in O&G typically have three to four years, which gives you more time to maneuver and to mitigate against geographical or political issues in order to meet the end date. In a telecom context, we have 30 or less days per tower, less time to maneuver, no time for building contingencies. From site acquisition to tower erection and installation of power systems – sometimes we’re building 150-200 towers per month. Telecom infrastructure is deployed in a shorter time and is logistics and communication intensive. I’ve been on fast track jobs in O&G, where the value of the barrel creates the pressure for the delivery date per the contract, but there is more pressure in telecom; every month is a new project and there are different targets to be achieved in different areas that are geographically distant and diverse in nature.
Q: TowerXchange: What have IGT been contracted to build and what have you built to date across the first three phases of the rollout?
IGT CEO: IGT has been contracted to build 1,800 towers for Telenor and 1,100 for Ooredoo. In addition to that, we have co-location agreements with both international operators plus MPT KDDI. So far we have built 1,500 towers out of total portfolio of 2,900 towers.
Work on the towers from the Ooredoo contract has started and key purchase orders for these have been placed. I’m proud to say that our delivery team continues deliver and to do an excellent job despite of the severe weather, complex terrain and substandard transport infrastructure.
Q: TowerXchange: Were there significant differences in terms of location characteristics and co-location potential between the (almost complete) first and second phases of the rollout compared to the new contracts awarded for phase three?
IGT CEO: In terms of location of the sites, our first 1,500 were very much spread over the 16 States/divisions of Myanmar. We started in Yangon, but our initial contract, which was from the second phase of rollout, was predominately outside main Myanmar central corridor, and we were first there for Telenor in States such as Shan, Kachin, Rakhaing and Chin in the North of the country. So while other towercos have concentrated their build on the central corridor, we have focused on more peripheral and Southern states. We are now seeing more capacity sites that are located in the major cities such as Yangon, Mandalay, and populated towns / commercial towns and border cities with China and Thailand as well as touristic places.
In terms of co-location, we have more potential in major cities and commercial towns. Rural areas however have made a slow start with some exceptions, it is important to say that we have realised more potential in co-location in the past two months, which has exceeded our expectations and we may very well be looking at a figure exceeding our target for our portfolio by end of this year.
Q: TowerXchange: Does the more geographically dispersed nature of IGT’s towers mean more are off-grid and beyond the reach of transport infrastructure? If so, what are the implications for engagement with local communities?
IGT CEO: Around 60% of our sites are off-grid, and many are beyond the reach of transport infrastructure. We believe if we want to flourish we have to think global and act local, for example by hiring O&M teams from local villages. We see this as a win-win because the population have supported us in the rollout – engaging them in tower maintenance and operations is a small way to pay back societies for their support.
We are proud of our active local training programme. Our O&M managers are doing a phenomenal job training local teams on the basics of generator and battery maintenance, troubleshooting, and remote monitoring. We train technicians in Burmese at a dedicated facility in our HQ. We have more than 250 people local on our payroll, supplemented by 50-60 expats.
We are proud of our active local training programme. Our line Managers are doing a great job training local teams on the basics of roll out, generator and battery maintenance, troubleshooting, and remote monitoring. We train technicians in Burmese at a dedicated facility in our HQ. We have more than 250 people local on our payroll, supplemented by 50-60 expats
Q: TowerXchange: Different towercos have different business models. Some are very lean with every non-core function outsourced, others are more resource intensive keeping many functions in-house. Which functions sit ‘on the payroll’ at IGT and what is outsourced?
IGT CEO: Monthly our executive directors meet and try to address these issues. At the moment IGT are a cross: for example we have in-house site acquisition, and an in-house site building team, we hire smaller contractors, buy our own power solutions, and install through service providers. At the same time, we are shifting to an EPC finance model – we are retaining control of the schedule but giving part of the rollout to proven contractors.
Outsourcing might be good for economics, but it comes at the expense of flexibility of rollout and towerco’s ability to cater to operators’ specific needs, such as expediting sites they need on air as soon as possible. Keeping some in-house reserve resource is necessary to deliver great customer service and to build a reputation for operational excellence.
EPC contractors are like a train – once you load the train, and set it on track, it takes time to reach the desired speed, and they can be difficult to change course. So for example when the recent floods devastated the Northern States of Kachin, Rakhaing, Sagaing, parts of Mandalay and Shan, we were able to shift priorities to temporarily favour rolling out in the drier States in the South using in-house contractors.
Q: TowerXchange: How can Myanmar’s towercos drive efficiency as you achieve scale, particularly in terms of smart sourcing and O&M?
IGT CEO: Efficiency and optimisation is an area I personally have been engaged in directly and quite extensively for the past year or so.
There are a number of initiatives that we took on board since August 2014. To name of few; smart sourcing whereby we have reduced our capex by nearly 30% and still there is scope to reduce further. We have shared with our contractors and suppliers a uniform rate card that we have negotiated based on bulk purchases and by planning ahead in procurement. We have done a lot of work with our engineers on optimised infrastructure designs; the use of low cost and quick deployment RDUs has proven extremely useful in our rollout. Outsourcing of O&M and smart fuel buying (directly from the source), effective logistics yet ensuring that we provide the best uptime in the industry – as acknowledged by the customer – these are only few of many initiatives we have taken on up so far. Here I give a lot of credit in doing so to our finance and procurement teams who have worked relentlessly on driving down the cost of the business while we continue to roll out and meet our targets.
Q: TowerXchange: How have you balanced the demands of standardisation and bulk purchasing savings with the need to customise each site to customer requirements and local conditions?
IGT CEO: We have more than six different power vendors on our vendor portfolio plus a further 10-15 tower suppliers who we use regularly. We have managed to standardise specifications. Our power team set standard specifications for power and hybrid system design, enabling us to scale to three to four tenants with minimal changes, adding battery banks and rectifier cabinets plus, in some cases, an extra standby generator.
From a compliance point of view, it is important to have a good portfolio of experienced vendors who know what we want. We need to be able to upgrade power systems to add an additional tenant within 10-15 days at the most. Our in-house power team has done a great job building up fit for purpose specifications, helping us to quickly adapt to accommodate a second or third tenant. Our basic specs are two tenant ready as we realised need to be able to move quick to meet operator expectations: most of our battery banks do not require supplementing for a second or, in some cases, third tenant.
Q: TowerXchange: Given that IGT is the only towerco to secure contracts from both Telenor and Ooredoo, you will be well placed to answer this: now that Ooredoo is commissioning sites with tower+power, are their requirements very similar to Telenor, or are there still significant differences in terms, for example, of wind load and energy requirements of their respective equipment?
IGT CEO: There is a slight difference between the requirements of the three operators we are engaged with at the moment. On the power side, every operator possesses their own power demand depending on their equipments’ specifications. We didn’t have to change tower or power system designs because we have catered for both cases during our initial design and set up phase of the project. Despite the fact that we’re managing a lot of co-locations on a monthly basis, we have encountered no issues in modifying and adding capacity. IGT has a proven power model that caters for both companies requirements, it is “plug and play” and can easily be modified to suit up to four tenants at this point in time.
Q: TowerXchange: Do you think Myanmar’s towercos must all provide tower+power, rather than just ‘steel and grass’, to be competitive going forward? And do you think there is appetite for towercos to subcontract energy to ESCOs?
IGT CEO: Absolutely. This has been our major strength – besides Apollo, we are the only towerco to provide both tower and power as an integrated offering and that is the biggest attraction to customers like Telenor, Ooredoo and MPT. As regards outsourcing of power to ESCO’s that is a distinct possibility and we are examining and assessing that as one of the options.
A lack of mature ESCOs was a problem a year ago, but not now – we see a lot of players in the local market who are qualified with the financial and technical capability to handle substantial volumes. We work with some on a capex model, and when the time is right we may work with them on an opex basis. They are working on understanding their own internal economics to suit Myanmar – they need a lean organisation, the right people, and they need to be in country long enough to analyse costs and offer a better deal on power. More companies now understand the cost of managing and handling power, so we’ll soon see something like an ESCO in this market.
Q: TowerXchange: Please summarize your vision for the future of the towerco business model and of IGT in Myanmar.
IGT CEO: We are living a telecom revolution in Myanmar, a revolution which is having a very positive impact on society. Mobile broadband will help people embrace change and advance.
We see ourselves as one of the major factors of that positive change. We have a CSR programme, and we train a lot of local people, people who previously had no experience of working in a multinational environment are now interacting with foreigners – we have 10-12 different nationalities in IGT; our local staff are learning from us, and we’re learning from them – it’s cultural exchange of ideas. This country is beautiful, the people are friendly, and this rollout offers the potential for many to advance their careers – we’re helping in a big way, responsibly investing in people. This gives us the ability to remain cost efficient – investing in local people pays back on a social, productivity and cost efficiency basis.
The fact is that towerco business is here to stay, not just in this part of the globe but all over, it just can not be disputed. In today’s world of falling tariffs and call rates and limited spectrum ability, especially in ASEAN countries, a shared telecom infrastructure is the only way for an operator to remain cost effective. The explosion in data traffic with increasingly higher penetration of smart phones, innovative consumer apps, enhanced by increased affordability is driving both coverage and capacity needs and therefore an ever-increasing demand for towers. In this context, the towerco business model not only makes the operators asset-light but also people-light and allows them to focus on their core competencies. Further, with introductions of newer radio technologies like LTE (and now even 5G trials are taking place), an existing and upgradable tower infrastructure provides the operators a unique ability to become nimble and yet remain cost effective in new service offerings.
I am proud that IGT are now the #1 towerco in Myanmar: with 1,500 sites and another 1,400 to come, Our vision is to retain our leadership and emerge as the predominant player in this industry, the player which provides the best value and the most efficient network uptime to all our customers. We have invested significantly in technology, people and processes and are focused on developing a local ecosystem to support our vision. We are constantly evaluating both organic and inorganic growth opportunities and continue to explore innovative solutions to cut down our costs, enhance productivity through deployment of innovative tools and technologies and continue to focus on building people skills.
We are strongly committed to the country and are the third largest foreign investors (in the telecom sector) in the country. We have initiated several CSR activities and are very active in local community engagement.
Next phase of Myanmar rollout must be about sharing and efficiency – IGT Chairman Arun Kapur
TowerXchange also spoke with IGT Chairman Arun Kapur, who suggested “sharing towers has begun in Myanmar. We’ve gotten good traction, particularly from Ooredoo and KSGM, and anticipate having co-locations on around 700 of the ~2,000 we’ll have in our portfolio by year end 2015, with a tenancy ratio around 1.3. Achieving those kind of tenancy ratios may be difficult on the phase one towers, where Ooredoo and Telenor built almost in parallel with a high degree of overlap. But because IGT’s allocation was part of phase two, we have less overlap, and have attracted huge interest from Ooredoo in co-locating, particularly on the rooftop sites they need for 3G.”
The other theme of our conversation with Arun was efficiency, particularly relating to the capital outlay per site. “All of Myanmar’s towercos will have to experiment with new structures to bring capex down and to bring loads down. The Asian tower industry started in India, where the first set of towers I built in 2005 delivered a 25% IRR from a single tenant, with lease rates close to US$2,000. By 2012 lease rates were down to US$500 in India, but it took towercos seven years to innovate and create the necessary capex and opex efficiencies – we must make the same improvements much more quickly in Myanmar.”
“Achieving such efficiencies calls for a strong partnership approach between MNOs and towercos,” continued Kapur. “MNOs can’t treat towercos like any other vendor; we’re investing 60%+ of the capex on their behalf! We’re connected via an umbilical chord, so if the MNO squeezes the towerco beyond a certain point they make it more difficult for us to raise capital, which harms them as much as us. We need a realistic, sustainable cost structure in Myanmar. Any towerco will fall by the wayside if they fail to recognise and embrace the drive toward efficiency by optimising staffing costs, site design, O&M and technology deployment, or who fails to leverage RMS to monitor uptime and SLAs. Like it or not, Myanmar will mimic more mature tower markets, and that means costs have got to come down.”
“While an ecosystem of local skills and competencies has been developed, we still can’t buy towers or generators locally – everything is still imported. Local distributors are still building their service capability but in the meantime they need to create a margin. We need smart sourcing and smart buying; vendor categorization and classification – this is nothing new, but it takes time to do it well.”
“This time last year, IGT had 70% expat staff, now we have 70% local staff,” continued Kapur. “We have outsourced selectively and fostered a large local ecosystem of contractors, encouraging our partners to invest in and build local teams. We have invested in a state-of-the-art tower operations centre (TOC) and in site technology which has enabled us to achieve the best uptime in the industry (recognised on several occasions by Telenor).”
IGT Chairman Arun Kapur felt that the innovations in power systems and business models would be the primary sources of efficiency. “Energy business model innovations will be crucial from a fundraising and capital structure point of view. MNOs started by outsourcing towers + power to towercos, and now we’re talking to several powercos who could buy out all our power assets, introducing liquidity and reducing the burden to raise further capital.”
“I’ve seen the capital cost per tower in Myanmar already come down by as much as 40%, over a third of which is still the power system. The power systems alone on the next 2,000 towers could cost US$50mn, so innovations in both power system technologies and business models will be critical,” concluded Kapur.
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Yangon, Myanmar — September 28th, 2015
IGT, the largest tower company operating in Myanmar, has announced an immediate support towards rebuilding the areas affected by the recent devastating floods across the country. Under the guidance of IGT board members and executive management team, and in line with the company CSR strategy, IGT has initiated a special project theme named “IGT FOR MYANMAR” to meet the immediate needs of those affected by this natural disaster. Up to 40 percent of the flood-affected areas remain difficult to access, as they are obscured by debris and mud and cut off by collapsed bridges and roads.
Under the scheme, IGT has committed to provide the best possible support in the affected regions of Chin, Rakhine, Sagaing, Bago, Magway & Rakhine state with our donations. IGT has so far donated a total of MMK 30 millon across these affected regions to provide immediate support which includes critical items for daily needs such as proteins/canned foods, rice, dry fish, water, torch lights, etc. for the affected people in these regions more than 6,000 affected people have benefited from this program.
Her Excellency Union Minister Daw Myat Myat Ohn Khin has recognized IGT efforts during the official press conference at the union minster office in Nay Pyi Taw on 2 September 2015. During the ceremony, IGT has highlighted the company’s continued focus approach towards community engagement program and recent initiatives on the same.
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Yangon, Myanmar — April 29th, 2015
As a company that is building the national communication infrastructure of Myanmar, Irrawaddy Green Towers (IGT) is driven by a sense of commitment towards the community with the goal of enhancing our corporate value and strengthening the communities in which we operate to shape a better and more sustainable society. In this respect, as part of our corporate social responsibility initiative for the month of April 2015, Irrawaddy Green Towers (IGT) donated six sets of school furniture to a primary school in Thar Kay Ta Township where approximately 300 students are studying. We are grateful to contribute such assistance as education for young people is essential for their development.
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Yangon, Myanmar — January 31st, 2015
By IGT Media Relations
As part of the initiative to bring literacy and improving reading habits of children in Myanmar, Irrawaddy Green Towers has partnered with Myanmar Times to provide a one-year free subscription of the newspaper both Myanmar and English versions to 54 schools in Mandalay Division.
The initiative, which covers government schools, pagoda schools and orphanages is aimed at poor and rural students, with the primary aim of promoting English literacy and training for needy students in Myanmar
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An Interview with CEO of Irrawaddy Green Towers
Yangon, Myanmar — January 15th, 2015
Myanmar Insider Jounal cover(compressed)
MI : When was your first visit to Myanmar?
CEO : I first arrived in Yangon in July 2014 for an initial assessment of the IGT project. I was requested to do so by the promoters of the project whom I have enjoyed long and successful business relation with earlier in other parts of the world. The purpose of the visit was to support the start up by performing an initial operational assessment and propose efficiency improvement measures.
MI : What was your first impression of the country then?
CEO : I think the first thing that strikes you is the sheer warmth of the Myanmar people. The country and its people are so welcoming, hospitable and pleasant that it immediately puts you on ease. Secondly, you are struck with the potential business opportunities, which to my mind are only limited by your imagination! Every sector that you look at – Infrastructure, Roads, Ports, Power, Aviation and Telecom of course; all these offer exciting opportunities.
Further, as the world’s economic center of gravity continues to shift from West to East, the emerging markets are taking center stage as the new growth story. Myanmar is exceptionally well positioned in this context – juxtaposed between two of the largest growing economies of the world – China and India. So to that extent, I believe that we are in the right place at the right time!
MI : How was the Irrawaddy Green Tower founded in the first place? How and why did IGT cooperate with Telenor in building and managing towers in Myanmar?
CEO : Our group and partners have had significant experience in building Greenfield Telecom Infrastructure in several countries. Myanmar is perhaps one of the last unexplored bastions in the world that opened up its Telecom sector to international operators late last year. One of our Co-Founders has had the distinction of pioneering the concept of shared Telecom Infrastructure and building one of the largest independent tower companies in India with a portfolio of over 40,000 towers with an enviable tenancy of 2.2x. Telenor was one of the key anchor clients of this company in India.
When Telenor won the license here, it was quite natural for them to replicate their successful experience of India in Myanmar. Given the challenging and aggressive roll out, they chose us as their key and largest partners and we are very happy to contribute to their success and to help build the telecom infrastructure in the country.
MI : And how did you end up as the Deputy CEO of IGT?
CEO : I have had a very rich experience and long track record of managing challenging projects in various sectors under stringent time lines and strict budgets in various countries and in various sectors such as Energy, Power, Oil and Gas and Infrastructure. Given the fact that the eco-system for such a large roll out does not exist in the country and also, a sustained skill development program is needed, combined almost simultaneously with scaling up our tower construction and delivery processes, requires a leadership which is highly skilled and yet multi-faceted. I have a strong hands-on leadership style with an eye for details. One of my key mandates is to ensure that we develop a pool of highly talented young locals form Myanmar and reduce the ratio of expats to locals. In this context, I have worked on key projects in more than 12 countries such as UAE, Oman. Kazakhstan, Russia, Georgia, USA, UK, Qatar to name a few, and after having lived with all various cultures, I’m now a firm believer of that one of the most important factors of a successful project is by Thinking Globally but Acting Locally. This initiative of recruiting, training, developing and nurturing local talent has now started paying rich dividends to us.
MI : What are the current projects that your team has been working?
CEO : Currently, we are focused on delivering nearly 1,500 Telecom sites for our prime customer – Telenor. This is a mammoth project, which entails a capital investment of nearly US$ 250 Million. This is a reflection of our long-term commitment to developing Myanmar’s Telecom infrastructure and contributes to its all over economic growth and prosperity.
As part of this process, we have deployed a world class delivery organization throughout Myanmar. A regional organization has been established with a solid management team focused on an optimized delivery plan with 275+ full time employees in place, including 50+ field engineers.
Besides Telenor, as our fundamental business model is shared telecom infrastructure, we have also started offering our network services to other operators like Ooredoo and MPT, KDDI. We are getting a significant traction from all of the operators who are keen to expand their footprint on our network.
I would like to point out that one of the key differentiators between IGT and other Tower companies is that we provide a complete plug and play service to all our customers i.e. both tower and power.
MI : How different working with different stakeholders in Myanmar compared to other countries?
CEO : I believe it has been a very challenging yet enriching experience. As the country is emerging from several decades of isolation and embarking on ambitious social, political and economic reforms, each aspect of doing business from closed banking (which is also just opening up) to cash economy to lack of power infrastructure, underdeveloped legal framework, poor logistics and supply chain to an evolving regulatory regime every area has been a huge challenge!
On the flip side though, each of these aspects also symbolize the opportunities galore, which is attracting significant and much needed foreign direct investments in all these sectors. Concurrently, it also gives one a lot of satisfaction of having achieved the delivery milestones under such difficult circumstances. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!
MI : What sort of difficulties and hardships IGT could be facing while working for the first time in the country?
CEO : Besides some of the broader issues that I have already addressed above, some ground level issues such as clarity on build permiting process, MIC approvals taking unduly long, different permitting and approval processes in different states etc. made our task even more complex. Furthermore, land acquisition especially for sites located in the Government land has proven to be more challenging. Last but certainly not the least was the challenge of training local contractors, sub-contractors and our local vendor partners to adhere to strict health, safety and environmental norms which as an international company, we are required to implement.
Having said that, I am happy to say that we are now well past our initial stages and the organization and our partners are fully geared to function as a well oiled machinery with world class delivery capabilities.
MI : What are the long term objectives of IGT in Myanmar?
CEO : Our vision is: “To become as the Largest and the most Customer Centric Telecom Infrastructure company in Myanmar and is seen as the Employer of Choice.”
In this context, we are clearly a long term player committed to the nation’s growth and developing the related eco-systems. Our shareholders are fully committed to the country and we will continue to examine and evaluate all opportunities in both organic and acquisition led growth. We have already committed significant capital, which makes us as one of the largest foreign investors in Myanmar. As an integral part of our Vision statement, we have a strong desire for knowledge transfer and building strong local intellectual capital. I do believe that our efforts in building an ubiquitous telecom network will also help the country to achieve one of its desired goals of “an inclusive growth” for all communities and hopefully we should be able to create significant value for all our stakeholders.
MI : What is your opinion on current Myanmar’s telecom sector?
CEO : Just one phrase – unbelievable opportunities- Reality is that technology and connectivity have disrupted industries and transformed lives of billions. With a tele density of less than 10% Myanmar is on the precipice of a much larger shift as it doesn’t have any historical baggage and is undertaking the reforms in a digital age with an ability to leap frog redundant technologies. I also believe that the pace of adaptation of these new technologies will surpass some of the most optimistic estimates of the experts. I am extremely bullish about the future of the telecom sector in Myanmar which is why we have committed such large investments.
MI : If you could make one major change to any government policy, what would it be?
CEO : I genuinely believe that the Government has been very supportive of foreign investments and fairly transparent in its decision making. The award of the two telecom licenses last year has been a testimony to this. However, when such a mammoth infrastructure needs to be deployed in a limited time frame, all the enabling laws, processes, policies and guidelines should be thought through well in advance so that the implementation process is seamless and it must get facilitated at all levels – central and state alike.
Please do bear in mind that any delays caused due to lack of clarity in prevailing laws and policies add to the costs of such mega projects and eventually, such costs do get passed on to the end customer which is clearly not in the national interest. Many emerging countries and markets have adopted best practices in attracting foreign direct investments by having single window and fast track clearances along with attractive tax and duty benefits especially in the core infrastructure sectors and some of these can be easily replicated here.
MI : How is your life here in Myanmar? What are your likes and dislikes?
CEO : As I have mentioned earlier, I love living in Yangon. I have travelled extensively to many other towns like Mandalay, Kachin state, Nay Pyi Taw and have interacted with people from diverse backgrounds. I also like the fact that there is thriving expat community which has forged strong ties among themselves and the growing hotel and tourism infrastructure is sign of good things to come. Yangon is a comfortable place to live with international standard hotels, restaurants, bars etc. The only downside is that the traffic is becoming more difficult with every passing day and this is something the planners in the Government must look at on priority.
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IGT to build and manage telecom infrastructure in preparation for mobile network roll-out
Yangon, Myanmar — March 31st, 2014
By IGT Media Relations
Telenor Myanmar has selected telecommunications infrastructure provider, Irrawaddy Green Towers (IGT), as an official vendor to build and manage 1,438 telecom towers of a total 2,000 towers initial rollout of Telenor as an anchor tenant in Myanmar. The appointment supports Telenor’s plan of rapidly rolling out a modern mobile communications network in the country. Establishing telecom towers represents an important first step in the roll-out of that network and in Telenor Myanmar’s goal of delivering high quality and accessible mobile communications services to people throughout Myanmar.
The partnership between Telenor Myanmar and Irrawaddy Green Towers provides the platform for future multi-tenancy on towers which will accelerate the development of an efficient and cost-effective shared mobile telecommunications infrastructure in Myanmar. As part of Telenor Myanmar’s commitment to contribute to the local economy, IGT will be working with a number of Myanmar-based companies in the infrastructure build-out across the country, providing opportunities for local businesses and promoting a more vibrant business environment in Myanmar.
“We are pleased to be working with Irrawaddy Green Towers as we enter this exciting phase in the advancement of Myanmar’s telecommunications industry. We are confident that combination of industry experience and expertise will meet the requirements of Telenor’s business plan and ensure the successful roll-out of our advanced mobile network,” said Petter Furberg, Chief Executive Officer, Telenor Myanmar.
To know more about Telenor Myanmar, visit www.telenor.com.mm
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Bagan Regional Site Visit
Apart from gracing 3000 towers achievement event with IGT staff, its CEO David Thomas Venn took the opportunity to visit for four sites in Bagan, Mandalay region. The objective was to meet the stakeholders on the ground, to assess the performance of IGT assets in terms of compliances to policies in safety, health, environment and quality aspects, and to get a better understanding of the actual factors affecting network performance.
The CEO was joined by staff from projects, operation & maintenance, power and the O&M vendor who are responsible for these sites. All the observations of the visits were discussed by the CEO and the team and a corrective action plan was formulated with the RM taking responsibility to ensure that the issues are resolved and that the sites are brought up to the IGT specified standard to ensure maximum uptime.
At the end of his visit, CEO has reiterated to the team its core responsibility of ensuring quality and better performance of IGT sites to achieve good network service to the community and this can only be achieved thru vigilance, ownership and TEAMWORK.